This year’s Children’s Ministries Convention—held Feb. 8-10 at Cohutta Springs Conference Center in Crandall, Ga.—set a new benchmark by offering both English and Spanish conventions and brought a record attendance of 430 people (180 English and 250 Spanish). The theme was “Jesus Loves Me” and presenters sought to emphasize that this seemingly simple message is the most important thing leaders can convey to the little ones they mentor.
Guest speakers were Gillen Molina, a children’s specialist from Puerto Rico, and Brenda Walsh, 3ABN’s Kids’ Time producer/host and newly appointed general manager of an upcoming children’s television network.
“We are God’s hands, we are His feet, we are His voice to help kids know how much He loves them,” Walsh said. “If we don’t know about the love, why would any of us want to serve Jesus? It’s so critically important that it is the foundation. It sounds like such a general, simple title—’Jesus loves me’—but honestly, unless we as church leaders, as adults, can really teach our children about how much Jesus really loves them, we’re going to lose them. We need to get that message across and into the hearts of our kids so they can fall in love with Jesus. When they understand the love, that’s when they really want to serve Him.”
The message resonated with attendees, who undoubtedly have a passion to see children grow up to become Christ-centered, active members in the church.
“It reiterates to those of us who are older the importance of training up a child, giving them the opportunity and ability to learn as much as they can about God’s Word,” said Victoria Ojuri, a junior Sabbath school teacher at the Atlanta Nigerian Church in Atlanta, Ga. “I truly believe it when the Bible says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s older, he won’t depart from it.’ [This convention] is just an amazing way of inspiring you, and it’s rejuvenating me to do that. So it kind of lit a fire under me again.”
Besides group sessions with Walsh and Molina, attendees were given opportunities to learn from workshops that covered a myriad of topics—from using technology effectively in Sabbath school to putting a stop to bullying—that pertain to issues and challenges leaders encounter. Many also provided leaders with new, fun ways to minister to a younger audience. A weekend highlight was the Vacation Bible School setup in the gymnasium. Led by Magdalena Delacruz, members of the Lawrenceville, Ga., Central Hispanic Church built a full-fledged, Egypt-themed VBS for attendees to go through as if they were the kids. The hands-on experience sent many home with renewed creative energy for reaching both church and community children.
“Children are our future leaders of tomorrow. The most important reason we start [evangelizing] our children is because if we don’t teach them when they’re young, they’re going to walk away when they’re older,” Walsh said. “ [Often] by juniors, if they’re still physically there, they’re checked out mentally. We haven’t done a good job of really helping them fall in love with Jesus. When we help them to understand the love, they really do know Jesus as a personal Savior—not somebody they recite a prayer to, but someone they really talk to as their best Friend. That’s the message for eternity. That’s what’s going to keep our kids walking with Jesus.”
While learning how to better minister to children was the focus of the weekend, many found themselves equally blessed.
“[I came] so I could learn more [from other Children’s Ministries teachers] and have my spiritual life grow, too,” said Joan Chung, kindergarten Sabbath school teacher at Georgia United Korean Church in Duluth, Ga. “Brenda has been wonderful, and she inspired me to go and tell about Jesus.”
Written by Britni Brannon, Communication assistant director
Photos by Britni Brannon