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One Generation to Another

A New Senior Housing facility Linked to a New Early Childhood Learning Center

A New Facility: On September 23, the MLC Governing Board passed a resolution to allow construction of a 50-unit senior housing facility next to the Early Childhood Learning Center, only four blocks from campus. The land for the senior housing will be leased from WELS. Doneff Companies will be the developer, and The Lutheran Home Association will manage it. Construction could begin as early as Summer 2012.

The Amenities: The three-story senior housing complex will include 1- and 2-bedroom units and a basement garage. Tentative plans include an arboretum connector to the Early Childhood Learning Center and a Rathskeller.

One Generation: Aging boomers are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in America. The Alliance for Aging Research says that 10,000 individuals will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years.

Another Generation: At the other end of the age spectrum is the growing number of young children served by WELS. The synod serves 10,000 preschool-age children in 388 early childhood ministries. MLC student teachers receive some of their training for this ministry at the Early Childhood Learning Center, which is attended by children from the New Ulm area.

Linking the Generations: Building senior housing in close proximity to the college and the Early Childhood Learning Center opens avenues for intergenerational ministry, so that “one generation will commend your works to another” (Psalm 145). These three groups—seniors, college students, and preschoolers—on the same campus would “provide a marvelous symbiotic blessing,” said MLC President Mark Zarling.

The Blessings

  • Seniors can enjoy MLC amenities: Seniors could take full advantage of campus life—twice-daily chapel, athletic events, concerts, plays, the fitness center, and meals in the cafeteria—all while witnessing the training of another generation of called workers. Shuttles could offer transportation to such events.
  • Seniors would have access to college instruction: Active seniors who are interested in serving others could receive ministry preparation through the resources of MLC. Such preparation might include Bible studies, specific training (for prison ministry or visiting shut-ins, perhaps), and the option to audit college classes.
  • Seniors would be served by MLC students: MLC preseminary and staff ministry students could conduct devotions, lead Bible studies, and otherwise share the Word with seniors. Such experiences bring the joy of the gospel to seniors while giving our students practical experience and motivating them for continued tudies. Students might also have jobs in the senior living facility, which would encourage further interaction.
  • Seniors can engage with preschoolers: Interested seniors could connect with preschoolers in the Early Childhood Learning Center, enjoying meals, joint singing, and other planned activities, giving the youngsters that unique “surrogate grandparent” attention.
  • This combination of ECLC and senior living complex models intergenerational ministry for WELS: Our center might serve as a living laboratory, a model, for larger WELS churches who might also want to serve two growing demographics in their congregations and communities: seniors and preschoolers.

The Anticipation: We are looking forward to the unfolding blessings of this intergenerational ministry project. It will afford us the opportunity to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done . . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children” (Psalm 78).