Holiday at Home

In 1999, my first year as Evangelism Enabler, a Methodist Minister’s wife said, “Have you heard of the Outlook Trust?” This led me to read Rhena Taylor’s “Three Score Years – and Then?” and to receive the Outlook newsletter.

I felt that “Holiday at Home” – a holiday club for the retired – had great evangelistic potential in the church, and I began to promote it through literature, general Synods and other church meetings.

I co-ordinate four volunteer evangelism teams in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire and they have been very supportive. I offer churches the backing of the evangelism team and myself, both in the planning and especially in the event itself. This offer has helped churches to get started, to grow in confidence, and to realise that evangelism can be fun!

Holiday at Home is a gift of love to retired people. It generally takes place in August when older people often remain at home, life is lonelier, and social and church events often close down. It is usually free (donations gratefully received) and includes a good lunch, an interesting programme and an offer of transport. The Gospel is conveyed through these elements, as well as through testimony, allowing time to listen, a good entertainer / speaker, and having fun. It is about ministering to the whole person. I think of it as a social event which encourages people on their faith journey.

A Typical Day
10.30 am Arrival & Refreshments Welcome, joke, prayer
11.00 am Choice of Activity Crafts, games, chairobics, line dancing
12.15 pm Thought for the Day Grace
12.30 pm Lunch Two courses, tea / coffee
1.30 pm Choice of Activity As above
2.15 pm Speaker / Entertainer Singalong, humour, testimony, prayer
3.15 pm Refreshments With cake
3.45 pm Time to go home with a “holiday” photo, prayer card on the last day

Events in this District have been from one to four days, with two days being the most common. The longer events bring stronger relationships with individuals, and even tears on the last day! There are many stories to be told, including the lady who cried with happiness on the car journey home, because she had been able to share her 90th birthday with others, whereas she would have been alone; another man in his 80’s was so pleased to be able to bring his rarely used drum kit to church and play along with “Songs of Praise”!

Since 2002 the number of Methodist and ecumenical events known to me in this area has gone from one to eleven, including Drybrook (Forest of Dean), Wells, Parkway (Bristol), Nexus (Bath), Wotton-u-Edge, Fishponds (Bristol), Alveston, Tetbury, Peasedown St. John, Chippenham and Frome. This summer I am expecting a further increase.

What is particularly encouraging is that, so far, each church that has started Holiday at Home has done it again the following year! In addition, four of the above churches have subsequently held re-union days, with very popular support, during the following months, and two of these have started a monthly or bi-monthly event with the clear potential to become “fresh expressions of church.”

How does one start a Holiday at Home? I would suggest very prayerfully, and by drawing together teams of people. You need those who:-

~**can teach / demonstrate / lead crafts, games and activities*~~*make a good catering team (tables with cloth, floral decoration, serviettes, etc.)*~~*make the teas, coffees, etc. (separate group to caterers)*~~*can provide transport*~~*are helpers, whose role is to welcome guests, serve refreshments, sit and talk*~~*accompany the less mobile, and exude cheerfulness!**~

How does one identify a group of potential guests? Start from where you are – the existing fellowship group, luncheon club, nearby residential home, etc. Personal invitations are far better than posted ones, and response is far more likely where there are existing contacts. For our opening event in Chippenham I spoke for five minutes at a number of luncheon clubs, a pensioners’ club and a day centre and took some attractive programmes with me.

I feel it is important to try to contact those who are outside the church and tend to be more isolated socially. To help achieve this I suggest building relationships with others such as Age Concern, Social Services and the Salvation Army. Perhaps you know of lapsed members or pastoral visitor contacts who would respond to an invitation to such a mid-week event. But remember, Holiday at Home stands on its own as a love gift. There should be no expectation for people to start church attendance – though we have found that a few have!

Holiday at Home is hard work, very rewarding and fun! Older people are not the church of yesterday, but of today, and out of nearly 11 million retired folk, less than a million are in church. “The harvest is plentiful…..”