Summit attendees learn about resilient faith and strong ministries

by Bonnie Shaw on August 20, 2021 in News

“It’s our job to recognize when only God could have pulled us through something, and then show that to our kids,” Dr. Shelly Melia, associate dean of the Graduate School of Ministry at Dallas Baptist University, told attendees of the 2021 Childhood and Family Ministry Summit.

The Childhood and Family Ministry Summit is an annual event centered around equipping all preschool and children’s teachers and leaders, from Bible study teachers to weekday ministry directors. It is facilitated by the Texas Baptists Center for Church Health. This year, participants gathered at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and heard from experts in children’s ministry and education on various subjects during breakout sessions, as well as attending keynote sessions led by Melia.

"Our breakout session leaders brought a wealth of knowledge and experience that will prove helpful to our local church leaders,” Jennifer Howington, Texas Baptists Childrenhood Ministry specialist, said. “I am especially grateful for Dr. Shelly Melia, who served as our keynote speaker this year. Dr. Melia has served on church staff for over 25 years in multiple states and is now serving as an educator in the Graduate School of Ministry at Dallas Baptist University. She knows ministry from multiple perspectives, and we were so blessed to be able to sit under her teaching."

During Melia’s first session, entitled “Lions and Giants and Bears, Oh My! Equipping Children to Have a Resilient Faith,” she broke down the five key things that children need in a church in order to have strong faith– family, authenticity, intergenerational relationships, truth and hardships and hope. She drew from the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 15, in which David said that he knew God would be with him because He had previously given David the strength to fight a lion and a bear. Because of those trials early on in his life, he knew God would help him defeat Goliath. Melia encouraged those in attendance to allow children to face small hardships so that they will see how God provides for them and use that foundation to face even harder challenges later.

“We have to ask ourselves who or what the lions and bears in our children’s lives are, and we need to give them an opportunity to struggle with and grow strong from them,” Melia explained.

In the breakout sessions, conference attendees had the chance to go in-depth into topics regarding all aspects of preschool and children’s ministry. In the workshop “Moving Them Out,” Texas Baptists Youth & Family Ministry Specialist Cory Liebrum talked about the transition from children’s to student ministry. He encouraged ministers to look beyond their ministry and think about how they want that child to be as an adult.

“We’re not really raising children; we’re raising adults,” he said. “You need to think about what you want that child to look like as an adult. You’re children’s ministers, but you need to look way ahead and think about what you want them to look like after not just children’s, but also after youth ministry.”

He also spoke on fostering close bonds with other ministries in the church to make sure children feel they have a place anywhere in their church. He suggested all-ages mission trips and adopt-a-grandparent programs as a couple of ways to ensure that children see themselves as a part of the church as a whole, instead of just the children’s ministry.

In another breakout session, Kimba Campbell, Publishing Team Leader for Bible Studies for Life at LifeWay Christian Resources, taught “10 Attributes of an Unshakeable Kids Ministry.” As participants learned about these attributes, which included being family-focused, missionally-minded and full of trustworthy teaching, they also talked around the table and evaluated their own ministries. They suggested solutions for hardships others were facing and looked at how they could apply the ten attributes to those problems.

Above all, Campbell emphasized, an unshakeable ministry is founded on God.

“Unshakeable ministries are built on unshakeable faith,” she said. “It’s not your ministry or mine, it’s the Lord’s.”

To learn more about the events and resources available through Texas Baptists Childhood Discipleship, go to txb.org/childhood.

Read more articles in: News, Childhood Discipleship

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