Guest Contributor

By Dr. Aleeta Christian

Sometimes ministry sneaks up on you. This happened to us at Madison Street United Methodist Church, Clarksville. The beginning was a request from a member of Serendipity, our older adult ministry. We have a board which meets regularly and last January we decided to send birthday cards to members 65+.

But by the time we got this organized, we were at the beginning of a pandemic and sheltering. And it immediately became evident that our high-risk, older adults needed a more constant connection with our church, especially since the building was shut down, Sunday services virtual.

Our now thriving Serendipity Card Ministry began with 12 volunteers and about 200 65+ older adult households. We divided the households into eight groups, and now each household receives at least one mailing each month. Sometimes it is a “Thinking of You” card, or sometimes something special, e.g., Advent calendars, valentines, and Easter cards with cross bookmarks.

Various items are sent because each volunteer chooses what she wants to send to her group. In addition, our approximately 25 homebound members receive special attention from two card ministry volunteers. The ministry has sent cards to several special groups: e.g., senior care centers, the veterans’ home, and cards to our church’s mothers on Mother’s Day and our church’s teachers. Probably the most noteworthy group we have twice sent cards to, including $5 Star Bucks cards, are the nurses in the virus units and emergency room at our local hospital. And we are also doing what we set out to do: sending birthday cards to all 65+ adults in our church.

This has been a remarkable, wonderful, satisfying ministry. In the last 11 months, the card ministry has sent more than 3,000 cards. Response has been both pleasing and surprising. A folder here is bulging with thank you notes and we frequently receive sweet phone calls from recipients.

Here are two wonderful examples: one older man told a volunteer that when he gets discouraged, he gets out our cards, reads them, and feels better. Another volunteer received a phone call from a recipient saying that she was touched by the phrase, “I am thinking about you.” The volunteers have learned that this kind of communication has an exceptionally positive effect during hard times. Of course, those of us in the middle of this ministry are enthusiastically pushing forward.

Dr. Aleeta Christian taught and directed Developmental Studies at Austin Peay State University. She is a lifelong Methodist: has belonged to six United Methodist Churches, and is a product of Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College. She and her husband, Dr. Floyd Christian, recently visited Africa University, United Methodist-related, in Zimbabwe, Africa.

From the editor: What is your church doing differently by/with/for older adults as a result of the pandemic? Send your replies to Richard.Gentzler@tnumc.com. We’ll share what we learn in a future issue of ENCORE Ministry Matters and on the ENCORE Ministry website.

This article appeared in the March 2021 issue of ENCORE Ministry Matters. To receive this free monthly enewsletter, contact emmatters@encoretnumc.org.