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2006 grants support wide range of older-adult ministries

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of the Rev. David W. Meister

Darian (left) and Justice celebrate Grandparent’s Day with their grandfather, the Rev. David Meister.
May 16, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — About 100 grandparents in Michigan are going to have a “grand weekend” thanks to a grant from the Committee on Older Adult Ministries and the vision of a United Methodist pastor who knows firsthand the challenges of raising the children of your children.

Grand Camp will be held May 26-28 at Wesley Woods Camp, Dowling, Mich., in the Western Michigan Conference for grandparents raising elementary-age children. The grant of $1,500 will be used to help low-economic and racial/ethnic grandparents afford two days of play and support, says the Rev. David W. Meister, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Buchanan.

The camp will include the usual swimming, hiking, canoeing, while also providing time for grandparents to interact and share with one another the joys and challenges they face each day.

About 4 million children live with their grandparents, according to the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. That number is probably low, the center says, because many more informal care arrangements aren’t recorded.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of the Rev. David W. Meister

The Rev. David W. Meister and his wife, Denise, are raising their grandchildren, Darian, 9, Justice, 7, and Heaven, 3.

Meister agrees. “A lot of grandparents who are raising grandchildren will not admit it because they don’t want social services to come in and take over and have the kids put in foster care.”

The Meisters went through the foster care system and get a stipend from the state. “It’s not much, but it helps,” he says.

“ My wife and I made the big decision several years ago to raise our grandchildren,” Meister says.

After their daughter was no longer able to raise her children because of drug and alcohol problems, the Meisters adopted them. Darian, 9, Justice, 7, and Heaven, 3, now have a home with their grandparents who are also their parents. Meister says his daughter is recovering and doing well.

“We wanted to keep the kids together,” Meister says. “It is a lot of work — my wife gave up a really good job to become a stay at home mom — but you also have the blessings of knowing your kids are safe and out of harm’s way.”

Grandparents need support, and Meister says “the church is missing out on a large mission field right in their own communities.”

“I am hoping that we will be able to have an impact on the older population which is raising grandchildren without money or (good) health. One of the things churches can do is offer support and what I call respite care. My wife and I have not had a date or dinner out in two months because we are taking care of grandkids.”

Grandparents raising grandchildren are responding to a problem in the middle (parent) generation, such as the death of the parent, illness, divorce, immaturity, incarceration of the parent, parental substance abuse, child abuse or neglect, says the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr., director of the United Methodist Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries.

“Grandparents are motivated by the love they feel for their grandchildren and step in to fill a gap created by the problem,” Gentzler says.

“If you become a grandparent some day and your grandkids are facing maybe going into foster care, you would probably do the same,” Meister says.

The outreach is one of 29 programs receiving grants this year through the Committee on Older Adult Ministries at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. The funds total $38,000.

Grants for 2006

Following is a list of other grants awarded by the Committee on Older Adult Ministries this year.

