Five years ago we had one Sunday school teacher and about 20 children. It was time for a new paradigm, yet we consciously made no attempt to grow the youth ministry until we had a new program in place where the youth and our families could truly be served with excellence. Our intention was to develop an engaging youth ministry that was not limited by prior experience and customs. We went outside the box and challenged old assumptions along the way. We now have 132 youth and 90 families.
There are many aspects to the program that seem to work well:
• paid teachers operating on a professional basis and volunteer parents who assist those teachers;
• assigning parents their dates to help, on a six-month schedule;
• having monthly family activity potluck evenings, and monthly teacher meetings;
• beginning our five classes with structure—prayer, meditation, joy-songs;
• arranging activities for kids with their teachers outside of Sunday church—e.g., movies, bowling;
• having fundraisers—e.g., The Great Jewelry Sale—so that the children take part in contributing to the spiritual community;
• each quarter having all the classes meet together with an emphasis on older and younger kids connecting; and
• teachers all praying together before classes on Sunday mornings.
What kind of results are we experiencing now? The teaching staff is stable and experienced, and parents seem to enjoy helping out. It gives them a chance to see what the children do on Sunday mornings.
People are excited about the youth and family program and we’re currently working together on innovations; for example designing a family book lending library. The 10 teens in YOU (Youth of Unity) are very enthused. They are creating our first Kids Kamp for the younger children this summer. They are consistently attending the West Central Region retreats and are holding the light for the younger Uniteens coming along behind them.
We are blessed to have Pat Palmer, minister and director of youth and family ministry, lead this ministry and clearly live her passion which is youth education. Our success in growing this ministry is truly an example of what can happen when one has the right person in the right job.