GREENFIELD — There are no officers, no dues and no attendance requirements. But it’s a well-galvanized group all the same.
It started as a Sunday school class at Bradley United Methodist Church that wanted some time to socialize beyond Sunday morning.
More than 20 years later, the Hilltoppers group is still gathering for its monthly lunch outing. On Feb. 11, about 25 senior adults gathered at Bob Evans restaurant in Greenfield to catch up on each others’ lives.
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The group is one of a number of fellowship opportunities for older adults offered by local churches. Their gatherings range from Bible studies to luncheons to other outings and even an occasional overnight trip. All seek to bring together those from similar seasons of life to enjoy friendship and support.
“I think it brings our church closer together,” said Keith Davis, who is part of the Hilltoppers. “We learn a little bit more about the personal lives and the personal problems.”
Keith and Delores Davis and Ken and Barb Grass coordinated the Hilltoppers gathering this time, but next time, the RSVPs will go to someone else — whoever volunteered by signing up on the clipboard passed around when the group meets. It’s an informal arrangement, but it spreads out the load of leadership.
While the group ventures as far as Anderson or Morristown in warmer months — and has even taken in dinner and a show at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre — during the winter the gatherings are closer to home to make them easier to attend.
Those who go can invite guests, regardless of whether they attend church. And if meeting some friendly folks over lunch makes it easier to contemplate going to a service, so much the better.
“We’re not above recruiting,” quips Keith Davis.
Some of the others who go to the lunches are active in other churches, and that’s fine too, Davis said.
“We don’t make it a necessity to belong to Bradley,” he said. “We’re glad to have other people come and join us.”
There’s a similar openness that marks the Daytimers group that started about a month ago at Realife Church. While many of those available for a day group tend to be of retirement age, some who attend the group are younger but have night jobs or other reasons the group fits their schedules better.
The Daytimers meet for Bible study and discussion twice a month and have a third gathering that’s for socializing or offering a helping hand with a light project; recently, attendees decorated plastic cups and tucked candy inside for the children’s ministry to give to young newcomers.
Judy Drake said after she and her husband retired a few months ago, she considered how to spend her daytime hours. The church offers life groups, small evening Bible study groups, but she thought there were probably others who would like to participate in a weekday daytime group.
Mary Carpenter facilitates the Bible study sessions for the group. To her, a big part of the value of the group is Christians reading the Bible.
“So often people think, ‘Oh, I’m going to do that, I’m going to do that,’ and just never get around to it,” she said.
She said the study is a place for discussion and questions, and those conversations often spark friendships.
“It’s sort of a time of fellowship … when you’re talking about things like that, you get to know a person.”
Tommy Hensley, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, said there’s a knowledge, an empathy, shared among older adults in the church’s Sunshine Travelers group.
“It’s just a place, a time … (to) share their hurts, share their feelings and connect,” he said.
He points out some members are widows or widowers.
“To be able to spend time with someone who’s been through the same thing you have … is something special they can be a part of.”
The Sunshine Travelers group gathers for monthly outings. They visit sites in Indiana, such as the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point. They’ve also gone on out-of-state trips to Niagara Falls or to camp meeting revivals in West Virginia.
Longtime member and deacon Ray Wilmore comes up with many of the ideas for the outings and runs them by the pastors. The church has a part-time seniors pastor, Greg Engle, who drives the bus for most outings and visits seniors who must remain at home or in a nursing facility.
“He’s just a sweet man that really connects with them,” Hensley said.
Hensley said what’s unique about ministering to seniors is that they’re quick to pick up on the point of a sermon illustration because of their range of life experiences. In this group are those who’ve learned from mistakes they have made and those who’ve experienced rewarding milestones, such as 50th wedding anniversaries.
“They have a lot of insight in life that really everyone can learn from,” he said. “They’re such sweet people. There’s not a one that doesn’t love you and care for you, and doesn’t make you a pie, and wants to care for everyone else in the church.”
Seniors gather for lunch or outings through church groups throughout Hancock County. Here’s how to get in touch with one:
-Bethel Baptist Church’s Sunshine Travelers go on monthly outings. Find out more at 317-462-5850 or bethelbcg.org.
-Bradley United Methodist Church’s Hilltoppers have lunch together monthly. Find out more at 317-462-2662 or bradleyumc.org.
-Heather Hills Baptist Church in Cumberland has a Young at Heart group that meets for lunch outings, Bible study and social events. Find out more at 317-894-7474 or http://www.heatherhills.org/ministries_young_at_heart.html.
-Outlook Christian Church’s Prime Timers Lunch is a pitch-in for those 50 and older that meets at noon the second Tuesday of the month at the church in McCordsville. The Prime Timers Study will start in March and meet at 1 p.m. Tuesdays except pitch-in weeks. There’s also a Red Hat Society group. Find out more at 317-335-6815 or http://outlookchurch.org/#/connectgrow/groups-studies.
-Realife Church’s Daytimers group meets for Bible study and for social gatherings. Find out more at 317-468-1100 or realifechurch.org.
-St. Michael Catholic Church has a group that meets the third Friday of each month after the 8:15 a.m. Mass. The group also takes day trips and embarks on parish and community projects. Contact the church at 317-462-4240 or see www.stmichaelsgrfld.org.