New Outreach Initiative Ministers to At-Risk Children

Date Posted: 7/27/2016

New Spark Kids Club provides structure, biblical insight and fun for kids of all ages and backgrounds at First United Methodist Church, Crockett.
Inside the sanctuary of FUMC Crockett hangs a beautiful stained glass window depicting Jesus surrounded by children. It was part of the inspiration behind the creation of a new ministry called Spark Kids Club. Amanda Boyd-Stratton, currently serving as the pastor of Alto UMC, served as Director of Family Outreach Ministries when Spark was created with nonmembers in mind. A bonus: the children and families who consider FUMC Crockett their home are coming alongside these visiting children and creating relationships with their families.
Spark is the result of FUMC Crockett identifying the need for an outreach program that targets at-risk children in the community. To get started, church members leveraged relationships with school counselors and teachers to invite local children to participate.
"It was great that after casting the vision of this ministry, the Spark program gave hands and feet to the vision," says Rev. Patrick Evans. "Spark represents the movement of the Holy Spirit in our community. It only takes a little spark to set a fire. We empower our Sparklers to explore what it means to be a disciple in their communities,” adds Amanda.
"The God part was watching how it empowered church members into ministry,” adds Patrick. “They moved from being unsure of how to minister -- to being empowered. Members and volunteers gained confidence and now own it, because they flourished within a safe place to learn to serve."
During the school year, children are picked up on Wednesdays from local schools by a church bus. Kids are greeted with a theme-based snack and ushered into worship in the beautiful 115 year-old sanctuary. According to Amanda, the activities feature an interactive bible lesson, a skit performed by the youth group, and dance and song worship videos.
"We discovered that our kids needed to be challenged in their biblical knowledge, but also in their social conduct,” explains Amanda. “Many of our children demonstrated the lack of basic rules of respect, so we implemented fun behavioral components and social norms into our program." Kids are encouraged to follow the Three Rules of Respect: Respect God, Respect Themselves, and Respect Others.
Following Worship, youngsters rotate through four stations. Projects-with-a-Purpose involves a mission craft or project based on the Bible premise of the week. Many of these projects involve creating items for local nursing home residents, hospitals, city and county facilities’ and missionaries. Shares Amanda, “The crafts teach and also empower kids to share their faith with others.” Another station, Surprise Station, is always full of fun. Students do science experiments, create skits, or learn concepts like map-reading or even cooking. The Games station was an opportunity for kids to learn team-building, self-control and get their “wiggles” out. Church volunteers used theme-based games to bring a hands-on emphasis to the Bible Story for the week. The Friends-in-Ministry station brings children face-to-face with an individual that shares their stories of a daily call to ministry. “Members of our community share their personal mission and invite the children to ask any questions they like,” she says. These individuals have included the local school superintendent, a building contractor, a pet owner, policeman, paramedic, sherrif's deputy, and a variety of other professions. This station of the Spark’s Kids Club facilitates relationships between the children of the community and the professionals that serve it. 
Stay for Church
Children then gather for closing worship and then meet their parents for dinner by mingling with others present to attend all other Wednesday evening programs including youth and adult Bible Studies. “Families are integrated into the congregation over a meal before they are sent home to live-out the Three Rules of Respect and their Bible Story Lesson of the week,” explains Amanda. “This empowers our children to live out their own lifestyle discipleship in our schools and communities.”
Rev. Evans is proud to see the Spark Program establishing a connection between the church and the community that is founded on the love of Jesus Christ, the empowerment of Christian disciples, and the extension of grace into a community that desperately needs hope for its youth and children.
"Many children and families that would have never stepped foot in our church now call FUMC Crockett their church home,” shares Amanda. “Spark brings that message to life. We are called to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven in our communities, and whom greater to do that the our children?"