In our last article, I began to establish the immediate steps we as a congregation are going to engage to move us into a vital and abundant future. Those next-steps are oriented around four strategic imperatives, which are as follows:
• To develop a comprehensive NextGen Ministry (Children and Students)
• To have a clearly defined Discipleship Plan for our congregation
• To strengthen and refine our Worship Life as a Church
This week, I hope to say more about NextGen Ministries. At our heart, Church of the Servant is a family ministries church. That truth is evident from the long celebrated history of ministries, such as Warm World and all of our work in early childhood education. Our weekly Children’s Ministries program leads to an annual Vacation Bible School and camps caring for hundreds of children from the congregation and the surrounding area. Our Middle School Ministries program has Confirmed over 1,500 youth in the Christian faith! Our High School Ministries program has prepared our children for adult life as Christian disciples through worship, service, and retreats to great effect!
Moving forward, our hope is to provide a seamless and cohesive ministry, supporting not only our children and students, but also equipping our families with the tools necessary to face the challenges of raising the next generation of disciples. Taking the lead in this effort will be John Gilstrap. A long-term staff member here at Church of the Servant, John just celebrated his twentieth work anniversary with the congregation. For years, John has been deeply involved with Student Ministries, as well as anchoring musical aspects of our 923 worship community. Along with his wife, Dawn, the Gilstraps are raising two children, and as such are keenly aware of pressures faced by families like their own. I believe John is a perfect match as the leader to move us forward in this critical ministry. Cathy Hersom will continue to oversee our Children’s programs from nursery to fifth grade. Cathy’s love for our children, her deep connections and relationships with their extended families, and her desire to provide a safe environment where our children are introduced to the Christian faith make her an indispensible part of our Servant ministry staff. Sang Nguyen, Jenna Smith, Rachel Gillespie, Cindy Brackenbury, Pam Adams, Dayna Slater, and Jenny Kincaid round out the group assembled to support our NextGen Ministries.
While weekly programming is an important part of our ministry to children and students, it is necessary that we recognize that the Church can only provide a portion of the resources needed to help our children and their families live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the contemporary world. It is estimated that an elementary-age student within a family that is active in a local congregation will spend approximately 65 hours in the course of a year in church related activities. In comparison, they will spend over 1,400 hours in school, and over 3,000 waking hours in the home. A quick glance at these numbers make the realization clear that while the local church plays a significant role in the spiritual development of our children, it is the family that must be equipped to carry the majority of that responsibility. As a congregation, what can we do to help our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and family friends, become both competent and comfortable in aiding the spiritual growth of their children? As we work together to answer this question, we will find not only a renewed sense of purpose and passion for all our ministries, but we will also be living into the highest hopes God has for us as a Church. I look forward to exploring with you God’s dreams for the Next Generation of disciples as they arise within the walls of Church of the Servant.