I recently brought home my “3rd grade Bible” from my parents’ house in Hot Springs to show to Wesley and to give him a sense of what he would be receiving this coming Sunday. It’s quite a momentous occasion that is a great tradition in the United Methodist Church. I enjoyed looking over the highlighted pages, the notes I had made as a child, and the “perfect attendance” sticker that I had placed right below the cover page to the New Testament. I look forward to presenting this gift of the congregation to my own son—though I am a bit disappointed that Wesley will not be able to receive his Bible alongside other peers. Unfortunately, he is our only 3rd grader in the congregation. (If we have overlooked someone, or there is a child in our congregation who missed receiving a third grade Bible whom we can present now, please let us know ASAP) Perhaps with a combination of continued innovation and replenishing leadership in our children’s ministry area, people with children spreading the news among their friends and colleagues with children that this church has something vital to offer them and their children, and parents supporting one another in accountability and invitation to show up to the fun and educational events that are planned, Wesley and other children who might have small cohorts in the congregation will see them grow. This doesn’t just magically happen. It takes steadfast commitment and a willingness to be inviting. The reward is the opportunity to build a children’s ministry that we as a congregation find suitable and reflective of our shared understanding of a faith that is hospitable, loving, and holistic. I know that some churches in town build walls of video game consoles to attract the children and make them want to be there on Sunday mornings. Is that the answer? It seems to be working for them, but I resist that approach because I think one thing church has to offer society is a “Sabbath” from the norm they probably find in their own homes and schools.
This coming Sunday is “Promotion Sunday.” It is a time of advancement for our children in Sunday School. If your children aren’t currently involved, I can assure you (because I have participated in each of our children’s Sunday School classes) that what they offer is worth your time. Leah Flores lovingly teaches those aged 2 ½ -K. They have been excited to see the plants they started in May grow into fruit and vegetables they have been picking from the courtyard and eating in class. I have been impressed with the pride of accomplishment I can see in their eyes as they hold up ears of corn that they grew from seed, and the tall sunflowers that reach over our marquee and turn their yellow faces toward the street. The Lambs and the Nairs have been leading our 1st through 5th graders this summer and Maegan and Mike Nair will soon begin a new season of the “Grow, Proclaim, and Serve” curriculum offered by Cokesbury, our denominational publisher. Curriculum from this same material will be used for our 2 ½ – K class as well that is suited to their age range. During the Fall they’ll be learning about the Judges Deborah, Hannah, and Samuel, then King David, and then the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The stories of our faith are explored through conversation, crafts, puppets, interactive experiments, and art. Our youth ministers, Jessica and Daniel McChesney are leading the class for rising 6th graders through 12th graders, and they are exploring the Gospel of John. We have excellent opportunities for spiritual growth for our young people—but in order for an opportunity to be an actuality, it takes participation. As the saying goes, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” I hope to see new people involved in our Christian Education hour at 10am this Sunday.