By Adam Love and John Powers
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (June 30, 2015) -- For nine years, Kingsley United Methodist Church has been doing a Wednesday night ministry called Kingsley Kids. We invite children from ages pre-K to high school to come to the church from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for a meal and a class. Over the years it's become a healthy ministry, drawing between 30 and 50 kids, sometimes more, mostly from poor families.
Very few of the kids are members of our church. For the food, classes, and van ministry, it takes 22 to 25 adults helping each week.
One problem has been the gap between Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Most of the members of the church have seen Kingsley Kids as charity or mission work. Our language reflects the problem: Sunday morning children and youth are "our kids," and the Wednesday night crew are "Kingsley Kids." The church members don’t mean anything harmful by this distinction -- it was just a way to delineate the two groups.
However, most of the Kingsley Kids feel like Kingsley is their church, that they are as much a part of Kingsley as any other member. There is a group of kids who consider Kingsley to be their church, and there is a church that views these kids mostly as a project: not their own youth, and certainly not fellow members.
Pastor Adam Love taught a confirmation class for youth on Sunday mornings last year, but after prayer and deliberation, he decided to offer this year's class on Wednesday evenings for the Kingsley Kids. If there were any others from Sunday morning who might want to take the class this year, they would have to join the "Kingsley Kids" on Wednesday evenings.
Partway through the class, the Pastor asked the kids if any wanted to complete their confirmation and join the church on Pentecost Sunday. Fourteen kids wanted to join, and only four of them regularly attended on Sunday mornings. To accommodate these new members, the Pastor asked the established church members to pray about becoming sponsors for these youth and then to continue as "church parents" after Confirmation Sunday.
In this kind of extension of what a "Godparent" really is, they covenanted with these kids to bring them to church on Sunday mornings and youth activities until the kids have the ability to get there on their own.
After Easter, the Pastor and sponsors began speaking to parents about the decisions their children had made. This was a risk since most of the parents of the Wednesday night kids view Kingsley Kids as a great ministry and are glad to send their children, but church membership and attending on Sunday mornings was asking much more. To our delight, all of them supported their children in their decisions.
In all, 14 kids from seven families decided to be confirmed in membership at Kingsley. Two of the families from Wednesday nights had begun attending on Sunday mornings, but the rest had little or no church experience beyond Kingsley's Wednesday evening ministry. Of those 14 kids, seven were baptized. For one father of one of the girls being baptized, this was the first time he’d ever attended a worship service anywhere.
Four families were "adopted" by our church members who have been creative in ways to coordinate getting them there on Sundays. The seventh family has now joined the original two in attending as a family on their own.
Confirmation is nothing new, but this year at Kingsley, it fulfilled its traditional place plus provided a new way to make the connection between "those kids" and "our kids," uniting them as a congregation.
The Rev. Adam Love is pastor at Kingsley United Methodist Church. John Powers is Kingsley's music director.