Care of the wonderful, servant-hearted Canvas Cluster, the Crypt was set up beautifully with tables, chairs, ambient candlelight and of course, table decorations, plates and flowers all in the trademark children's church 'orange'. Armed with perfectly-sized ice-cream sundaes, glasses of wine and bowls of pineapple lumps (Mike Norris may have been seen to HOG these throughout the night), around 35 parents took their seats, eager to hear the team members from the 'children and families' department at church share their hearts for our children, the teaching curriculum and their vision for St Paul's in the future.
Department head, Jennie Milne, took the stage first, welcoming everyone and explaining the new vision for the department, reflecting on the 'orange' concept that has been introduced in recent months and underscoring the importance of building community in amongst our families and children. It does 'take a village to raise a child' and she encouraged parents to widen their circle and be intentional about finding other parents/friends who sing from the same page and who can help be spiritual mentors/leaders in our children's lives. A recent staff away-day and brainstorm session produced a range of new initiatives including more family social events (movie nights, car rallies, discos, camping, challenges etc); using the Ignition eNews to better facilitate communication and community; name-learning - a basic but profound way to connect; development of curriculum and kids' worship areas; and encouraging parents to get together to pray for their children.
Simeon Hawkins was up next - Simeon is a Bible College graduate, qualified high-school teacher and children's/youth worker here at St Paul's and married to Holly, our Bunker team leader. He is specifically tasked with overseeing Kid's Club (5-10 year olds), Bunker (10-14 year olds) and CORE (14-18 year olds). In the past few months, Simeon and his team have introduced 3 new 'think orange' curriculums to these unique groups, all with significant success.
Kid's Club are working on '252 Basics' - an exciting and engaging series based on the principles of Christianity as outlined in Luke 2v52. Each month has an overarching theme, each week breaks down into a sub-theme with relevant scripture studies and Bible character stories…and lots of FUN, skits, dramas and interactivity to boot…. and the kids are LOVING it!
Bunker are focusing on 'XP3: Wonder, Discovery & Passion', and recently studied the topic 'Our Godview', highlighting that 'what we think about God is the most important thing about us'. Holly leads this group in the aptly-named 'bunker-room' on the basement level - the gang love it, are soaking up the discussion and teaching and growing significantly as a result.
CORE is working on a curriculum that Simeon has pieced together from his studies at Laidlaw (your child might be a theologian yet!) and seeing significant growth as individuals and as a group. Finally, Simeon & Holly have built a great program for both Bunker and Core that involve a wide range of fun and safe social events including movies, rugby, night games, Parachute and more, all designed to build community and confidence in our teens.
Preschool leader, Linda Bowman, took the stage next. Having been at St Paul's with her husband James for 8 years now, and working with the children for the last 3 years, her committment to St Paul's children, not to mention immense talent and heart are more than evident. She outlined recent activities in Creche, Tots, Mini-Zoom and Zoom and explained their use of the 'First Look' curriculum which lays the foundational themes 'God made me', 'God loves me' and 'Jesus wants to be my friend forever'. She said "These children are like sponges. You cannot underestimate just what messages they are absorbing." The teachers and helpers provide fun crafts, songs, talks and activities to cement the theme in a clear, relevant, and easy way for little minds to understand.
Linda also highlighted the amazing work that the other members of the preschool department do including: Julia van den Brink, our creche worker (who has nearly graduated with a Bachelor of Theology); Natasha George, our wonderful children's church administrator who is charged with rosters, volunteers and making it all run smoothly; and Suzie Espie-Chal who oversees the preschool groups at the 9am service and the development/integration of worship across all child/youth groups. Suzie says they have been looking into developing worship in such a way that children will feel comfortable/free to participate, explore lyrics together, have fun and increase their confidence, encounter God through worship, try their hand at playing instruments or leading and also experiment with being still/waiting on God. Exciting times!
Linda explained the exciting growth that Mainly Music has seen, with families from city apartments blocks local to the church, and families of University lecturers attending. Mainly Music is made up of a core team, a range of committed parents and also a range of volunteers who help with praying, welcoming, baking and cuddling babies. A profound thought from Linda …. "I can't expect other people to minister to my children if I am not doing it myself."
Two key themes came through the talks/discussion over the course of the night. Firstly, it was evident that this crack team of children and youth workers are not only inspiring, humble, hard-working and committed through thick and thin to our families, they are 'strategically leading our children towards their own personal ministry' - an incredible task they have set themselves and one that God is already honoring and blessing. Bring it ON!
Secondly, parents who attended were both surprised and a wee bit shocked to discover how very little support there is from members of the wider church for the work the children/youth team are doing. Natasha is scrambling for volunteers to run the groups every week, currently engaging a significant number of kids per service (more at the 11am than at the 9am), but with only 19 total volunteers across all groups at the 9am and 34 at the 11am, things are pretty stretched. Check out the stats below.
PLEA FOR HELP
A big thank you to those who stepped up to help following the parents meeting – some indeed discovering that their name had somehow dropped off the list of volunteers. If one or more of your children are benefiting from one of the children's groups at a Sunday service, then it would be amazing if you could essentially 'give back' by helping on the roster once a month. Obviously, this is a tricky time/stage of life, especially for those with several small kids/toddlers and the team, of course, want to be flexible with family circumstances. However, if parents (and even non-parents who aren't currently serving in the church in any way) don't step up and take their turn helping, these hard-working few will soon face burnout. Let's spread the load! What's more, testimonies from people who are currently volunteering (as described by Kids' Club helpers Jess and Jono last night) show that you will actually get even more out of it than you put in and God will fully bless what you do there. So cool!
Here are the areas that need help >>
Creche - 1 volunteer for each service
Tots, Mini Zoom, Zoom - 2 volunteers for each service
Kids Club 9am - at least 2, sometimes 3 including a range of assistant leaders, group leaders, parents who play guitar/piano, sound system setup
Kids Club 11am - at least 3, sometimes 4
Kids' Club Creative - monthly set design & decoration
Bunker/Core - initial call for new leaders to support Simeon/Holly in team-setting
Mainly Music - cuddlers, bakers, prayers, welcomers
Space - creche facilitator
Click here to offer your HELP in the service you attend or in the group(s) your children attend. The children's team will thank you, and so will your children. Your servant attitude and commitment will show them a wonderful, and close-to-home example of what it means to give/serve.
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