By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

Matthew 18:20 was the overall theme for this year’s Beyond conference. Children’s Ministers came together, to worship, learn, be inspired, and most of all feel God’s hand working in Children’s ministry. Opening worship modeled how we can make our worship services cross-generational so that all ages feel part of the service instead of a spectator with a busy bag or sent off to another space.

Marilyn Sharpe, the author of For Heaven’s Sake, taught us how to connect with our parents, by giving the space to talk and a listening ear. She shared how important it is to train our volunteers to lean in and look for opportunities to share faith formations techniques. She gave us simple traditions to share with parents and why they are essential. Parents are scared when we say “devotions” but embrace when we teach them how everyday objects can be used to teach children they are a beloved child of God. Most of all, she echoed loud and clear two important points for our church: children are more than the future church they are the NOW, as well as helping everyone understand that if children and youth are not leading in the church, they are leaving the church!

Sadie Stratton from Downtown Bentonville First Church introduced to everyone the new Wonderfully Made human sexuality curriculum as well as wowing all with the progress she and her team have made with Children’s First Church the first Sunday of every month; this is a service where children lead the adults in worship from the beginning to the end of worship.

Karen Reeves refreshed our souls teaching us how to use Yoga breathing to center our souls and hear God’s whispers. She also gave us the gift of movement paired with the Lord’s Prayer to teach our youngest preschool age children all the way to our youth how to fully engage the whole body in prayer.

Seventy Children’s Ministers, pastors, youth workers, and volunteers took every opportunity to learn from one another and help make disciples who make disciples at this year’s Beyond Conference. You will surely hear from one of the attendees that Beyond 2020 needs to be on your calendar.