By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

When I was a full-time Children’s Minister, I often felt that my job looked like simply event planning, but in reality, I was creating a space for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the people who took part in the event. As your ARUMC Conference Coordinator of Children’s Ministry, my job title has changed, but I am still creating a space for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of children and those who minister to them.

The Beyond 2020 conference was just another one of those events that was planned by the Conference Council of Children’s Ministers, the people came, and then the Holy Spirit got busy taking whatever we planned to a level of spiritual growth that we never expected. These moments are HOLY and keep all who are in ministry energized to continue to create more Holy moments for those they serve.

At the Beyond 2020 conference this year, we welcomed 75 attendees, with five of those attendees coming from Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Oklahoma! We had three Children’s Ministers who had been in ministry for less than two months. We also had three Children’s Ministers who had been in ministry for more than 25 years!

Liz Emis, a member of the Bentonville FUMC Children’s Ministry Team, shows off a craft made at Beyond 2020. || Photo provided by Melinda Shunk

The Rev. Dr. Leanne Hadley (left) and Children’s Ministry Coordinator Melinda Shunk (right). || Photo provided by Melinda Shunk

Our guest speaker was the Rev. Dr. Leanne Hadley who is an elder in the UMC from Louisville, Kentucky. She has written two books and has spent her life ministering to children. She taught us to let children minister to us as much as adults minister to children. She taught us how to create sacred circles as a space to share the stories from the Bible with our early childhood ages and Kindergartners.

She taught us how to end our time with groups of children by sending them each out with a special blessing using something as simple as blessing balm and eye contact. Rev. Hadley urged us to use the Quadrilateral as a teaching model with our older elementary students to teach them how to wrestle with the scriptures while considering tradition and reason. She believes we can use it with any curriculum we choose to teach in our church.

During her last session, she talked about change, everything is always changing, some love the change some struggle with change, but we get to teach our children that God’s love for them is steadfast and unchanging.

This year, we were able to offer breakout sessions as a new format to the Beyond Conference. Attendees were able to choose from three different sessions offered throughout the day that would specifically meet their needs and interest. We had Missy Walley from the Department of Education teach us about how to manage large groups of children. Sadie Wohlfahrt taught us how to work with differently-abled children. Katie McLean and Kelli Swaim brought many models of prayer stations for participants to touch and learn from. We had a Q&A panel with Sadie Wohlfahrt, Pam Lentz, and Carissa Tarkington. Attendees of this breakout session could ask advice on everything from, “What to say to arguing volunteers?” to “How does a CM teach with their own children in the class?”

Karen Swales brought the fun with simple puppet-making techniques for children to create so they can retell the Bible stories they learn. Joan Walker, one of the Cokesbury curriculum writers, taught us what to expect and how to teach the newly released Celebrate Wonder curriculum that is replacing Deep Blue. Rev. Hadley was able to teach a breakout session about children and grief as well as teaching us how to use the Listening Stones as a tool to encourage prayerful conversations. I was able to get in on the last breakout session and teach how to use the Bible Timeline in classrooms as well as some Bible Bootcamp ideas.

Needless to say, we sent each attendee home with an armful of materials and a mind overflowing with ideas to enrich the ministry experience for all in their churches. Rev. Dr. Michelle Morris was there with the ARUMC Center for Communication team and recorded all of the sessions. You can visit CouRSe in a couple of weeks to revisit the event or show pastoral staff what they missed at Beyond when you go to arumc.myabsorb.com. If you thought you didn’t have time to spare to come to Beyond this year, please consider attending Beyond 2021. We have already started planning and we will have a seat saved for you and your team.