Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights started a “Meet an Older Friend” event about eight years ago. The goal has always been to help connect young Confirmation students with older members of the congregation—to hear their wisdom, learn about their faith journeys together and share stories. This program was paused during COVID, and we brought it back for the first time this year. Five older adults from Good Shepherd were invited to share an hour of their time with 25 of our Confirmation students.
We know that cross-generational relationships are so important to the faith formation of young people. Through the “Meet an Older Friend” event, we also want our older adults to have an opportunity to share their wisdom and stories. We want our older adults to be recognized and honored for their faithfulness and life experience. And we want our students to hear affirmation and love from the adults. Both students and adults have so much to offer and receive from one another.
The older adults came prepared…with stories, photos of one-room school houses and weddings, and even the Small Catechisms they used during their Confirmation years. The students and adults shared what Confirmation is or was like for them. They chatted about hobbies and shared photos of some of their favorite places in Minnesota. It was fun to see older adults and students laughing over a Confirmation memory or comparing fishing photos from over the summer. The final topic of the afternoon was to share about a favorite meal. It was delightful to see young and old faces light up talking about a favorite recipe or holiday.
It is great to see and hear students and adults connecting and swapping stories, but to see the lasting relationships that come out of this event are even more rewarding. This year, two of the Confirmation students asked two of the adults who had presented to be their mentors for Advent and Lent this year. Since the event, some of our students have recognized their adult friend at church or gotten to usher with them. We are grateful that some real friendships have started to blossom from our “Meet and Older Friend” event.
“I’m so glad we got back to do things like this event. It is great talking in small groups with students and getting to know them better,” said Wayne Gorr, one of the adult participants. “I really liked the small groups because kids opened up more, and there was less pressure to talk. Out of the deal, I got a great Prayer Pal too!”
Pastor Courtney Steitz
Good Shepherd, Inver Grove Heights