From Our Hearts
Greetings from sunny VERY HOT Florida. We are officially Floridians once again. We have settled into our new home and are enjoying being near family. There is much that we miss about Chicago, especially the summer weather and our friends, but thankful for Southwest and Zoom that allows us to continue the ministry that we began in IL.
We are working hard at reestablishing our ministry in Florida. Before our return, it had been over 20 years since we ministered in this state, and much has changed. As we are meeting with Pastors and visiting churches, we continue to be burdened for America’s children. I have recently had 2 pastors that have reached out to me as their children’s ministry is down to just a few kids due to families not returning after Covid. This is not new news. It absolutely breaks our heart and fuels our passion to continue engaging churches to engage kids. We have seen firsthand the lack of Biblical knowledge among the children we minister to within the church. It is heartbreaking to even begin to think of the numbers of children who do not even know who Jesus is. Biblical illiteracy is a fact, and it is frightening, but there is HOPE! We, the church, need to rise up and catch the vision of reaching the children and families in our communities. We must be intentional and passionate about children’s ministry! It begins at the top! We have seen what can be done when the Senior Pastor catches the vision and begins to reach out to their congregation with passion about reaching the children in their neighborhoods. It’s contagious!
In the spring of 2022, my friend, Pastor Keith Brown reached out to me with continued concerns about the state of the children’s ministry at Stratford Christian Center (SCC) in Chicago. My conversation with Pastor began before he became the Lead Pastor of SCC in 2019 and before the covid lock down. He was serving as the Youth Pastor of the church at that time and had begun to make some moves to take the church from an inward focused church to an outward focused church. The church was a typical aging church and had found comfort in their church family just the way it was with no need for outreach. Pastor Keith began setting the groundwork and breaking the ground for change by reaching out to the neighborhood youth and opening their doors a little wider. The church family were not fans in the beginning, but little did he realize he was preparing the way and breaking the ground for more change. After convincing the church family of the positives of what he was doing with the youth ministry, they began to see growth, but the children’s ministry was dying and needed to be put on life support. That is when he reached out to me again.
We partnered with Pastor Keith and SCC. Pastor Keith began to cast vision and recruited volunteers. We came in and began training with the team of volunteers and helped them find curriculum. He prepared the way for the church to be ready for the change in how to do children’s ministry. He taught change. Pastor Keith stated, “If you want to see change, you have to teach change according to scripture.”
The goal was to train, cast vision for children’s ministry and to build a team to lead the children’s ministry. We met last summer for training and team building and were blown away with the multi-generational group of excited volunteers who showed up for training. Pastor Keith promoted this launch and prepared the church. When the children’s ministry was relaunched in the fall of 2022, they had 8 children in attendance and within a few months they were running 16 on a consistent basis.
Pastor Keith grew up in Strafford Christian Center, and as a youth the pastor recognized the call of God upon his life even before Pastor Keith felt called. Pastor Townsend called him out as a youth and began to disciple and invest time in Keith. Just as Pastor Townsend poured into him, Pastor Keith wants to plant that seed into the hearts of the children and youth in his community and to see them reached with the love of Christ and discipled. He is now seeing some of the youth he reached at 10 – 12 years old graduating high school, going to college and continuing to serve God. This is a major accomplishment for youth growing up in the Englewood area of Chicago where violence and gangs are rampant.
I spoke with Pastor Keith several weeks ago and asked him how things had improved within their children’s ministry since we last met. He said, “With your help, we have a better curriculum, our team has completed their training, we have more organization and better planning. There has been a 360 change in how we do ministry to the children.”
I asked him what some of his wins were. He stated, “We are seeing more parental involvement, cross generational leadership with the young and older people working side by side, teamwork and valuing one another and what each group can contribute.” He also stated that it has given their church a new sense of direction and an increased awareness of the value of reaching children and recognizing the value of the youth being involved in ministry. They are excited about what is happening in the children’s ministry and the effects it is having on the church.
They have also begun outreaches to their community in the city park located near their church. They had a trunk or treat last fall and an Easter Egg Hunt this spring. They are making their presence known and finding favor within their neighborhood.
We are beyond excited for the opportunity to see the change happening within the walls of SCC, and to see what can happen when one man or woman catches the vision! We can’t wait to get back there for a visit. It is contagious! It is all due to intentionally Making Disciples to make Disciples! We must pass it on!
“If we don’t invest in the next generation, we die.” Pastor Keith
Making disciples to make disciples,
Aldin and Debbie