When I was young, my grandfather told me never to forget what it was like to be young. As I work with seniors, this becomes more apparent. When I was young, these people I minister to were my parents age or older. Remembering their music and the culture helps me to relate to these people.

When I was in Germany a few years back, a friend of mine showed me her great grandmother’s Gesangbuch (hymnal). It was more than just a hymnal—not only did it have hymns, but also the Heidelberg Confession, the Litany, and daily readings. I remembered we grew up with the Family Book of Favorite Hymns published by Funk and Wagnalls Company in 1950. We would sing songs from this book, while my father or mother would play them on the piano.

About twenty-five years ago, I remember a sermon by John Snyder about the theology of hymns. Since then I have been paying more attention to what hymns say. I have even taught a series of classes on different hymns and how to let them speak to us as poetry.

I recently attended a seminar given by Scott Clark at San Francisco Theological Seminary on word and music. In his seminar he presents how to take the Scripture reading and brake it down into themes. You take these themes and look at your hymnal and find the topics that match your theme. Then you look at the hymns under the topic that your congregation can sing.

Working with the seniors, I have been reminded that music and prayer are the last memories to go. So I worked the concept of music and prayer into my Bible study with residents in the memory care facility. I took the hymnal I use in my personal studies and expanded the concept of my lesson plan using what John Snyder said about theology of Hymns and Scott Clark concept of matching hymns to the Scripture reading. So when I teach my class I insert verses from known hymns that will expand the Scripture and understanding to my class.

So far this works well. I find that the residents are more likely to finish a verse in answer to my questions, than looking into themselves for a cognitive answer.

[hr style=”dotted”]

From the Admins: If you found this post helpful and you’re musically gifted, you might want to consider visiting a Seniors’ home or residential care facility this Christmas and asking if they’d like you to provide a time of music for them.