How can we creatively reach children with the gospel and the love of Christ? Grace & Peace asked several experts to tell us about their ministries
As God made His vision clear, the Lenexa (Kansas) Central Church of the Nazarene family made the commitment to get outside the church walls and invest in the community. We prayed, and we raised funds to purchase and renovate two buses. After several months of preparation, in October 2017, we hit the streets!
How does Heaventrain KC work?
Two brightly painted buses are in action every Saturday, from May through November. One bus is a chapel-on-wheels, and the other is a professional mobile kitchen. Each Saturday, Heaventrain KC visits the same communities, partners with other churches, and builds relationships with some incredible families.
As the buses approach a site, a train whistle sounds. Kids literally come running! We invest in giggles, smiles, and fun as we build relationships through activities like face painting, parachute play, and football. Children and families are invited on the chapel bus for a high-energy worship service. Their eyes light up as they grow as disciples! After the participants learn Bible stories, ministry and message come together when a hot, healthy meal is served from the food bus. Heaventrain KC ’s Philosophy of Ministry.
The philosophy of Heaventrain KC includes:
• A “Do-Whatever-It-Takes” Attitude: God is calling us to go the extra mile to spread the gospel. Consistency, authenticity, and humility are vital.
• Outside Church Walls: We’re not content with a “come-to-us” mentality. We must look outward. People we see in the community each day are the church’s responsibility. We have a holy urgency to build relationships and share the love and grace of our Lord.
• Multiple Church Partners: Something is special about churches serving together. Some partners focus on a site where they have a presence each week. Other churches volunteer at all the sites for either a day during the season or once a month.
• Strategic/Intentional Locations: Sites are strategic. If we can get families connected to a nearby church, they will be further nurtured in the faith.
• Multicultural: Heaventrain connects with multiple ethnicities and cultures. It’s a little glimpse of heaven.
• Discipleship Building: Heaventrain KC is not a one-time event. Rather, we strive for a consistent presence. We are passionate about teaching the transformative Word of God and building leaders within the community.
• Family Ministry Opportunity & Leadership Training: Heaventrain is an intergenerational leadership training ground. All ages, from children to senior adults, are challenged to see beyond themselves and serve. Their passion to serve and grow multiplies. I am grateful for God’s faithfulness and for a pastor friend who began Heaventrain in Cleveland, Ohio, about 37 years ago. When I was a teenager, my call started on his church bus. Though Heaventrain KC is a separately incorporated entity, both of the Heaventrain KC buses have been dedicated in loving memory of the Heaventrain Cleveland founder, Pastor Phil Batten.
During the “tween” years, most kids feel stuck somewhere between being children and teenagers.
A ministry called Nazatween brings 4th–6th graders together from all over the MidSouth District (Central/West Tennessee and Mississippi) to see that they are not alone and that God is ready to use them right now! Nazatween helps connect kids with a purpose and identity that is shaped by a loving Father, rather than the pervasive culture in which they often find themselves fighting to exist.
Over these past five years, the MidSouth District children’s ministry has seen incredible growth in pre-teen ministry through an event called Nazatween. Since 2013, this one-night worship experience and evening of fun has grown from 92 kids and leaders in one location to 328 kids and leaders in three locations across the MidSouth!
At Nazatween, students in grades 4–6 gather for pizza, group games, giveaways, and a powerful worship service. Students learn to honor God through participating in worship and hearing a message about what it means to follow God and live out their identity in Jesus.
After worship, groups travel offsite to a special location, such as a trampoline park, bowling alley, go-cart track, or family fun center, to simply have fun together! After this, students return to the church building for games and down time before getting a few hours of sleep. In the morning students wake up, pack up, eat breakfast, and enjoy one last worship service before heading home.
This ministry has brought kids closer to Jesus and closer to others on the MidSouth District. We believe it is impacting attendance at children’s camps, NYI camps, and district events as kids find their place as part of the MidSouth district family.
We are excited to hear that other districts may start their own Nazatween events in 2019! We pray that God continues to grow this movement among dis tricts and students toencourage tweens in their relationships with Jesus and their connection to the Nazarene family.
