I had the best time yesterday in Athens! (No, the Dawgs weren’t playing, though I did visit the Bulldog Store for Christmas gifts.) I was invited to join nine people who are serving in local congregations in the Athens Elberton District. All of them are committed to ministries that engage children and their families. We were invited to share our excitement and joy, our biggest challenge, and out most extravagant hope for our ministries. What a delight to be a cheerleader for those creating new and innovative ways to encourage families along their faith journeys.
We heard about simple take-home cards that offer parents a question to ponder with their children throughout the week that builds on Sunday’s lesson and scripture. We cheered the over-heard conversations that loudly said “We got it today!” leaving a children’s wing. We heard about successful community engagement through tried and true programming – Trunk or Treats, Fall Festivals, VBS, and upcoming Christmas musicals. We applauded the growing Sunday morning ministries where deeper small group conversations are taking place. And we wondered, are we doing too much? Are we not doing enough?
Sobering challenges met us at the table as well. The need for volunteers across the generations; the struggle to fund ministries; the plate-spinning; the lack of support from senior staff; the fear that children’s voices are not being heard are struggles shared by those in ministry in large and small, rural and urban, old and new, multi-ethnic and homogenous congregations. Collectively and collaboratively solutions are possible. But it takes all of us thinking together to move beyond the “what has been” into the “what might be.”
God’s love for God’s children is extravagant and so are the hopes of those who are in every day ministry with children and families. They hope for shared ministry across the age span that will be a tangible marker of the faith journey that our children are just beginning. They hope for mentors and others who will share their gifts and their stories of God’s grace in their lives. They hope for faith forming opportunities that invite children and adults from multiple congregations to come together to grow and learn in faith. They hope that children’s voices will be heard as equal to others as ministry needs and resources are dispersed. Hopes and dreams undergirded by prayer and commitment and lived out day by day in hallway conversations, around conference tables, over tea and coffee, and with parking lot hugs.
My extravagant hope is that every person in ministry with children and families across this conference will have a group like this one. We all need companions on our journeys. We all need champions who will cheer us on. We all need prayer warriors who intercede for us. Ministry is not meant to be a solo act. Where are you sitting with others and where are others sitting with you? Check out www.ngumc.org/childrensministries for the networking group close to you, information about the upcoming retreat, the Done in a Day training event coming in March, 2018, Safe Sanctuaries, plus additional ministry connecting points. You can always contact me! I would love to journey in ministry with you.