According to the Barna Group, 6% of adult Christians made their decision to follow God after the age of 18. That means 94% made decisions as children that follow with them throughout their life. Wow! That is encouraging… and scary… and exciting. The time is now to be shepherding little hearts.
It is my joy to be the pastor of a church with hundreds of “little hearts.” Equally important, by God’s good design, plan, and foreknowledge, our church facilities are located with 29,792 children (0-18 years) within five miles of our doors! When God led me to the corner of Pennsylvania and Covell to plant Acts 2 UMC, it was beautiful with a rustic view for as far as you could see to the south and west. More than ten years later, Edmond Public Schools purchased the 40 acres to our south. Today, some of the newest schools and homes surround us bringing more and more young families right by us. Our question then is, “What will we do with these incredible gifts God is placing in our care?”
On the staffing side, we have created positions for both a full-time Children’s Director and a full-time Youth Director. This has been a great blessing to our families and is bearing much fruit! We had 35 young people give their life to Jesus through our confirmation process a few weeks ago. Twelve were baptized as a part of their confirmation process. Even parents were transformed and began to be baptized as well! God’s Spirit is moving and drawing more and more people to come and worship Jesus.
The youth group is now so large that only the chapel and the sanctuary are big enough spaces for them to meet together as a whole. So on Wednesday nights, in the fall of 2017, our 6th-12th graders began walking over from our facilities to Frontier Elementary to rent their gymnasium for large group ministry. They sit in the hallways for small group! This is a great temporary option and a terrible long-term plan. It is exciting in the short-term and disheartening in the long-term without an actual workable plan to welcome and prepare the souls The Lord is leading our way these days.
With children’s ministry, we have already hit a ceiling and trended back into a plateau with our Sunday morning ministry. Our high point in attendance came within a year after moving into the new sanctuary in 2014. However, we began having little ones becoming overwhelmed by the large numbers of students in one space. This time, the chapel was the only space large enough and accessible to bathrooms (a pretty big deal with the 3 year olds). For more than three years now, the Children and Youth Departments have moved and re-arranged and moved and prayed and re-arranged week after week. Often now, it requires multiple room transformations daily.
Perhaps you have experienced this first-hand as an adult Disciple Bible Study participant meeting in the nursery this year? Perhaps you have noticed 30+ toddlers racing their toys and tricycles around the newly renovated chapel on cold or rainy days? Perhaps, you have moved hundreds of tables and chairs over the weeks this year to prepare for MOPS (our Mother’s of Preschoolers Group) on Thursday mornings after Wednesday night programming for children, youth, and adults. Perhaps, you have been a part of an organization who does not meet here because we can’t find a room for you to meet in that is not already in use by another group. Perhaps it is time to build.
We have welcomed more than 400 new members since opening the 500 seat sanctuary in 2014. It is my joy to report to you that our church has adequate parking and worship space today. The missing piece for us now is compelling, age-appropriate, designated space for children and youth. Good news! We have a plan.
We have a wonderful building committee led by our own Morgan Jones who is a professional architect. Morgan is also a mom who knows a lot about what young families are looking for these days in their church home. We are blessed to have her leading our efforts with excellence. Her team, alongside our good friend, George Winters from Studio Architecture (they designed our last building), has put together an outstanding and functional 22,250 square foot facility. In the coming weeks, we hope you will look at the potential future we have in this awesome new space. It includes a full indoor gym, large rooms for the junior high and senior high on one side. On the other is a fully functional children’s facility with a protected check-in area, a kitchen, appropriately sized classroom space, and a fantastic indoor play space with a slide! Your kids, grandkids, and children and youth from the surrounding neighborhoods will love it.
Did you know that 30% or nearly 1 in 3 parents find it difficult to say no to their kids? While we might bemoan this as tragic and at times it may be, we can also leverage the reality of the culture and create a space where children and youth are literally bringing their parents to faith in Jesus. This is no small thing. Remember, for folks older than 18, the chances of them finding Jesus and choosing to follow Him on their own is in the single digits.
This vision is good and important not just for us, but for God’s Kingdom, and our ability to reach and help non-religious and non-active Christians become radical Christ followers.
Now, what am I asking? I need you to talk with God about how you will engage with this vision. We will have question and answer sessions after church at 12:15pm this Sunday, April 29 and Sunday, May 6. We will also have two Wednesday night events designed especially for our youth and their parents on May 9 and May 16. Family dinner is at 6pm in the gathering space and worship will start at 6:30pm – 8pm in the chapel.
Chantelle and I are praying diligently right now about how we can invest in this. We hope you will too.
Every blessing from above,