Issue 275 — March 31, 2016
Brain Fitness Club at Winter Park First UMC
Sometimes the best older-adult ministries are created by church members willing to be in partnership with others in the community, listening to the needs of the community, and offering unused resources to neighbors. Just ask the members of Winter Park First United Methodist Church (WPFUMC) about how they came to have their Brain Fitness Club, and they will tell you it came about because of these three things.
The development of the Brain Fitness Club started with Peggy Bargmann, a local RN who hosted a support group for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Her work as support group facilitator always left her wanting to do more -- especially for those with early onset dementia during the beginning stages of the illness. Because of a request by one member of her support group for daytime activities for her husband who was still active, but could no longer work or drive, Peggy conducted a community needs assessment and discovered that there were few programs available to stimulate the brains of people in the early stages of dementia.
Knowing that a program like the Brain Fitness Club was too large to develop alone, Peggy began to meet with community leaders, seeking support, volunteers, and a meeting place. During one of those meetings, Peggy connected with a Winter Park FUMC member, who offered to contact the church. The church agreed to provide the location and sponsorship of the program. After a 10-week pilot program, funded by the church’s foundation, the Brain Fitness Club opened its doors with Peggy as its director. Members of the church then contacted faculty from nearby Rollins College and the University of Central Florida, which led to partnerships providing interns and volunteers for the program and research projects for the students.
The Brain Fitness Club respects the dignity and worth of its participants. It is designed to operate like a college, with a semester calendar, midterms and finals, small tuition fees, and graduation (when assessments indicate the need for daycare). Brain Fitness Club students have classes in art, music, and other disciplines. They even participate in service projects. A choir made up of members of the Brain Fitness Club and others makes this ministry intergenerational.
Read More about the Brain Fitness Club
- Alzheimer’s Café: A Place to Recharge
- The Dementia-Friendly Church
- The Alzheimer’s Association
- The Alzheimer's Store
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What overlooked caregiving needs exist in the community near your church that might offer an opportunity for your church to minister outside its walls? What buildings, rooms, and resources that aren’t being used during the week could be offered to meet these needs?
- How might your church partner with community and civic groups to provide ministry within the community?
- What type of guidelines and training are available to church members to help them observe and discover the needs in the community and possible partnerships with community organizations?
Produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
- Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
- Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
- Nurture in growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
- Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable—the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
- Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the body of Christ.
- Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
- Shared clergy and lay leadership.
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