by Kathy Young of First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS
If you are interested in including more senior adults in children’s ministry, you might want to have a conversation with Pat Chambless at First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS. Pat and his wife Kay spent over twenty years volunteering within youth ministry, but after the addition of their grandson to the family, Pat decided to teach the four- and five-year-old Sunday school class. Pat has a love for sharing Jesus with children, and he doesn’t mind squirmy, talkative, or apprehensive little ones. In fact, he is a gifted teacher of all ages, but particularly young children. However, due to work and family constraints, Pat Chambless had to take a break from teaching for quite a while.
Then came a retirement announcement. After more than thirty six years in the banking profession, Pat’s work was honored and celebrated as he prepared to leave his occupation. If you were the children’s ministry director and you knew this man would have some extra time on his hands, what would you do? It seemed appropriate to glean some of that new freedom and years of experience. Right after he cleaned out his desk, he put on his shorts and t-shirt and joined the Vacation Bible School team as a teacher of four-year-olds. Every child wanted to sit in Mr. Pat’s lap, hold his hand, and tell him their Bible verses. He was such a blessing to the whole week, showing genuine interest in each student, caring for them, teaching them, and loving them with Jesus’ love.
The really wonderful thing is that the VBS experience was a joy to Pat as well. He decided to come back the following year—especially after his co-teacher requested to be paired with him once more. After this second time, when asked to help recruit new volunteers for Vacation Bible School, this is what he had to share, “Being one of the older members of the church now, I don’t have as much contact with the youth or their parents as I used to have. Volunteering for VBS has allowed me to meet and get to know some of the parents and work with some of our precious children. I have been blessed the past two years and hope I have been able to help in even a small way.” Of course, we were delighted to have his help this past summer, and are looking forward to many more years of service from our dear friend, Pat Chambless.
As our church is embracing our identity as a covenantal community, we are seeing more retirees participate in children’s ministry. Vacation Bible School gives an opportunity for them to be a part on a short term basis. Even Mr. Pat’s wife, Kay, helps lead the music each year. Beyond, VBS, we also have been blessed by senior adults who serve as prayer partners, assistants for special events, and hosts for cookie bakes. We even benefit from a former school guidance counselor volunteering on a regular basis to keep inventory of supplies, make copies, and distribute curriculum. As you might imagine, our children’s ministry committee is beyond thankful for this multi-generational influence. While not all senior adults feel comfortable on the floor with preschoolers, most have something wonderful they can share with children.
I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. Psalm 89:1 (NIV)