Cedar Creek Lake: Loving All God’s Children One Step at a Time
By: Sherri Gragg
Cedar Creek Lake UMC’s Eight-Step Plan for “We Love All God’s Children.”
1. Begin a weekend feeding program for hungry children.
Many children who depend on free and reduced school lunches are faced with profound food insecurity when school is not in session. Cedar Creek Lake UMC in Tool, Texas took their first steps to meeting the needs of those children by preparing bags of child-friendly, healthy food for them to take home with them on Friday afternoons. The school lets the church know how many children need assistance. Church volunteers prepare the bags and then deliver them to the school.
2. Establish a mentoring program to help kids learn to read.
There are two Title I schools in proximity to Cedar Creek Lake UMC. As part of the church’s ongoing relationship with community schools, the church began a mentoring program with a focus on literacy. Volunteers strengthen valuable literacy skills by both reading to the children and listening to them read. There are currently 35 children benefitting from the program!
3. Give impoverished children the gift of dignity.
When Cedar Creek Lake UMC learned that local children were going to school wearing ill-fitting shoes or completely barefoot, they took action. Now, school counselors and nurses have coats and shoes on hand to discreetly meet the needs of kids in need. “We work very hard to maintain the dignity of the children,” said Pastor Jeff Hastings.
4. Stock a food pantry.
Cedar Creek Lake UMC wants to help families feed their children. Their food pantry, complete with walk-in cooler for fresh fruits and vegetables, served 16,000 people last year.
5. Meet all “We Love All God’s Children” objectives with summer programming.
Cedar Creek Lake UMC has partnered with several other churches in their community to feed kids bodies, minds, and souls during the long summer break. Monday through Thursday mornings between June 10 – July 27, volunteers welcome community children to join them for Bible stories, games, crafts and service projects. Each day, children are served a nutritious lunch and also take home a snack bag for later. The summer program is designed to meet all objectives of We Love All God’s Children: Health, Literacy, and Discipleship. This year’s theme is “Acts of Kindness.” The program goes straight into a week of VBS, and culminates with a back-to-school bash on August 3rd.
6. Get EVERYONE involved.
“There is no retirement in God’s army,” Hastings challenges his congregation, “We can do more together.” The church has taken his admonition to heart. But the needs of Cedar Creek Lake UMC’s community are so vast that it took more than one church of dedicated servants. Several local churches have joined Cedar Creek Lake in ministry. Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics are serving side by side to show God’s love to children in need. “I feel like we are working as a community to serve the community,” Hastings said.
7. Begin a mid-week program too.
Cedar Creek Lake UMC partners with a local Baptist church to provide Wednesday evening programing for the children. The churches provide an evening meal and offer a variety of special programing including guests presentations and a petting zoo. Hastings says the church wants to use the program to not only meet the nutritional needs of children but to also “expand the children’s knowledge of God and the world around them.”
8. Think creatively to meet back-to-school needs.
Cedar Creek Lake UMC takes a unique approach to meeting kids back-to-school needs. Instead of school supplies, the church focuses on ensuring children are properly inoculated. A member of the church who is a retired nurse is excited to head up the program. Additionally, Cedar Creek UMC makes sure kids have back-to-school clothes and fresh haircuts. Hastings says, “We want to do whatever it takes to help them stay in school.”