  • Caring Friendship Ministry, Jewell County United Methodist Parish, Formoso Kan. ($1,375). This program provides in-depth training for members involved in ministering to older adults living in long-term care and nursing homes. Both laity and clergy will be involved.
  • Key Stewart Older Adult Ministry, Key Stewart United Methodist Church, Gallatin, Tenn. ($900). The ministry provides an education program for health/fitness, safety, nutrition and insurance leading to a health assessment profile for every participant.
  • Crime Victims Council, Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas, Central Texas Conference ($1,000). The conference wants to establish a crime victims’ council to assist older adults to report/respond to crime; engage local clergy and networks with other organizations; and establish a hotline and provide pastoral counseling.
  • Memory Sharing Connectional Ministry, Red Bird Mission, Beverly, Ky. ($1,625). Ministry does in-home visits to train family caregivers and help older adults develop/create memory books. Project involves Red Bird social agencies.
  • Kay Senior Care Center Scholarship Program, Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tenn. ($1,500). Program provides scholarships for caregivers working in a ministry of adult day care and a ministry for people with dementia, as well as helping those who cannot afford care services.
  • Grand Camp (scholarships), Western Michigan Conference, Buchanan, Mich. ($1,500). The grant provides scholarships for low-economic and racial/ethnic grandparents to attend a camp for grandparents who are raising grandchildren.
  • Health Ministry Team, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Omaha, Neb. ($1,000). This program integrates faith and health by providing preventive care, including home visits, healing services, grief support and worship in residential setting. The ministry has the support of the community medical/support staff.
  • Kingdom House Senior Companion Program, St. Louis. ($1,500). The senior companion program is expanding into two new counties. Seniors will assist seniors with services such as meal preparation, medication, chores.
  • Moses Lake Senior Homework Team, Moses Lake (Wash.) United Methodist Church ($1,900). The older adults of the congregation will tutor students in grades one to five after school. Volunteers will be trained by the elementary school teachers. Results will be measured objectively with improvement in school grades from D to C and other tangible results.
  • Beyond Sunday – “New Beginnings for Older Adults,” Plymouth United Methodist Church, Carver, Mass. ($600). This one-day-a-week ministry for older adults will include the SENIORS ministry model – Spirituality, Enrichment, Nutrition, Intergenerational, Outreach, Recreation and Service.
  • Relational Networks in Circuit 25, Winnebago District, Wisconsin Annual Conference ($1,000). The goal is to provide meaningful contact through relational networks (small groups, peer mentoring) for senior singles through social and outreach events.
  • The Oil of Joy Ministry, First United Methodist Church, Fredonia, N.Y. ($1,000). This visitation ministry serves the homebound elderly, both members and non-members, and includes a plan for assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
  • PluS Project: Praising and Loving Our Seniors, Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco ($1,500). This program for Asian-American seniors will have the twofold purpose of spiritual formation and supportive fellowship.
  • Kor-Sage Senior Ministry, Korean United Methodist Church of Santa Clara Valley, San Jose, Calif. ($1,500). An outreach ministry for elderly Korean-Americans, this includes spiritual formation, education and information sharing, and socialization opportunities.
  • Mt. Moriah United Methodist Church Adult Day Care, Jacksonville, Fla. ($1,000). The grant will help fund the creation of an adult day service in a predominantly African-American community.
  • Cultural Arts for Ages Together, Park United Methodist Church, Bloomfield, N.J. ($600). This intergenerational ministry includes cultural and arts activities to a mixed ethnicity and racial population.
  • Establish District Older Adult Councils, Rocky Mountain Conference ($1,500). The conference wants to expand older adult ministries in more districts.
  • Silver Angels in Action, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Port Arthur, Texas. ($1,000). The grant will support church-sponsored health and financial fairs for people in a “designated” blighted community hit by Hurricane Rita. This is an inclusive project aimed at older adults who have suffered great loss.
  • Senior-Life Connections, Wayside United Methodist Church, Vallejo, Calif. ($1,000). This outreach program serves veterans in local Yountville Veterans Administration Home.
  • ROAD – Revitalized Older Adults, Grace Russian United Methodist Church, Washington ($1,200). Ministry of various small group activities for older adult Russian immigrants who are isolated culturally and by language issues.
  • Breaktime Club, Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church, Kansas City, Mo. ($1,000). Provide a place where care is given to people in home care while allowing the “home caregiver” a brief respite. It encourages social contact among seniors with limited mobility as well as caring for caregivers.
  • Third Thursdays at Chestnut Ridge, Burlington District, Burlington District, North Carolina Conference ($2,500). A year-round program for older adults at a conference camp, this will include workshops and study groups on spirituality, intellectual classes, nutrition, outreach with other cultural groups (especially Latino/Hispanics), recreational opportunities and service projects. The model could be replicated in selected church camps across the United Methodist Church.
  • Congregational Caregivers Project, Asbury United Methodist Church, Hood River, Ore. ($1,000). Grant will fund a workshop setting for spring 2007. The congregation has a large number of caregivers and serves a large Hispanic/Latino population in the community. Local congregations, community health providers, hospice and other providers will come together to provide this service.
  • Arlington House Adult Day Services, Arlington United Methodist Church, Bridgeton, Mo. ($1,000). The ministry provides physical, spiritual, emotional, and social day service, paralleled with a child day service program and clinical educational practice.
  • Healing Place Ministries: Crime Victims Project, Southeast District, Arkansas Conference ($1,000). A crime victims’ council will assist older adults in responding to crime. The project will engage local clergy, establish a hotline, provide pastoral counseling, and form networks with other organizations.
  • Successful Aging, Lincoln Square Arts Center, Berry Memorial United Methodist Church, Chicago ($2,300). A media production project, the ministry includes both monologues and dialogues written and produced by older adults. The project will be aired on a CATV public channel.
  • Sage-ing Circles, San Jose District ($1,500). A “course of study” with professional leadership, this project is designed to address issues of those entering or already in their senior years.
  • Wellness Walk to Optimal Health for Adults, Dixon United Methodist Church, Dayton, Ohio. ($1,500). A weekly program in an African-American congregation will provide spiritual formation through Bible study, a wellness Jazzercise class and nutritional focus.
  • Musings: An Outreach to Homebound and Seniors in Nursing Homes, First United Methodist Church, Greenfield, Mass. ($2,000). This outreach will include the production and distribution of a newsletter/periodical written by confined seniors, using their “creative stirrings” and the wisdom of their later years.

More information on the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries can be found at

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or


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