Adults who work with and care for children—teaching, counseling, directing, supervising, playing with, protecting or advocating for them—may be the luckiest people on earth; but there’s a lot to know and for most, a lot to learn. Much of that learning will take place this Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 AM till 3:15 PM, at West Lawn UMC, 15 Woodside Avenue, Reading, Pa.
“Connecting Children with Christ” will welcome anyone who works with children in any role—from the classroom to the choir room, from the nursery to the playground, from children’s church to kids’ camp, and beyond. The full-day training event is ideal for anyone who seeks to introduce children to Christ Jesus as their personal guide, friend and savior, and to remove every hindrance to their safety and personal growth.
An impressive line-up of gifted workshop leaders will share vital information and helpful insights after an opening keynote address by Melanie Gordon, Director of Ministry with Children at the UM Church’s Discipleship Ministries agency. Speaking on “What Every Child Should Know,” she will cover “the basics of what we should teach children as they develop cognitively and theologically, and what they need to understand developmentally around the beliefs and concepts of God, Worship, The Bible, Home and Family, Everyday Life, Community and Wesleyan Heritage.
Gordon recently wrote a comprehensive guidebook on that very topic and also the Children’s Ministry Guidelines for the 2013-16 Quadrennium for teachers and leaders in United Methodist churches. And she blogs regularly at www.ministrywithchildren.com, exploring issues that impact how children of millennials can grow in their faith development.
In addition to her plenary speech, Gordon will teach an afternoon workshop, “God and the Digital Generation,” about providing children with healthy experiences for spiritual growth in a digital world and protecting them from disturbing images and messages.
Elizabeth Christie will teach “Everyone Belongs: Working with Those with Special Needs” in the morning. She’ll cover the basics on “how to effectively set up your Christian Education program so that everyone can be actively involved,” she said. “We’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of meeting everyone’s needs while using their God-given talents in your congregation.”
Christie developed Including Special Needs Children in the Life of the Church, another UMC Discipleship Ministries resource to help teachers and other adults show intentional hospitality to children with special needs and their families. Managing the classroom and adapting one’s curriculum and activities are among her specialties, along with special education, literacy education and ministering to families with children.
Christie’s afternoon workshop titled “All Together Now: Including All Ages and Abilities in One Setting,” will explore the unique needs of smaller congregations. “We’ll discuss how to plan for and effectively execute one-room classes. We’ll also talk about how to staff your children’s ministries when you have fewer adults.”
Lynley Jones, Director of Children’s Ministries at Asbury UMC in Lafayette, La., will also teach morning and afternoon workshops. She will show attendees how to make Sunday school “Irresistible.” “Want to attract the most kids with the best ideas? This workshop will help you, step-by-step, to build an irresistible Sunday school program—one where lessons stick long after the kids go home,” she says. This workshop will provide tools and strategies to children’s ministry workers to help make Sunday school spiritually formative.
Jones’ afternoon Children’s Ministry Planning class will show participants how to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”—that is, use to step-by-step methods that “will move you from putting out fires to planning effective ministry.” Managing limited resources (time, space, money, volunteers), and doing effective planning and calendaring can help one increase productivity and enhance creative programs.
Certified in Christian Education and Children’s Ministry, Jones has also served as a local church director of Outreach & Evangelism. “The workshops I lead are less about theory and more about practical application,” she said. “We’ll actually go through the steps of planning a program and also cover four ways to make Sunday school irresistible: scheme, package, implement, and follow-up.”
The Rev. Don Keller will share his expertise in teaching about Safe Sanctuaries, a topic crucial to any church that has or plans to have ministries with children. “I would like people to know that Safe Sanctuaries is about more than getting police and Childline clearances’ said Keller. “Safe Sanctuaries is about building a set of practices which assure that every child knows that they are loved by God and that love is expressed in the fellowship of the Church.
“It is about building stronger families and strengthening the local church’s commitment to those families. It is about giving the congregation a reputation in their community for being a place where those in difficult family situations can turn and know that they will find a loving, supportive and welcoming community of faith.”
The pastor of Scottsville UMC, which runs a state-licensed pre-school that was rated “Best in Bucks County,” Keller will explore keeping children safe from both legal and biblical perspectives. He also serves on the conference’s Safe Sanctuaries Team, which oversees safety policy development, promotion and training.
“We will give special attention to best practices in the field and how to incorporate them into policy,” he said. “In my previous appointment, I spent 18 years as the primary policy writer and trainer in child protection issues (Safe Sanctuaries) for the West Virginia Annual Conference.”
Dan Kirby, Assistant Director of Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center’s will enlighten attendees about the wonderful world of faith formation through camp ministry. “Folks should come by to hear some fresh perspectives on how our United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries can be a great resource to our congregations” said Kirby. “We will present exciting and practical ways churches can get more involved with the beautiful camps in our conference.”
Karen Todd’s workshop on Building an Effective Team has been cancelled, since she is unable to be there.
But there will be plenty of exciting knowledge to teach and learn about Connecting Children with Christ on Saturday. “As teachers and leaders, our role is to provide a foundation of experiences on which children can build a life of learning and growth toward a mature and vital faith,” said Lucy Heisey, leader of the conference’s new Children’s Ministry Team.
The team has been working for months to organize this event. Online registration ended Wednesday, Sept. 7. But onsite registration begins at 8:30 AM, and the plenary session gets underway at 9:15.