Echo Spring 2021 - 12

By Amy Mongiovi
hildren's ministry leaders know that to introduce
kids to Jesus, they have to get down on their
level-literally. That may mean sprawling out on
the floor with paints, meeting kids eye-to-eye for
a story and kneeling beside them as they pray.
But for much of 2020-and into 2021 as well-that faceto-face
interaction wasn't possible. Therefore, ministry
leaders, both locally and around the world, were forced to
find new and innovative ways to connect with children.
For many, the CONNECT Children's Ministry at LBC
| Capital was key to that innovation and creativity.
CONNECT has been going strong for at least a decade
and was inherited by Dr. Esther Zimmerman about six
years ago. Prior to COVID-19, CONNECT aimed to bring
children's ministry leaders together from the Lancaster
area, in person, to brainstorm, network, share ideas and
fellowship. Upwards of 50 leaders gathered monthly
to grow and be encouraged and challenged. But those
gatherings came to a screeching halt last spring.
Zimmerman, who serves as the interim chair of the
Church & Ministry Leadership Department and the
Children & Family Ministry Program Director, discovered
that during COVID-19, connection among ministry
leaders was even more crucial.
" Being in children's ministry can be pretty lonely, "
Zimmerman said. " Often, there are only one or two
children's ministry staff in a church, some don't get the
opportunity to attend services, and they are glad to
learn from each other. So I think there's a real sense of
solidarity. "
Dr. Esther Zimmerman
Last spring, CONNECT moved to an online format, which
brought both negative and positive aspects. Of course,
fellowship wasn't the same, but the virtual gatherings
allowed participants to join from Ireland, Kenya, Sudan
and the Philippines. Although CONNECT was conceived
as a resource for local ministry leaders, North American
attendees have joined from Philadelphia, Delaware,
Baltimore, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and beyond. " So
it's a fun mix of global and local, " Zimmerman said.
Recent CONNECT speakers have included Dr. Sarah
Holmes from Liverpool, England, a lecturer of Early
Childhood Studies at Liverpool Hope University; Dr.
Catherine Stonehouse, now retired in Nova Scotia, who
made significant contributions to the field of Christian
education through research, writing, mentoring,
administration and teaching at Asbury Seminary; Terry
Williams, a globally known speaker who has served
internationally with Scripture Union of Australia,
where he has worked for 37 years as a specialist
in ministry with families and children; author
and speaker Melissa J. MacDonald, considered
one of the leading voices in children's ministry;
and the Rev. Dr. Mark Griffiths, who oversees
Children, Young People and Family Ministry
at St. Padarn's Institute, the training arm of the Church in
Made up of ministry leaders from both large and " tiny "
churches as well as mission and outreach agencies,
CONNECT meetings allow attendees to hear from
speakers who, Zimmerman said, " challenge us on ideas
within children's ministry we had not thought of. " In
addition to wrestling with big ideas, the group has also
dealt with practical questions, as participants have
discussed issues such as children wearing face masks
and how and when to restart children's gatherings in
Groundwork is laid for each CONNECT gathering by the
leadership team, which, besides Zimmerman, includes
children's ministry staff from Calvary Church in Lancaster,
Community Bible Church in Marietta, Millersville Bible
Church, Grace Church in Willow Valley and several LBC
| Capital alumni. Current LBC | Capital students also get
involved, both to glean ideas and learn from those in the
field. Some even end up with internships.
One of the many who benefits from monthly CONNECT
meetings is Mary (Jennings '10) Edwards, an elementary
education major at LBC and now the Director of KidMin
of Gateway Church in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. There,
Edwards works to " foster a KidMin environment that is a
fun place for children, birth through fourth grade, to grow
spiritually as they learn who God is and how much He
loves them. Children and volunteers connect relationally
in small groups where each child can feel safe, cared for
and known. "
Over the past two years of her involvement, CONNECT
has been invaluable for Edwards, especially in the aspects
of community and support. " Each month, I looked
forward to gathering with like-hearted ministry leaders to
learn from each other, pray for one another and be given
tools to strengthen our ministries. I am always impressed
by the variety of practical topics that CONNECT speaks
into and am thankful for the tangible takeaways to
implement. "
Especially during the challenging ministry season of
COVID-19, Edwards gleaned many takeaways that
benefitted the children and families at Gateway. For
instance, she said she was " blown away by the creativity
in how to care for our families ... seeing needs and
responding accordingly. Out of that heartbeat, some outof-the-box
ideas emerged. " Among them was an eightweek
" Remote Learning Center " to minister to families in
the community impacted by the pandemic. The church
building was converted to a " safe space " with Wi-Fi so
preschool to sixth-grade students could complete online
school while their parents were at work.
" Church staff and volunteers gave time and energy to
pour into these kids so that parents could continue
their normal job hours, " Edwards said. Other outreaches

Echo Spring 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Echo Spring 2021

Echo Spring 2021 - 1
Echo Spring 2021 - 2
Echo Spring 2021 - 3
Echo Spring 2021 - 4
Echo Spring 2021 - 5
Echo Spring 2021 - 6
Echo Spring 2021 - 7
Echo Spring 2021 - 8
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