You see family members dealing with life-threatening illnesses, an economy that’s struggling, starving children in countries far away and hungry children in neighborhoods close by, terrorism that spans the political spectrum, and on and on and on. It’s a never-ending litany that threatens to suck the joy right out of life. And while God may not get as many headlines as these horrible realities, the fact of the matter is that God is hard at work in a most unexpected way in every pain-filled moment – inviting people just like you to share Jesus’ love.
God keeps loving you in spite of what you do. This amazing grace is often all that gets you through the day. So why do you so often treat others with judgment, disdain or indifference? There may be a number of excuses. But there’s no good reason. So when you are cut off in traffic, make room for the next car. Encounter a person spouting political ideas diametrically opposed to yours, say a kind word. And treated rudely, smile. It may be a challenge. But you will be paying God’s grace forward.
OMP 101 is an annual event organized by the Ozark Mission Project that lets youth, grades 5 and 6, learn the ways that OMP helps communities in need. Kids learn how to use power tools, build simple wooden structures, and have fun in the process. Check out some of the photos of this year’s OMP 101, held at St. Paul UMC in Little Rock.
OMP 101 is not only a time for learning and serving, it’s also a time for fun and games! Before the week’s events begin, campers get to play some fun team building games. These games are meant to teach kids how to work together as a team. In the photo above, teams line up in two lines across from each other. One side throws a marshmallow to their teammate, who tries to catch it in a small plastic cup. || Photos by Caleb Hennington
Volunteers with OMP taught kids about some of the tools that are used to build and repair houses, ramps and more. While at OMP, kids will learn valuable skills that will help them get a head-start if they decide to volunteer with OMP in the future. A volunteer from the Society of St. Andrew also taught kids how to cut mesh rope to make into bags for gleaning. Gleaning is the process of gathering food together, which the Society of St. Andrew does for groups like the Food Bank and others. || Photos by Caleb Hennington
Babies you once held are now living their own dreams. People you assumed would always be close by have moved away. Parents who were your strength have grown frail. While you understand all these changes are simply part of God’s plan of life, you sometimes wonder whether the best is all in the past. That’s the exact moment when God’s grace enables you to discover how God has given you one of the greatest gifts possible – the wisdom to experience there is something extraordinary awaiting you in every stage of your life.
By Melinda Shunk
Children's Ministry Coordinator
A young lady plays with some homemade slime during a Messy Church event at Sardis UMC. || Photo Provided by Melinda Shunk
It is the dog days of summer! Vacation Bible School is done. It is not quite time for promotion Sunday. Families seem to be hit and miss on Sunday due to traveling for summer vacation. Travel teams are finishing up those last summer games. Kids are at Tanako for a week of camp! What does a Children’s Minister do to reach out to those that may never come to church or know that one even exists in their neighborhood?
Well, I’ll tell you what an eight-year veteran of Children’s Ministry like Jessica Butler of Sardis United Methodist Church would do: she gets messy!
Two years ago, Jessica came across the book Messy Church by Lucy Moore and Jane Ledbetter. Messy Church is a combination of a lot of things you may already have and do at your church, but it is combined to become a multigenerational outreach blend of fun, shared experience, worship and food into one unique time of day. See, I told you it was everything you already do in ministry, just blended together!
Jessica made a fun social media graphic called Mess-tival. She blasted it around town as well as went old school and put some posters in community establishments. She made sure to have members she knew would be at the event share the Mess-tival invite publicly for all who may want to join in the fun.
Then with the help of Karen Guinn, they dug out tables and old supplies from every event they had over the last year. They set up a slime station, a tinkering station, water play station, and a few more tables all staffed with youth helpers. Overall the supplies cost little to nothing, but she did purchase plastic table cloths when she set the tables up outside to help with easy clean-up at the end.
On a hot July evening, Jessica welcomed in a few faces she knew and a lot of new faces from the community. Parents didn’t think of dropping off their kids as they did for VBS or Sunday school. Parents and grandparents knew it was a time for all of them to have Messy Church.
As families arrived, they were offered snacks and drinks at tables together. Once she gave them 20-30 minutes to all arrive and have a snack, she shared a short lesson. She shared that life can be messy. Sometimes messy means bad and sometimes messy can be good. No matter what Jesus loves messy people!
In fact, Jesus loves to take messy people and make something beautiful from the mess. She then shared some scripture and closed in prayer. From there, she walked them to the tables set up outside for the families to go make a mess. Parents and grandparents shared experiences with the children as they moved around to each table set up for their mess.
The casual, light-hearted environment gave way to conversation. Jessica was able to move around to the different groups to have caring conversations. One family said they never go to church but they could get into this kind of church! Some grandparents shared that they had their grandchildren for the week and thought this was something they could all do together when they saw the Mess-tival invite. Church members who were used to dropping off their kids for events asked when the next Mess-tival would be held.
As of now, this was Jessica’s second Mess-tival. She had thought of it as a supplemental outreach for those slower times in the church schedule. However, she says due to its success, she would love to start doing more for her community. Messy Church helps all ages hear God’s words of love and literally feel God’s love through each other as they have a messy experience together.
Messy Church is a great way to do something different at your church, and get both parents and children involved. || Photos Provided by Melinda Shunk