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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Children and Youth Ministry, the very heartbeat of our churches

    May 25, 2022 / By Lynne Kimpland, Director of Children and Youth Ministries at Endwell UMC

    Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the 2022 Issue I of the Advocate, which focused on children and youth throughout the UNY Conference. Click here to access the Advocate. 

    The year 2019 was the culmination of effort, planning, inspiring, and training leaders.

    The six years leading up to this time at Endwell UMC produced numerous family-fun entry points in our community with our Children and Youth Mission Statement in mind – Inspiring kids to know God’s love, laugh often, and live like Jesus.

    I started this process by first changing the terminology from Sunday School to Children’s Church and then developed a Sunday morning program that was both inviting and exciting. As our Sunday morning programs began to build to over 50 children and youth attending each week and 40 volunteer teachers on a monthly rotation, we implemented six classrooms for toddlers- 5th grade, 6th-9th grade, Confirmation class, and a special needs adult class, all using the Celebrate Wonder curriculum. This provided an opportunity for Sunday morning worship to become an inclusive learning experience while everyone was engaged in the same Bible passage creating topics of discussion for families throughout the week.

    With the congregations support, the Sunday morning programs morphed into creative community events scheduled throughout the year. These free and fun events spurred the growth of worship attendance as well as our children and youth programs on Sunday Mornings.

    It begins in October with our outdoor event - Trunk N’ Treat on Halloween Night. Twenty-five volunteers dress in kid friendly costumes and stock their car trunks with candy and treats donated from the congregation. While Trunk Treating, families enjoy music, hot dogs, drinks, and fellowship. This event draws over 1,000 people every year.

    In January, we host our annual Olaf and Friends Winter Fest. We recruit local high school students to dress up as Disney Princesses, Olaf, and all the Frozen movie characters, including a live petting zoo with Sven the reindeer and a unicorn pony. Families come together and enjoy live music, crafts, snacks, and games. This winter event draws in over 1,000 people annually.

    In April, we host our annual Breakfast with the Bunny. This pancake breakfast is a fundraiser for our upcoming Vacation Bible School. Children enjoy pictures with the bunny, an egg hunt, games, and crafts.

    In July, we host our biggest yearly event - a five-day Vacation Bible School, bringing together 130+ children and 75+ youth and adults who volunteer in various capacities. Children enjoy rotating to four activities including a large waterslide. By following the Safe Sanctuary protocols, families register for each event, which includes contact information, formulating a database to inform families of future church/community events.

    It takes many volunteers to run these events, but we have learned that a church is at its strongest when everyone comes together and is contributing their individual talents and spiritual gifts. Opening our doors and turning our church facility into a community center outside of Sunday Mornings has given us an opportunity to go out into the world and be a reflection of God’s love. Many new families have come into the life of our church via these community events and now are an active part of our church family.

    Then came March 20, 2020, and everything changed. COVID-19 shut us down and forced us to rethink how to live out our faith amidst a pandemic, so the story continued. To sustain our connection, I began developing an online Children’s Church and TWIGS youth program by utilizing our website,

    Each week, a new session was posted of our weekly bible passage with a personalized Kid’s Connect video, crafts, activities, and Bible story. Each session was archived for the convenience of families. This site also included a personalized weekly children’s sermon video that was shown during our remote-only worship.

    Our TWIGS (Teens Walking In God’s Spirit) Youth Group had to transition to Zoom meetings, which included high energy, shorter duration gatherings of games, faith formation, and social emotional learning.

    Our church COVID-19 safety protocols stipulated the creation of a parent-led, online Vacation Bible School. These five-day, interactive sessions included videos, back-yard games, crafts, Bible lesson, and even a snack to create all in the comforts of home.

    We are presently emerging from many of the COVID--19 restrictions as families are slowly but surely returning, however, this has been a painstaking process. To rebuild our program, the Saplings Children’s Choir was recently created. We rehearse early Sunday mornings and perform every 4-6 weeks during worship. The momentum of the children’s choir has had a direct impact on the newly energized Children’s Church program that now stands at two classes with 16 teachers, with the hope of returning to our five-class room program.

    Our return to a sense of normalcy has also reignited our TWIGS Youth Group. We found it necessary to combine our Confirmation Class with our youth group that now meets Sunday morning after worship. This is a time of fellowship where past confirmands mentor this year’s confirmation class. Their time together is highlighted by learning, playing, and enjoying lunch together. However, as the COVID restrictions are being lifted, I am in the process of going back to our pre-pandemic format with two separate groups – the AM TWIGS Confirmation Class and TWIGS Youth Group, giving youth the option of attending both programs.

    Building an active and growing children and youth ministry especially in and through a pandemic has been both challenging and inspiring. Moving forward, our call and mission in children and youth ministries is to ACT – Assess, Create and Train as a way forward to sustain present and future growth.

    We invite you to Assess the needs of your church and community’s children and youth, Create entry points that meet those needs, and finally Train leaders who have the passion to inspire children and youth to know God’s love, laugh often and live like Jesus. The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise up a child”, and this may be the very heartbeat of our churches.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."