Deep conversations, encouraging words, prayers on behalf of others, laughing until it hurts, beautiful creation, serving others, using our gifts – the church at it’s best. This was my experience recently at our regional retreat for children’s ministry volunteers and leaders. The theme of the weekend was “United” (1 Corinthians 12:12). This year we have focused on bringing the volunteers from the different local churches together for training, networking, encouragement. This culminated 2 weeks ago as we came together for a weekend retreat. Twenty-nine people from 10 different local churches participated, in what was for me, the highlight of the year.
The weekend was filled with special moments where unity was not just talked about but experienced in the flesh. The retreat started with a movie night where we enjoyed popcorn and a very touching movie “Every child is special.” This movie sparked some intense sharing and conversation and moved us to prayer. People opened up about their childhood, about their own children, or the challenge of working with children and families. The next day we had time to dig deeper into God’s word as we spent time in small groups and again a safe space was created for people to share from their hearts. In the afternoon we played and laughed as Oscar led us in recreation and then in the evening we laughed even more as each church participated in a “talent” night.
Sunday was a powerful time of prayer and Pastor Jorge, the regional president, shared with the group a word of encouragement and gratitude for the work they do with children that often goes unnoticed and is unfortunately undervalued. That day we spent time evaluating where our churches are in terms of children’s ministry and the reality was both discouraging as we realized how under-resourced this ministry is and at the same time encouraging as churches are providing a safe space for kids to come and experience the love of Jesus.
One particular church in a small town 7 hours from Medellin shared how important the visit from a small group of volunteers from a church in Medellin had been in helping them organize and plan for their children’s ministry. Before the visit there was no children’s ministry and now they have 5 volunteers who are working with about 30-40 children on a regular visit. This my friends is what it means to be unified – using our gifts to build up the body. During the weekend one of the women who is very talented in making crafts and jewelry, taught another group of women how to make bracelets, which they are going to sell to raise money for the children’s ministry in their church. They serve at a new church that has over 80 children coming on a weekly basis. Another example of what it means to use our gifts to build one another up.
When I think back on the retreat, I can’t stop smiling. I think it exceeded everyone’s expectation. It reminded us that we are not alone, that what we do does not go unnoticed by God, and that working with children is a privilege that God has given us.