KidPOWER is an after-school mentoring program created through a non-profit organization called CrossBridge to counter the devastating combination of generational poverty and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The sheer volume, intensity, and duration of the ACEs our children encounter exponentially amplifies the severity of their stress. However, recent medical research confirms that meaningful mentoring can significantly and measurably mitigate the damaging effects of ACEs-related toxic stress. Participants and mentors pair up in the fall and remain together throughout the school year. The positive synergy created by this relationship and its impact on mentors and children alike cannot be overstated.
In addition to mentoring, students are also introduced to character education focusing on six character pillars: respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. These pillars are modeled by staff and volunteers. Students participate in activities that reinforce the importance of character.
Students also work with their mentors to set and achieve goals. Without guidance, students often focus only on long-term goals that may not even be achievable. For instance, many have the goal of playing professional sports. Though this desire is understandable, most will not have this opportunity. We focus on short-term goals and teach them the steps of selecting a goal and breaking it into action steps.
We provide accountability and celebrate their accomplishments when goals are achieved. One extremely shy little girl set a goal to memorize and recite a poem for our entire KidPOWER program. This was a big step in helping her have confidence. She recently sang a solo in front of 250 people at our annual fundraiser.
Staff, mentors, and students also participate in an annual service learning project. Different from a single day of community service, this project involves students from start to finish using the IPARD process. Students Investigate project options, Plan and prepare for their project, take the Action steps to accomplish the project, Reflect at each stage of the process, and Demonstrate and celebrate their accomplishment with others in a public setting. Service learning is a vital component of our program because it leads students to give back and shows them that even young people can serve and make a difference in the lives of others.
While the long-term effects of KidPOWER and YouthPOWER (a follow-up program for older students) defy quantification, short-term results have been impressive. Equipped with new tools to confront situations constructively and safely, participants begin breaking generational cycles by converting challenges into opportunities for learning, healing, and growth. In the process, participants once viewed as victims are transformed into victors!
Kidztown is an innovative ministry to children that was born in the heart of Rev. Kelly Brower, a young pastor on the Canada West District. Kelly had a strong passion for raising Canadian kids into spiritual champions. His vision came about in 1995. He wanted to create a high-energy, fast-paced, highly portable and adaptable ministry of outreach and discipleship for children and their families. Kidztown presents timeless morals and values to children in a way they understand and enjoy. Take Sesame Street, Sunday school, and the circus and bring them together, and you have Kidztown!
After Kelly’s passing in 2004 at the age of 36, his wife, Rose, and the team they had developed carried on the ministry. Eventually, they saw his vision of Kidztown as an international ministry. Kidztown has now been presented through Work and Witness teams in Ghana, India, Ecuador, Cuba, Peru, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Argentina.
Kidztown is a one-hour program that uses puppets, Bible skits, actions songs, balloons, juggling, unicycles, and illusions to teach children Biblical stories, morals and values, and ultimately to present the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Kidztown is highly flexible as a ministry model and can be presented as a regular Sunday school curriculum, as an after-school program in the church, or as an outreach ministry in the streets and parks of a local community. It is also highly adaptable to intercultural ministry contexts.
Because Kidztown is such a high-energy ministry and uses such interesting tools, younger kids are fascinated and want to be a part of the ministry team. There is something for everyone: to become a puppet master, cruise on a unicycle, juggle with exquisite skill, or act out one of the Bible stories. Those who work with Kidztown have found that if you are ministering to children and have youth in a leadership role, you will ultimately start to meet and minister to the whole family unit.
We saw this dynamic clearly at one of our churches that used Kidztown. They started out with very few children and youth in attendance in their Sunday morning service. After seven years, a quarter of the attendees on Sunday morning were there because of Kidztown. The families who came grew spiritually, attended the Wednesday night Bible studies, were involved in prayer meetings, and started inviting others to be part of their new church family. Another amazing benefit was that people started to volunteer in various roles. The adults, children, and youth wanted not to just receive, but to also to give of themselves in supporting roles in this church.
Kidztown is an effective ministry tool: a non-threatening, interactive way to reach out to families, teaching children truths about Jesus that they will never forget, training youth in leadership roles, and giving all of them a place to belong.
God wants His children of all ages to come to Him. We are willing to do whatever it takes to introduce them to their Heavenly Father. May we all give our best, however that may look, to disciple others in their walk with Christ.