Children throughout the United Methodist connection are learning about the history of the Methodist movement and practicing intentional discipleship with the help of drawings of John and Charles Wesley called “Flat Wesleys.”
Churches in each annual conference and each central conference are receiving laminated copies of the Flat Wesleys to begin the project, which will continue through September, said Melanie C. Gordon, director of Ministry with Children at Discipleship Ministries. More than 700 churches have requested to participate through the children’s ministry Facebook page.
“The end result of this project is for children to have the opportunity to practice compassion, justice, worship and devotion, to really pay attention to how they are doing that, and to be able to share their experiences with other children across the Methodist connection,” Gordon said.
The idea for Flat Wesleys, which is based on the youth literature character Flat Stanley©, came from a desire by children’s ministry leaders to inspire covenant discipleship with children.
After studying Methodist heritage, congregations will receive a set of Flat Wesleys. The children will make their own Flat Wesleys, and carry them to worship services. “They will have the Wesleys with them in prayer, and they will take them when they go out and do an act of service in the community,” Gordon said. “This offers them something concrete to help them look for ways of living out their faith.”
Teachers and children will then write a letter about what the children experienced while they had the Flat Wesleys and send it to another congregation along with the laminated Flat Wesleys.
“Our hope is that the teachers (at the church receiving the letters) will then read about what the Flat Wesleys did where they were before to their children, and then the process will start again,” Gordon said.
Later this year, Discipleship Resources will release a resource for covenant discipleship with children, and the experiences of the children who participate in the Flat Wesleys Project will become part of that resource.
“We want to gather a list of what children are experiencing, so that when people participate in small groups and intentional discipleship with children and are looking for some ways to practice justice or compassion with their children, they can come to the Discipleship Ministries site,” she said.
“Covenant groups are at the root of Methodism,” Gordon said. Members of covenant groups support one another and hold each other accountable in the areas of justice, compassion, worship and devotion and in practicing those daily and weekly in their lives.
“I believe that our church as a denomination has a very strong and unique history, especially when you think about the Methodist movement was a movement, not a church,” Gordon said. “And it started with young people getting together trying to hold the church accountable to holiness.”
By participating in the Flat Wesley project, children in United Methodist congregations hopefully will be encouraged to learn that the Wesleys were “young people who believed that the church could do more, and they pushed the church to do more,” she said. “It's an amazing story. I think it's a story that we don't look at enough, and we want children to know it, so that they understand why we live out our lives as Christians in this way.”
United Methodist children should know “that God equips them with what they need, and the adults are here to guide them on that journey – to guide them and to help them to use those gifts that God has given them,” Gordon said.
Congregations interested in participating in the Flat Wesleys project should contact Discipleship Ministries by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.