About this articleThis activity helps the young people each learn from an older person in the parish and establish a faith relationship with that person.
This activity helps young people learn from an older person in the parish and establish a faith relationship with that person.
Suggested Time: About 15 minutes for each meeting during Advent
Group Size: This strategy can be done with any number of young teens, as long as each one can be paired with an older person.
Special Considerations: This activity takes place in separate meetings during Advent and in a celebration gathering during the Christmas season. It depends on your consistency in arranging and facilitating those meetings and on the willingness of older people in the community to make a seasonal commitment to young people. Well before Advent you will need to invite those elders to take part in the activity and to explain the process and the extent of the commitment. Be sure the elders know the following things:
- They will receive a note from a young person in the mail each week during Advent (or as often as you have arranged for the young people to meet). The note will not be signed, and the name of their buddy will not be revealed.
- They are expected to write back on a postcard or in a note. Their response should be mailed to you, and their name should appear on the postcard or on the outside of the envelope.
- The return card or note must arrive at the church or meeting place by a certain day of the week (or by a certain day before each subsequent meeting of the young people).
- They will meet their Advent buddy at a special gathering after Christmas.
- index cards
- pens or pencils
- stamped postcards, or notepaper and stamped envelopes, four for each young person
Preparation. Identify the older people who will participate in this strategy, and ensure that they understand their role, as described previously in Special Considerations.
Make up individual index cards, each with the name and address of an older person who has expressed a willingness to participate in the activity.
Decide on pairings between the young people and the older people. Make a master list of those pairings for yourself, so that you can match each response from an elder with its young recipient.
Advent Meeting 1
1. Explain to the young people that during Advent they will each have a secret elder pal, otherwise known as an Advent buddy. Tell them that they will know the name of their elder, but their elder will not know their name. Give each young person the index card with the name and address of the elder you have assigned to him or her.
2. Give each young person a stamped postcard, or a sheet of notepaper and a stamped envelope, and a pen or pencil. Tell the participants to write a note to their secret elder pal. They are to include information about themselves but not reveal their name.
Direct them to ask their Advent buddy to write back and to answer the question, "Why is the Church important to you?" Explain that the older person will mail or deliver the answer to you before your next meeting. Have the young people close their note by asking their Advent buddy for prayers and assuring their buddy of prayers in return.
3. When the young people finish writing, direct them to place their note in their envelope and seal the envelope, if they used notepaper. Tell them to address their postcard or envelope and to give it to you to mail.
Advent Meetings 2 to 4
Each week distribute the responses from the older people, and give the young people time to read them. In addition direct the young people to write a note to their elder partner, asking a new question provided by you. They can also update their partner on the events of the week and ask for prayer support for something in particular.
Make up your own questions each week, or use any of the ones listed below:
- When and how do you pray?
- Who is your favorite saint or holy person? Why?
- When were you especially aware of God's presence? Explain.
- If you were to draw a picture of God, what would it look like?
- What does being part of this church mean to you?
- If you could ask God one question, what would it be? Why would you ask it?
- If you could change anything about the Church, what would it be? Why?
Christmas Season Celebration
Sometime during the Christmas season, invite the older people to come to a celebration where the Advent buddies will meet each other. The young people might plan to do a skit, a prayer service, or a talent show. They might also share one-on-one with their Advent buddy their own answers to the questions they asked in their cards or notes.
- Help the young people prepare a party or dinner for the meeting with the elders. They can bring or make cookies and lemonade or punch. If they decide to do a meal, they might make pancakes for breakfast or spaghetti for dinner.
- Before the post-Christmas gathering, arrange for the young people to make a special gift for their elder. It could be something like a bookmark, a magnet, a frame with a picture of the young teen, or a recording of the young person reading a Christmas story.
- If you have more than 15 minutes to devote to this activity each week, invite the young people to comment on their partner's answer and to share their own thoughts on the issue before they write and ask their buddy a new question.
- Instead of having the buddies correspond on postcards or notepaper, put together an inexpensive journal for each pair by folding a few standard-size sheets of paper in half and stapling them in the middle. Invite both the young people and the elders to write in their shared journal each week.
(This activity is taken from Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for Ministry with Young Teens, a manual in the HELP series, by Carole Goodwin and Marilyn Kielbasa [Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 2000], pages 95-98. Copyright © 2000 by Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this activity to be used for classroom or campus ministry purposes. This activity may not be republished in any form without written permission from Saint Mary's Press. To order this book, contact Saint Mary's Press at 800-533-8095, or visit our online catalog at www.smp.org/catalog.cfm.)
Published November 6, 2003.