That’s what Norma said to me as she squeezed my hand after our church service. “You do such a good job and you’ve really become our friends. And after we all had to stop going to our old churches, you and Claire and all these friends of yours have given us a church fellowship again. And we all so appreciate you doing this week after week.”
As we come up on the 2nd anniversary of the church service that Vital Signs Ministries conducts every Sunday afternoon for residents of Aksarben Village Senior Living, we can say with confidence and enthusiasm that it has been a very successful experiment. The structure of the service has proven an excellent fit for the needs of our small congregation: three superb music videos (heavy on the great hymns of the Faith), an 8–12-minute expositional sermon, participation in communion the first Sunday of the month, and a lengthy time after each service of purposeful fellowship over coffee and cookies. And substantial thanks for this ministry are due to the efforts of our visitation team members -- Don, Allen, Patrick, Keith and Carol, Dick, and Ruth.
The ministry has been an important extension of Vital Signs’ longstanding concern for seniors. Indeed, it’s a tradition spanning 40 years which has included the years of visiting and entertaining residents of Mercy Care Center and other facilities, advocacy articles on the website and blogs, the creation over 50 Anti-Boredom packets during the worst of the pandemic scare, the writing of The Christmas Room, and the remarkably popular “When Swing Was King” program which has now started into its 13th year with a schedule involving 10 senior facilities every month. And each month’s show is a new one, featuring 12 classic songs from the 30s, 40s, and 50s with fascinating commentary and a Power Point visual accompaniment of over 200 photographs from the same era.
Our only disappointment arising out of these “mercy ministries” is that we haven’t yet been able to inspire other Christians to pursue like-minded service to the marginalized, lonely, and hurting seniors who are all around us. After all, think of how many nursing homes and senior living centers there are in any given city and then consider how extremely few of those facilities have any evangelical outreach at all. No church services. No Bible studies. No visitation program, let alone any efforts at creating intergenerational friendships. No efforts whatsoever from local churches to help inspire, equip, and mobilize their members to engage in acts of compassion and encouragement to seniors in profound need of such mercies.
It’s not that difficult for churches (and small groups or even individuals) to create ministries to the seniors in these facilities or, for that matter, to others in our churches and neighborhoods who are otherwise “shut-in.” But it is of great importance.
If you’re interested in changing this sad condition, I encourage you to pray about any or all of the following possibilities. 1) Join us for one of our Aksarben Village church services to see how it works and to get some experience in visiting with seniors who will be delighted to make your acquaintance! Also, you might consider dropping into one of our “When Swing Was King” shows for a similar opportunity. (The schedule is on the Vital Signs Ministries website.)
2) Talk about this subject with your family, friends, and church colleagues. Such discussions might lead you to the activity director at one of the senior facilities near your home or church. You’ll find that a terrific ministry is right there for the taking.
3) For a bit more information and some inspirational ideas, you could always read The Christmas Room, a novel in which the most unlikely of heroes emerge. Or for something much shorter, you can start with these articles from Vital Signs Blog.