Attitude of Gratitude

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Meet four ministries with
extraordinary service projects that reach people in need — AND
their own kids.

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We all want the kids in our children’s ministries to cultivate
thankful hearts — especially at Thanksgiving. Yet that can be
incredibly difficult in a culture that’s telling them they should
need more, want more, and demand more. Preteens spend $51 billion a
year on their own from gifts and allowances — and all kids have a
great deal of say about the additional $170 billion that’s spent on
them, according to Alloy Media & Marketing, an umbrella
organization for various youth marketing groups. Advertisers know
the power kids have in the market, so they intentionally hammer
home the “me first” mentality of our gotta-have-it culture. And
this generation of kids has experienced amazing technological
advances and has been conditioned to believe that the newest is
better.

So much of what the children in our ministries are hearing is in
stark contrast to Jesus’ teaching that “the first will be last.” So
how can we swim against the tidal wave of culture and instill an
attitude of gratitude and service into today’s kids? We do it by
giving them meaningful, creative ways to experience the wonder of
impactive service. Four churches across the nation have done just
that by developing extraordinary service projects that reach people
in need–and their own kids.

The Power of Prayer

At Southpoint Community Church in Jacksonville, Florida, what
began as a prayer ministry to teach kids to strategically pray for
the nations ended up with kids sponsoring an entire South African
orphanage. Kim Bogart, the children’s director for the past eight
years, says it’s a passion of hers to establish a “house of prayer”
in her children’s ministry. The kids in her ministry did just that
by praying for specific nations. That led to them seeking
permission from Christian publishers to send used curriculum to a
program in South Africa, where Bogart had connected with a
missionary.

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The prayer ministry in turn spurred a fundraising campaign. Kids
took M&M Offerings each week — they ate the candy in M&M’s
candy containers and then filled them during the week with silver
coins.

“When we told this missionary we were going to support him in
South Africa, I’m sure he was saying, ‘Oh, great, it’ll cost more
to send the materials to me than she’s going to make,’” Bogart
says. “He was astounded that our children’s department was
funneling thousands of dollars his way.” Bogart even promised to
dye her hair pink if the children could raise $3,000 in a
three-week period. They did (Bogart kept her promise).

The village where the orphanage is located had been practicing a
Christianity that was mixed with bigamy and ancestor worship.
“There was no pure gospel there, and when we sent over that
curriculum, we had no idea whether or not it would bear fruit,”
Bogart says.

But it did. Bogart’s congregation members have since taken four
trips to the South African orphanage and have helped them purchase
a stove, carpeting, clothes, blankets, and school supplies, among
other items. The children at the orphanage used the curriculum the
ministry kids had sent — and prayed over. This was especially
poignant to Bogart and the rest of the congregation group, which
ranged in age from 12-year-olds up to great-grandparents.

“I believe that families that serve together are stronger
families,” she says, “and if we want to make a lasting impact
through service programs for the world and in the hearts of our
children, we should start with strategic prayer in which we can
feel a glimpse of how God views his creation.”

An Eye Overseas

The children at the First United Methodist Church in Paris,
Tennessee, chose a project that would help children on the other
side of the world. They collected a mile of pennies that they then
donated to the Kissy Eye Clinic in Sierra Leone, which provides
basic care for acute eye infections and diseases.

Their inspiration was the post-resurrection story of the walk to
Emmaus, where Jesus encountered two men on the seven-mile journey;
however, they didn’t recognize him. When they reached the village
and broke bread together, their eyes were opened and they realized
they’d been with Jesus. They wanted to make this event very real
for their congregation.

“This seemed like a meaningful way to teach the children a lesson
in sharing that they could understand,” says teacher Elyse Bell. “A
realistic goal for our small class was to begin by collecting one
mile of pennies.”

The children of the church now celebrate the Penny Trail once
every three months, beginning at the altar in their Sunday school
room and laying down pennies, end to end, across the room, down the
hall, down the stairs, and as far as they will extend. A mile of
pennies equals about $844.80. Bell’s kids have now raised more than
$1,000, or about 11/5 miles of pennies.

Bell was part of a volunteer mission team that delivered the money
personally to the Kissy Eye Clinic in Freetown, Sierra
Leone.

     

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