The Journey Forward For Children & Youth Ministries
By: Zach Ferguson
Dear St. John’s Family,
On Wednesday night, I shared with Church Council an overview of the results from our Children and Youth Ministry Survey as well as some changes that are coming this fall based on the work of the Children and Youth Ministry Team.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to all the parents that responded to our survey; we had an 80% participation rate! St. John’s is blessed to have such faithful and active parents in our ministry, and we continue to grow to include new families all the time.
Below is the data I shared with Church Council:
- 79% of parents want children and youth Sunday School to be 60 minutes.
- 85% of parents want children and youth Sunday School to begin at 9:30am
- 82% of parents want their child to participate in a Children’s Choir.
- 73% of parents want Children’s Choir to occur during the Sunday School hour.
- 70% of parents want to maintain a monthly frequency for evening children’s activities.
- 82% of parents want Youth Group to begin in 6th grade.
By now, many of you may have heard that the Children and Youth Ministry Team voted to introduce Deep Blue Kids curriculum to replace Atrium as the new Children’s Sunday School model.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to the faithful leadership of our Atrium Catechists (main leaders), mentors, and volunteers. Rebecca, Nancy, Meredith, and Andrea have poured their hearts, souls, energy, and love into our children every week in Sunday School. The ministry that is the Atrium has been a blessing to our church. If you have ever served as a Catechist, a mentor, a volunteer, or helped in anyway with Atrium, I want to say a big thank you to each of you from the bottom of my heart.
The Journey Here..
Last fall, Johnny, Renee, and I met with the Catechists for Atrium to discuss a possible shift in time based on feedback staff had received from parents on start time. During this meeting, there was a discussion about the need for new individuals to be trained at Catechists, because some of the current Catechists were wanting to step back after serving faithfully for many years.
It was decided that the Atrium leadership would begin to identify individuals who would be willing to go through the 90-hour training to become certified as a Catechist. At the same time, Johnny instructed me to begin looking at other models that we could use at St. John’s should the need arise.
When the survey results came back at the beginning of May, it was clear that parents want Sunday School to be one hour, to begin at 9:30am and to have a formalized music program as part of the curriculum. In a meeting I had with Johnny, John Barker, and Rebecca Thomas, it became apparent that we were facing two major issues in our current Sunday School offering. The first was that 3 of our 4 Catechists were stepping down at the end of this school year, and there was going to be a void of trained leaders to continue with the current model. Secondly, it was clear that Atrium would not fit into a model where 20 minutes was reserved for Children’s Choir, and only 30 to 35 minutes each week would be devoted for a presentations and exploration.
After this meeting, Johnny asked me to bring forward a proposal to the Children and Youth Ministry Team with the best curriculum available that would allow us to respond to the request of parents.
The Children and Youth Ministry Team met on Thursday, May 18 to review the survey results and discuss the way forward. During this meeting, the team worked diligently and prayerfully as we discussed what model we would be using for our Children and Youth’s Christian Education. The Children and Youth Ministry Team adopted the proposal for Deep Blue Kids as the model for children ages birth-11 and adopted Fast Track Disciple Bible Study for our youth (grades 6-12).
So, what is Deep Blue Kids?
Based on the award-winning Deep Blue Kids Bible, this awe-inspiring resource for children includes adventure, exciting stories, science experiments, arts and crafts, animated video storytelling, and active games—all combined into a living-faith experience that will help children discover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ today.
As the publishing house Cokesbury describes it, “Deep Blue Kids exists to reach, empower, and equip children, and those who care for them, with grace-based resources that help them on the journey to:
- understand themselves as children of God,
- explore and deepen their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and
- love and serve God and neighbor.”
Each weekly adventure begins at church and then continues through the week at home with parent conversation and activity tips both printed and online. You won’t want to miss the free Deep Blue Adventure app that brings Kat, Asia, Edgar, and Caleb right to your phone or tablet.
Deep Blue is a comprehensive Bible study. That’s a grown-up term that says we’re going to cover the whole Bible over three years. And we’re also going to celebrate while we do it. Each year will include the Bible stories that go with our special church holidays like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
Where We Are Headed and What It Looks Like:
Over the summer, the Children and Youth Ministry Team will work to convert our Sunday School rooms to spaces needed to fully live into the Deep Blue Kids curriculum.
The team will also work to do a freshening up of our nursery, and make sure that even our youngest members can experience the joys of this new journey into Deep Blue.
We are realigning the age/grade level groupings. The new levels will be:
- Level 1: Ages 3-5
- Level 2: Kindergarten- 2nd Grade (Ages 6-8)
- Level 3: 3rd – 5th Grade (Ages 9-11)
- Youth: 6th- 12th Grade (Ages 12-18)
Every Sunday morning, beginning this fall, children ages 3 to 11 will gather in the chapel for a gathering time to begin Sunday School together. The kids in level 3 will lead this gathering time by offering a prayer, leading the song, and showing the video for the week.
At the end of gathering time, the kids in levels 2 and 3 will head to music while the level 1 kids will head to their classroom.
At 10:00am, the level 2 and 3 kids will return to their classrooms to continue with their Sunday School lesson.
Sunday School will end at 10:30am for children and youth.
In August, we will hold parent meetings after church so that you can explore the Sunday School rooms, the curriculum, and have a better understanding of what our children will be experiencing each week.
Deep Blue offers a parent’s guide that will be posted on the St. John's website every week, so that parents will know what students did in class and can help reinforce what is being learned. There is also a Deep Blue Kids app for phones and tablets that will allow children to watch the videos from previous weeks, to play games, and to further explore the information and lessons.
Attached, you will find the pdf version of the proposal for Deep Blue that was approved by the Children and Youth Ministry Team and presented to Church Council. Please review it, and feel free to call or email(zferguson [at] stjohnsmidtown [dot] org) me with any questions you may have on this new curriculum.
If you are interested in teaching or volunteering in one of the classrooms, please let me know. You can sign up to teach once a month, once a quarter, or any frequency you feel led to do.
On Sunday, August 27, we will have an evening cookout that will serve as the kickoff for our new Sunday School model. Look for more information to come on this in the coming weeks.
Fall Sunday School will resume on Sunday, September 10. During worship that week, we will celebrate Promotion Sunday!
Every day I realize how blessed I am to work with such amazing children, youth, young adults, and families here at St. John’s.