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Birmingham church sees senior adult ministry as ‘vital’ to being intergenerational

Fifty seniors paint, talk with each other and hear presentations during a Paint and Sip Fellowship sponsored by Oak Street Health Clinic. Photo courtesy of Nate Brooks

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (BP) — Nate Brooks said his church went through a rough stretch around the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now their congregational theme is “rebuild.”

A big focus of rebuilding involves the senior adult ministry, he said. Senior adults make up 60% of Greater St. John Baptist Church in Birmingham, where Brooks serves as pastor.

“Seniors often are forgotten about, but those are the people who sustain the ministries,” said Brooks.

During the pandemic, many of the seniors in his community became hesitant to leave their homes because of preexisting health conditions, but many also weren’t tech-savvy enough to get plugged in virtually, he said.

“We wanted to make sure ministry is still an option for them,” Brooks said.

Considering the needs

So Greater St. John Baptist has been retooling its ministry to consider the needs of its senior members, many of whom are not used to getting out as much as they used to.

“We want to have an intergenerational ministry that includes them,” he said.

Part of that means being sensitive to choosing daytime hours that work for them, or if there is a night event, offering them the option of being involved with the setup that happens earlier in the day.

“They want to be able to do something and help out,” Brooks said.

It can also include being aware of not scheduling events when they might have to drive during rush hour, Brooks said. Another option is to offer them rides.

Changing the dynamics

“We want to be willing to change the dynamics of the church to help them be a part,” he said. “These seniors have some amazing stories. They’re a vital part of our ministry.”

Greater St. John Baptist also recently started a new series of events geared toward its senior adult members, starting with a Paint and Sip Fellowship sponsored by Oak Street Health Clinic. Fifty seniors came out to paint, talk with each other and hear presentations on topics like dementia and health insurance.

“It allows them to get information about their health and gives them a healthy activity to be involved in, and it gives caregivers a break,” Brooks said. “Our goal is to have something like this every other month to help us build those relationships back.”

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  • Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist