Dispatches from the ECO National Gathering, Part 3

This week we continue our series of notes where members of our leadership team report back from the ECO National Gathering. This week, Director of Administration Thea Walker and Director of Children's Ministries Michelle Heath share their thoughts:

Thea Walker, Director of Administration

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the ECO National Gathering this past month! The theme of the conference centered on Philippians 3.14 where Paul writes, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the 3 day conference, we were able to hear several speakers share their thoughts on ways to press on!

Most people around the church know me as someone who works behind the scenes supporting all the various ministries of our church. But one of the speakers really stood out to me when she spoke of a way to press on in my MOST MPORTANT ministry… raising 4 girls! Dr. Kara Powell, who has served in youth ministry for over 20 years and wrote several books, including “Sticky Faith." spoke about all the amazing ways a multi-generational church can press on toward the goal of making our children and youth grow in a faith that “sticks.” We are already so fortunate to be a part of a multi-generational church. What our children & youth need is for us to use this awesome span of generations that we have and become an INTRA-generational church!

I was so fortunate to be raised in a very large Italian family with plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins! We would all gather at our grand-parents home. I can look back and remember having discussions and experiences that most likely would not have happened with my parents alone. I was being exposed to a variety of people with different personalities and gifts. Unfortunately, my girls don’t have a large family nearby. I have seen the impact it has when one of my adult friends takes an interest in my girls’ lives. I would love for them to have more of these relationships.

As a mom, I would hope that my children would feel comfortable to talk to me about anything! But as a daughter, I know sometimes it seems easier to talk with someone else. I would love to know that my girls are surrounded by many adoptive parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins… an adoptive family that supports them in their walk with Jesus!

Kara Powell suggests being intentional about our relationships and about having a 5 to 1 ratio with children. This ratio was not quite what I'm used to hearing about. She was not speaking of 5 children to 1 adult, but instead 5 adults to 1 child. This gives the child such a wealth of opportunity to learn of God’s love in a variety of ways. Building these relationships gives God so many more opportunities to speak through and hopefully ensure that as the children & youth grow into adults that their faith “sticks” with them. I love the idea of “sticky faith”!

We never know what circumstances God will be able to use to speak to our children & youth. I would like my girls to be embraced by as many examples of God’s love as possible! This church family can do that for one another. We can show up at a basketball game or a school play. We can play bingo with a young person at the BBQ. We can know their birthday. We can write letters to college students. We can show an interest in the children & youth around us. We know God loves them. And we know God wants US to love them. So let’s do it!

Let’s be intentional about loving on our children & youth today so that one day we will look over and smile at them in the next pew with the next generation of youth at their side! How great a feeling to be able to celebrate that our church not only gave the children & youth knowledge of Jesus, but that our church supported them to have a “sticky faith” in Jesus… a faith that will continue to the next generation! I pray that we can press on toward the goal of ensuring our children & youth are steered toward faith in Jesus and that their faith sticks with them!

Michelle Heath, Director of Children's Ministries

I wanted to share some thoughts from The ECO conference. One of the speakers was Dr. Kara Powell the author of Sticky Faith. She shared that 50% of kids leave the church around high school and college age. Kara shared how the church does a really good job at segregating the children and adults, kind of like having an adult and children’s table on Thanksgiving. We can do better! We are a multi generational but we need to become intergenerational as well.

There is a thought about a 5 to 1 ratio, you may think this is 5 kids to one adult. What if we thought of 5 adults to one child? Kara shared how she went to her teenage son and asked him, "What 5 adults would you want in your corner?" She then went to all the 5 adults and asked them if they would be willing to be involved in her sons life. They all agreed and over the next few years mentored this young man. The most amazing thing happened! I challenge us as a church to adopt this way and allow children and adults to be the body of Christ together! Sharing a meal with different ages is a great way to get to know each other. Worshipping together. Our kids need to feel part of the body of faith.

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