By Rev. Ron Greene, Great Falls Christian Church, Great Falls, Mont.
Discerning “Ministry with Children and their Caregivers: Creating a Safe Community” as a missional priority was a long process involving prayer, listening to community partners, experiments in children’s ministry led by our church members, and dialogue with more prayer.
It was a painful time in our community as five young children were killed by abusers in a 5-year time period — adults who were supposed to be caring for these children.
Throughout 2011 we prayed for God’s leading, looked at our context, read Scripture, and considered the talents and resources God had given our congregation. We also explored our community as “Borderland Churches” (as described in the book by Gary V. Nelson) and listened to our neighbors and community partners. We looked at how we could share hope in our community.
In the Fall of 2011 our Sunday worship took us through I Thessalonians as we considered what it meant to be a church ministering beyond our walls to the “Borderlands”. Our Wednesday night worship services took us through the movie “The Blind Side” as we considered how God was changing us as we sought to transform our community. We kept praying as we sought God’s direction in narrowing our priorities to one focus.
In January 2012 we looked at our 2011 celebration of mission and noticed where God was leading us as we read and discussed needs in our community in what we called our “God Adventure”. The Year Book report for 2012 and ministry thus far in 2013 are examples of how we have tried to live into that priority.
From the 2012 Yearbook report: We have discerned our missional priority: Ministry with young children and their care givers – creating a safe community. We’re engaged in mission as members through vocational employment in schools and 4H and serving as court appointed Special Advocates. We welcome all children to the Kids Table in both our worship services. Eighteen adults and youth provided leadership for 25 children in our VBS. Twenty-two volunteers hosted 50 children in a community Fall Festival and we collected 170 pounds of food for the FISH Food pantry to serve children in our community. Our children’s Sunday school class raised $80 with their offerings for the Rescue Mission which they delivered along with Christmas wrapping paper for the mission’s outreach to children.
BOARD ACTION ON OUR MISSIONAL PRIORITY:
July 2013 Board Action – “Ministry with Children and their Caregivers–Creating a Safe Community.”
FAMILY PROMISE: The Board voted to become a Host Congregation for Family Promise, an interfaith program that provides a way for religious congregations to work together to meet the basic needs of homeless children and their families and help them regain their independence. This decision means that we will join 12-14 other congregations in providing housing in our facility 4 times a year for a maximum of 14 people. Participants will be screened before admission to the program and will work on their progress toward self-sufficiency at the Day Center that is yet to be determined. Other volunteers from a Support Congregation will help us prepare and serve an evening meal and provide overnight supervision. For details about how this will work at Central Christian, please talk to one of our board members.
SAFE CHURCH PRACTICES: The Board approved the recommendation of our Safe Church Practices Team that all adults who are alone with children in our church program undergo a background check through our church insurer–or provide evidence of a background check through their employer or social service agency. The background checks do not require a Social Security number and only cost $5 each–results will be seen only by the Safe Church Practices Team and any written records will be kept in secure files at the Regional Office. This is the same background check that all adults undergo before working in our Regional camps and retreats.