Monday, February 22, 2016

Forum, ideas for childrens ministry

By Jodie Dodson
Director of Children’s Ministry, Aldersgate UMC, Mechanicsburg

Many thanks to both the Susquehanna Conference and to Aldersgate Church in Mechanicsburg for affording me the opportunity to attend the Children’s Ministry Forum in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 17-19.

All excited on day one, I attended my second workshop, “Connecting and Equipping Families.” Here we took time to look at the Baptismal Covenant. As parents vow to “nurture their children in Christ’s holy Church” and the congregation vows to “nurture one another in the Christian faith and life” as well as pray for the children; how do we as a church equip families to hold true to this vow?

This workshop provided the most discussion of any that I attended through the next two days. The ideas were as vast as the churches that were there ... from California to Pennsylvania ... churches with hundreds of children and churches with 50 on a “good” day ... Children’s directors that have been in service for three days to ten years.

It is best to present these ideas in bullet points so that they aren’t lost among the words. Perhaps an idea or two will resonate with you and it will be something your church will begin doing.

  • Bringing a baby blanket to the hospital when children in your congregation are born
  • A monthly family outing coordinated by the church
  • Resources for “How to Pray with Your Child” 
  • Communication through stickers on the child’s body (It won’t get lost in the car)
  • A closed Facebook page featuring upcoming activities and then pictures following events
  • Intergenerational connecting of the moms and retired women in the church body
  • Following Christmas: A Blessing of the Toys where children bring one toy they received
  • Advent Festival of Family Activities
  • Bless your children
  • Luncheon Expo for Children and Youth highlighting the curriculum, special events and expectations for the coming year

Most of us know you learn so much more by talking with other participants. As I move forward in my calling, the ideas that were shared and the friendships I made will have an impact on the children in the church I call home. Let us all remember that Jesus called the little children and they are each a Blessing. Continue to bless and pray for the children in your life and the life of your congregation.

By Cassandra McCachren, 
First UMC, Hershey

Children’s Ministry Forum 2015 focused on renewal, discovering, and responding. Time was spent on personal spiritual practices and served as a reminder that ministry workers need to take time out of our schedules to experience renewal.

“Family Faith Formation” and “Children in Worship” were just two of many workshops that offered an opportunity to discover new information and ideas for local churches to equip our families.

Kara Lassen Oliver’s book, “Passing It On,” gives families practical ways to be together and aid in children and youth’s faith formation through four different seasons of their lives. Using the Wesleyan approach to spiritual formation, Oliver showed how that through family meetings and symbols we can help our families form their children spiritually. By pointing to God in our everyday experiences, creating a culture of hope, making time to pray together, and participating in the community and kingdom of God, families have seen changes in their children’s lives. Even if parents are just telling their children where they see God in everyday life, they are making a huge impact on their children’s spiritual lives. However, Kara points out that daily and weekly times spent praying and in family devotional gatherings is extremely beneficial to our children’s faith development as well.

Having children in worship is one of the key ways that their faith can be formed, but too often we put up barriers to them. Both Mark Burrows and Rev. Melissa Cooper discussed how the things that we should do in worship for children are elements that would benefit the adults as well. Intergeneration worship also fosters mature disciples and allows important relationships to form. They discussed how our children can serve in the church in more ways than just as acolytes, with Mark saying that children serving communion can be a very holy experience. When we plan our worship services it is important that we think of incorporating sensory connections into the service along with increasing the amount of participation of all members of the congregation.

Through worship, keynote speakers, and workshops, renewal was achieved, much was discovered, and now we must respond with our work at our local churches.

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