First Baptist Charlotte makes children a priority : Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003
November 25 2003 by Scott Vaughan

First Baptist Charlotte makes children a priority : Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003
Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003

First Baptist Charlotte makes children a priority

By Scott Vaughan

All adults are children of God, and God uses each adult to be the hands of Jesus in the lives of children.

That's the maxim, or mantra, of Sandra Montague, minister of children and families at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, where parents, single adults, senior adults and youth are coming together to empower a children's ministry reaching church children, and those in low-income multi-housing projects nearby.

"We are all pieces in a magnificent puzzle," Montague said recently in testimony during the meeting of the General Board of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) at Caraway. "There is a paradigm shift coming. First, church members must get beyond the walls of our churches to become the church in the marketplace, and children will lead the way."

Arriving at First Church two years ago, Montague is building a ministry in downtown Charlotte. The church relocated in 1970 as part of an urban renewal effort.

Montague credits a partnership between BSC staff and Campbell University Divinity School with helping to give definition to the growing children's ministry.

Janice Haywood, BSC preschool/children team ministry leader developed a certification program through Campbell for ministers like Montague. Montague used her practicum in the certification program to write the 2:52 Children's Ministry plan for First Church.

"The greatest outcome from the certification program is not what ministers learn, but what they do with what they have learned," Haywood said. "Sandra not only learned, but she is doing something to make a difference in the kingdom. That's what our convention's service to churches is about - seeing the churches grow spiritually."

The children's ministry at First Charlotte is based on Luke 2:52, "And, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (NIV)." The ministry, aligned with the church's vision, is designed to help children grow, as Jesus grew, in all areas of development to become all God intends. This is accomplished, Montague said, as children accept Christ as their Savior, build as disciples for Christ, and care for others.

With the assistance of children's associate April Getz and a core of volunteers, Montague has organized the 2:52 Kid's Club for Sunday night meetings at the church. It involves a high-energy worship time assisted by church youth and instructional courses taught by senior adults, single adults, deacons, and other church members.

"The 2:52 Kid's Club is geared to two audiences," Montague said. "First, it's for the children within our church; and second, it's an entry point for children in multi-housing projects. Sunday evening is an easier entry point for children in multi-housing projects."

The church, led by minister of multi-housing Dave Hassinger, conducts block parties and volunteers teach weekly Bible studies within the multi-housing projects. A van service provides transportation on Sunday evenings - sometimes into neighborhoods where drug traffic and violence are everyday events.

Montague said the 2:52 Club "is important because we can build on those relationships as we bring the children to the church facility."

Within the 2:52 Kid's Club curriculum are classes designed to help children grow in spiritual development - character classes that teach manners, respect and Christian life skills for everyday living; Bible Buddies; Bible drill; G-Force; plus other discipleship emphases.

As children advance within the club, they are exposed to classes on Christian and Baptist history and church heritage. Field trips within the Charlotte community are also planned.

The children's ministry has positioned First Church to partner with other churches to expand the multi-housing ministry. Church youth are beginning to reach out through youth ministry, forming a summer swim club with Bible Study, discipleship classes, and inviting housing project youth to attend. Montague also said there are plans to offer parenting classes for residents of the housing projects.

The paradigm, she said, is occurring. Church members become passionate about ministry and move into the marketplace, with children's ministry opening doors to assist in making connections with adults.

Montague tells about Kerry, a sixth-grader, who attended summer camp in South Carolina on one of 11 multi-housing scholarships from First Church.

"After the first day of camp, Kerry seemed so unhappy that we were preparing to take her back home," Montague said. "Her face was so sad. We decided, though, to help her through it and by the end of camp she was smiling, singing and hugging others.

"On the last night of camp as other children were playing and visiting, Kerry sat alone on her bed with her suitcase packed. When we approached her, she expressed both joy and sadness - sadness about going back to her environment and joy about what she had learned that week about Jesus. She expressed a desire to accept Christ as her Savior and she did," Montague said.

To provide support for Kerry in an environment not always accepting of Christianity, Montague said one of "our single women began weekly lunch visits with Kerry to help her in her Christian understanding, behavior and growth.

"Success," Montague said, "lies in being intentional about God's plan and purpose for the local church. Churches do a good job of accepting and learning about Christ, but success comes when we move beyond our walls and let people see Jesus in us."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Vaughan is owner of Vaughan Communications in Lexington, S.C.)
11/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by Scott Vaughan | with 0 comments

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