'Light Up Your Hoidays' gains popular turn-out

( [email protected] ) Dec 16, 2003 11:46 AM EST

While college fellowships and youth groups seem to be keeping the youth in the spirit of Christmas through praise nights and volunteer work, senior adult believers have their own way of uniting during the holidays. Take Odell Tarpley and Hazel Gregor, for example. Two women who describe themselves as being “in our 70s and let's just leave it at that" seniors knew exactly where to go as they went from their Mount Zion Baptist Church in Crumby, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee, where they attended an enrichment event for seniors.

The event was called “Light Up Your Holidays” and hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. From Dec. 3-5, Tarpley and Gregor were at the Opryland Hotel and Resort to participate in music, fellowship, art, education, and entertainment activities along with 500 other seniors from 18 states.

Why do so many senior attend these kind of events. Maybe, because they want to expand their intellect and spirituality and maybe a part of them just want to have a good time.

“Oh, we do have a good time," Tarpley said. "Senior adults are so active today. We aren't content to just sit and look at the four walls. We love life and want to be out doing and going. We never want to stop learning new things."

Last year, the two 70-year-olds going on 20 also attended a 2002 version of “Light Up Your Holidays” at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C. The December weather brought several inches of snow that blanketed the campus, which according to Tarpley was a special treat for "two Texas girls.”

Although percentages of senior adults in Southern Baptist churches aren’t documented, by looking at the healthy show-up of 500 senior adults at this year’s event and by looking across congregations within Southern Baptist churches, one could guess the percentage of senior adults in Southern Baptist churches would be higher than the 12 percent senior adults in America.

Luckily, despite the vague demographics of senior adults among the Southern Baptist churches, there is someone listening to the needs of the senior adults.

"LifeWay understands that the senior adults in our churches are valued members whose wisdom and experience contribute to healthy churches," said Danny Jones, leader of LifeWay's adult enrichment events area. "That's why we plan so many events specifically for them and why these events are so well-attended. We know they expect more than just an enjoyable event; they want to be challenged to think and learn about spiritual concepts as well. Otherwise, they could just choose an activity or trip not associated with their churches."

The popularity of the event was evident by its quick sold-out rate. "Light Up Your Holidays was sold out by July," Jones said.

Tarpley and Gregor already have their eyes on the next senior event. Knowing early registration is a must to beat the crowd, they have already made plans to be back in Nashville during March to attend the Senior Adult Gospel Reunion.

"I love the music," Gregor said. "I play the piano at my church. We don't really have a choir -- we just have about 35 people -- but we all love to sing. This gospel music [event] will be the best thing ever!"