New Ventures from West Columbia UMC

Date Posted: 11/10/2016

Members and residents in West Columbia are reaping the benefits of the Vibrant Church Initiative – especially the youngsters previewing the Love in a Big World curriculum.
Courage. Kindness. Generosity. While the adults in our present day culture could use a refresher course in these fruits of the spirit, the K-5th grade children at West Columbia UMC are the ones benefitting from a pilot program involving “character education.” Tamara Fyke, New Ventures Project Manager for the United Methodist Publishing House has decades of experience in curriculum development and is excited to “test” these materials out in several locations of the Texas Annual Conference before taking the curriculum to market in early 2017. “Helping teach children to make good choices is an important thing to offer the community,” Tamara says, “so Dr. Mike Deaton thought it would fit nicely as an outreach tool for the kids’ ministry at West Columbia. On Wednesday nights, the children focus on one of the qualities in a hands-on way instead of lecture style learning. The faith-based version of the curriculum is built around scriptures coupled with age-appropriate literature ranging from Dr. Seuss to other popular books. There is also a version of the curriculum based only on children’s literature for use outside of the church. “These lessons are much like modern day parables and involve games, art, composition and other learning activities,” adds Tamara. “Pastor Deaton is reporting that the kids keep bringing more and more friends each week, so the Love in a Big World curriculum is doing just what we’d hoped – serving as a kid magnet.”
Empowerment in Action
For over a year, Rev. Mike Deaton has watched the VCI “aftermath of positivity” unfold. “Our folks feel good about what we are working on, we are making decisions based on our new vision, we are seeing younger people step into key leadership roles and I am just excited to see it all happen.” He admits the VCI experience is not an overnight cure-all, but West Columbia UMC has seen a steady uptick in attendance, giving, and participation. “That positive attitude and the incredible support of coach, Rev. Jim Flagg, and the entire conference office goes a long way,” he adds. Professions of faith and membership numbers are up over the last few years, but most importantly, he says, “Our congregation is taking full ownership of their church and seeing their church get better and better.”
He credits the enhancements to the children’s curriculum as one of the brightest spots on the horizon. “Not only did we get a new and streamlined website,” adds Mike, “but that came with new curriculum involving videos, and lesson plans that the teachers and kids just love.” That momentum grew stronger with the addition of the Love In A Big World pilot program about two months ago. “Our children’s ministry has more than doubled as our children bring their friends week after week. It has been rewarding to see the them relate some of their favorite books to some of the Bible’s truth about character traits. Tamara is great to work with, the teachers love the material and the kids are eating it up.”
According to Tamara, the Love In A Big World curriculum is flexible enough to work for summer camp, and ideal for mentors to use with students or for churches to use with their school partnerships.  In 2017, it will be offered in a 5-pack of lessons as well as in sets of 10 and 24 topics.
For more information on the official debut of Love in a Big World, contact Tamara at or 615-498-6658.