In response to the coronavirus pandemic, most ministry at Southeast Christian Church pivoted from being in-person to online.
The senior adult community at Southeast’s Chapel in the Woods Campus didn’t miss a beat.
“I have been so encouraged by our seniors’ willingness to learn and try new things in this season,” Chapel in the Woods Campus Pastor Murphy Belding said. “Folks have tried out Zoom (video conferencing); they’ve set up Facebook accounts. Seniors that I thought would never try this have stepped up to the challenge.”
The Chapel has continued to help seniors connect to Jesus and one another by shifting its groups online and continuing to reach out to seniors in the community.
The Chapel’s 10 widows’ groups have continued to meet through Zoom. Charlene Ruble, Chapel in the Woods Campus First Impressions coordinator, said the groups have grown in number.
Seniors at the Chapel have kept themselves active and engaged in Southeast’s mission in some fun and creative ways.
Chapel staff and volunteers have written cards to each member of the campus. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Chapel attendees have Chapel Check-In on Facebook live. Those checking in can share prayer requests, ask questions and receive updates from Chapel staff.
Lisa Byal helps facilitate Next Chapter, a group for senior adult women. Byal said that she’s been pleasantly surprised at how much the women in the group have remained active in connecting with and serving others, despite the pandemic.
“At first, I was concerned that many of these women would be dealing with loneliness, but the ladies in our group are such an active bunch,” Byal said. “They are involved in other groups both in and out of the church, and they haven’t stopped finding ways to be a blessing to others. I’ve been so impressed with their willingness to ask for help and learn how to use new technology so they can stay connected to others.”
Once a month, the Next Chapter group invites speakers who present on topics such as local missions, financial planning and emergency safety.
Byal said that although Next Chapter has been around for decades, the group has grown significantly in the last few years. Even when they could only meet over Zoom, the group continued to grow.
“The group has grown because our women have been faithful and creative in coming up with ways to reach out to others,” Byal said. “They have always been the most loving and supportive group. They’ve encouraged me and shown me that the fourth quarter of your life is not a time to sit, but to serve and grow. You’re never too old to love and serve others. You’re not too old to continue growing in your faith.”
Larry Garwood, who leads Classic Worship, a time of traditional worship and Bible teaching that meets at the Chapel Thursday mornings, has been faithful to record his weekly teachings for the Chapel’s Facebook page.
Every Tuesday, with the help of his wife Sarah, Garwood records a “mini Classic Worship.”
“Sarah and I practice the songs together, then we start recording,” Garwood said. “We have our regular greeting, we sing songs and hymns, have a time of prayer, then I will give a short lesson. Even though we aren’t together, I still encourage people to sing along.”
Garwood said that he addresses many of the struggles Christians are facing in this season and how God’s Word encourages in the midst of those struggles.
“We’ve walked through a number of themes like strength, stamina, courage, an attitude of gratitude, hope—things that strengthen our relationship with the Father,” Garwood said. “We know that our relationship with the Father displaces fear and uncertainty.”
Garwood and many others in Classic Worship have made intentional efforts to reach out to other seniors, to check in on them and invite them to Classic Worship. Each week, Garwood sends out prayer requests, and if someone is celebrating a birthday, he makes sure they get a card.
“I’m grateful that we have the technology to still be together, even though it’s virtually,” Garwood said. “There are many seniors who were already having a hard time getting to and from the church for physical limitation or health concerns, so my hope is that we will continue to record Classic Worship even after we begin meeting together again for those who still cannot join in person.”
Senior adult groups at other campuses have remained connected as well. Classic Worship at the Indiana Campus has continued to meet using Zoom.
Garwood said that in this season of physical separation, the Lord has reminded him of the importance of community, no matter what it looks like.
“During this time, we’ve had the opportunity to focus more on counting our blessings than we would if we were meeting together,” he said. “You really have to be intentional, but there’s been a great sense of camaraderie among the Classic Worship folks because we’re doing something together.”