If you haven’t already noticed: your congregation has at least one or more college and/or high school aged folks with a lot of time on their hands – and parents who would love something constructive for youth to do that doesn’t require undo exposure to Covid.
You also have at least one or more elders who are fearful of going outside even to shop for essentials, and certainly not to visit with friends or family.
Put the two together!
- Ask elders if they would be open to being in regular contact with a young person: you might extend the invitation to elders throughout your community.
- Recruit an equitable number of young people. These could be members or not; the numbers don’t have to match exactly: some young people may be willing to/interested in visiting with more than one elder.
- Have a few background conversations about the needs we all share for human companionship (the Creation Story and/or God as Trinity living in eternal harmony, diversity and community are good places to start).
- Invest in some background checks: be sure everyone involved is not a safety risk! (This is true whether you are relying solely on members of your congregation or inviting neighbors to join the program; it is likewise true for both the younger visitors and the elder visitees.)
- Offer a training on engaging questions, cheerful listening, confidentiality and boundaries. Be sure to include protocols if there is a fear of someone being in danger. If this part seems daunting, enlist the help of a local (member or not) professional counselor or other who might volunteer to lead this training – just be sure they cover safety and boundaries!
- You might include light errands as part of this: be sure to train all involved in what is appropriate and what is not. Groceries and household items are “in”; medical supplies not so.
- Visits can be via phone or, when safe and appropriate and allowed by guidelines, in person.
You might see relationships develop that last for years!