A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of going back to Hopkinsville and officiate Alisha Sargent’s wedding. Alisha is one of our former students and she also served as our ministry intern one summer. It is always an honor to be asked to do these and we love going back to Hopkinsville and seeing dear friends.
The beauty of the autumn days and an outdoor wedding reminded me of those fall break days in Hopkinsville when we would gather what students we could and rake leaves for some of the senior adults in our church. It wasn’t anything that took a lot of planning or resources, honestly it was more of an excuse to hang out with students, and get out of the office. Students would show up at the church about 10:00, we rake a small yard or two in town, grab some lunch and then rake some more that afternoon.
Whether this was a one day or multi-day project our last house would always be Violet Wolfe’s. She lived out in the country, had a little more than an acre, covered in trees and it would take most of the afternoon just to rake her leaves. It was always our students favorite place to rake for a couple of reasons: 1 we didn’t have to bag the leaves up and haul them off, we could just wind roll them into her ditch and 2, when we were done wind rolling them we got to burn them. Nothing like a van load of students with permission to burn something. I think some of them would have raked every yard on Antioch Road if they could have set fire to something when they were done.
I thought about those fall days, hanging with students, when we passed Violet’s house coming back to town after Alisha and Dustin’s wedding and the simplicity of some youth and children from Edgewood working together at the home of some of our senior adults. The bonds that were formed, the familial feel it gave to what we were doing and who we were as a congregation all brought together by a simple time of raking leaves.
That wasn’t all we did to bridge the gap between our students and our seniors. We would go caroling at Christmas, at least once a year the students would program and sponsor one of the PEP clubs monthly meetings, and we would visit some of our shut-ins in nursing homes a couple times a year. Several of the seniors became grandparent figures, not only for Jordan and Karen, but for the students in our ministry as well. I think, Mrs. Juanita, our church secretary even attended a couple of grandparent days at school with Karen.
We’ve been gone from Edgewood almost 7 years now, and the Sunday after the wedding when we walked into the church for worship, some of these same seniors came and walked past Gina and I to make over Karen and Jordan, mostly Jordan. After all he is the one that has changed the most; he was only 13 when we left. Those relationships that were forged through just being family, they don’t just disappear.
Simple things, no high dollar programs, no hours and hours of time spent planning, not a lot adult volunteer leadership required, just hanging out and that built relationships. In a world where statistics tell us that fifty to eighty-five percent of students leave church after they graduate high school, and the same research tell us that one commonality among the students that stay is that they have developed relationships with adults in the church, outside of the youth ministry volunteers, maybe it’s time we simplified things and just found ways to be family.
Fall and the upcoming Holiday season are a couple of great places to start.