Recently, children’s ministry leaders and pastors from CTK/Grace congregations hosted a children’s ministry conference in Cambridge. The Established Conference is a ministry of the PCA denomination, and exists to bring pastors, parents, teachers and volunteers together to encourage and equip them to minister to the children in their congregations. Based on the promises of Psalm 78:5-7, they offer resources, instruction and discussion around how to pass along the truths of scripture to the next generation, reminding them that our worth does not lie in what we do, but who we are, as children of God. The conference was funded, in part, by a donor who wanted to make sure the instruction and encouragement that the conference provided could reach beyond the Southeast, to other parts of the country.
Approximately 80 attendees heard a variety of speakers on topics including, “Raising Kids in the City,” “Disability in the Classroom,” “Engaging Big Kids,” and “Tips and Tricks for Classroom Management.” Parents, teachers and volunteers picked seminars based on their interest area and the age group of children they work with. “In our church we take vows during baptisms to help raise the children as part of our covenant community,” said Geren Stone, a parent at CTK Somerville. “The conference felt like we were coming together to figure out how to live out this promise together.”
The Establish children’s conference has traveled to a few different locations around the United States, but a few of the sessions were specifically planned for those living in the Boston area. Dana Russell has been the director of children’s ministry at CTK Cambridge for many years, and appreciated the conversations surrounding the unique challenges of urban ministry. “Setting up and breaking down each Sunday, not only in preparation for worship but for children’s programs as well (nursery, children’s worship) is a lot of work and unique to city churches that often rent the space they meet in. Also, the challenges faced by parents raising a family in the city are often more complicated to navigate—housing needs, schooling, church planting, etc.”
Many of the Sunday School teachers were also encouraged and re-energized by the seminars. Speaker Debbie Harrell spoke about a middle-school boy who heard the gospel clearly for the first time when she gave a talk to his youth group—although his parents had taught him with the same words for years. “I was encouraged by Debbie’s talk,” said T Downs, “She emphasized that we are responsible to tell the good news all the time to the kids we teach, and to try to tell it clearly and freshly and with conviction born of telling ourselves the gospel over and over. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives the children ears to hear. So we pray.” Lara Kastelein, a parent and children’s ministry coordinator also enjoyed hearing Joseph Parker’s talk on “Raising Big Kids,” as she thinks about the Cambridge congregation which has changed in its demographic over the past few years, to include more and more older kids.
Keynote speakers Stephen Estock, Sue Jakes and Rick Downs cast a vision for the important work of children’s ministry. “The speakers were a huge encouragement and so good at helping us think of the next generation as a mission field,” said Kastelein, “They reminded us that it’s more than the day to day logistics of bringing these kids up, but there is a long term vision that we can easily lose sight of and need to be reminding each other about continuously. I hope the parents in our congregation can continue in these discussions and we consider how to disciple our children at home and at church.”
In addition to the conference speakers and sessions, there was also a resource table, filled with many helpful books for home and classroom.
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