If you live in a cold-weather climate, you no doubt have a contingency of snowbirds – typically they are retired folks who wait out the winter in warm parts of the country. They are no less a part of your faith community when they are away, make sure your ministry continues to them during that time.
Don’t you wish that meant going to visit all of them around January or February. If you can convince your church council to include that in the budget, go for it. For the rest of us, try some of these ideas.
Send them off
Before your snowbirds leave in the fall, dedicate a moment in worship for a service of sending. Help them remember God goes with them.
Put a map up in your fellowship area and stick a pushpin into all the places where your snowbirds go. If they are open to it, write their address on a sticky-note on the map and invite congregational members to send cards over winter. Or leave cards on a table nearby to have people sign! Who doesn’t love getting mail that isn’t address to “Or Current Resident!”
Help them find connections
Before they go, make sure you have their contact information so you can stay in touch and connect them with a church in the area.
Print out a list of nearby churches, especially those within your denomination or partner churches and share with your snowbirds. Your national church’s webpage should have a “Find a church” feature that is searchable by address or zip code. You might even give an email or call to a church nearby to contact your snowbirds. It’s nice to be invited to worship directly and having a church contact in case of a hospitalization or other unforeseen circumstances.
Don’t be a jealous pastor! If they find a worshiping community that is wonderful and come home raving about the sermons, rejoice.
When I was a pastor in Phoenix, I would have loved to have contact information to invite snowbirds to worship with my urban congregation. A few of them might have recognized my Midwest accent – you betcha!
In addition, invite your community to stay connected while they’re away if you have a large contingency in a particular area. Ask one member to play host a monthly gathering (maybe in a retirement village’s community room). Send out alerts from the church.
Are those snowbirds on social media? Then you should be too! You can post happenings at home or create a private page just for your snowbirds. Invite them to keep in touch, post their fun photos doing in a conga line by the pool, etc. (Sometimes those of us who are stuck in snow for the entire winter can just feel a little warmer by seeing those we know enjoying some beautiful sunshine.)
And don’t forget about the basics: make sure church members out of state are receiving newsletters and other congregational mailings, even if you have to send them via email or over social media.
Keeping your ministry available to snowbirds tends to keep them from getting out of the habit of worship—that’s good for everyone. And who knows, someone might just invite you for a visit before the next blizzard.
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