Texas songwriter, artist will help children's workers brush some playtime into worship

Texas songwriter, artist will help children's workers brush some playtime into worship

Grown-ups are so serious sometimes, they can't seem to imagine how to make worship fun for children.

On March 2-3, an award-winning musician and fine arts teacher is coming to Knoxville to help church workers bring more joy and creativity into their children’s ministries.

Mark Burrows, a children’s ministry director based in Fort Worth, Texas, is the main attraction at a two-day training conference to be held at Cokesbury United Methodist Church’s north campus. The March Forth for Children event is organized every two years by the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“I hope to help grown-ups bridge the gap between play and worship in the lives of children,” Burrows said of his upcoming appearance in Knoxville. “I think we all too often fall into the trap of believing that worship ‘has its place’ and play ‘has its place.’ Just imagine the impact we can make in the lives of children, and all people, when we blend the two together in meaningful ways.”

Burrows is the former director of music and the arts at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, but said he recently assumed the position of children's ministry director because of his love for children.

Burrows’ original music, including “You’ve Got a Song” and “Go Ape!” are heard on radio stations such as XM Kids Channel 116. His song, "Amazon Rock,” is included on the CD, “Dora, Diego, and Friends’ Animal Jamboree,”  produced by Nick Records. He is author of the book, “Children First: Worshipping with the Family of God,” and he tours nationally as “Mister Mark” with his interactive, educational shows for children and families.

In addition to leading Friday night worship on March 2, Burrows will teach afternoon workshops on creating a puppet theater with inexpensive, everyday materials and “making a joyful noise” with games and icebreakers for kids.

The March Forth for Children training conference is themed “Hit a Home Run” because churches should be “places where you feel like sliding into home,” said Lindsey Almond Piercy, design team chair and children’s ministry director at Bearden United Methodist Church. “Churches should be places where children feel encouraged, supported, and cheered for, and more than anything, where they feel safe.”

Beginning Friday at 3 p.m. and concluding on Saturday afternoon, the training event offers 20 workshop choices. In addition to Burrows’ classes, workshop topics include human sexuality, special needs behaviors, bullying, cyber safety, vacation bible school, outdoor ministry, gender and learning, preschool activities, confirmation, and personal spirituality.

Leaders include Mary Alice Gran of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in Nashville (workshops); the Rev. Ronnie Collins, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Hillsville, Va. (social media luncheon); and Bishop James Swanson, resident bishop of the Holston Conference (keynote speaker).

The training event is organized for church professionals and volunteers who work with children from infancy to age 12 -- but also parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, and anyone else who helps or advocates for children through schools or at home, Piercy said.

Cost is $63 for both days (four workshops, two meals, snacks) or $52.50 for one day (two workshops, one meal, snacks). Registration deadline has been extended to Feb. 22.

Participants are encouraged to bring an offering for local and international children’s ministries; peanut butter, tuna, or canned soup for Cokesbury Church’s food pantry; and used United Methodist curriculum to swap or share.

For more information, contact the Holston Conference Connectional Ministries office at (866) 690-4080 or connectionalministries@holston.org. Cokesbury UMC's north campus is located at 9919 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37922.

Download brochure (PDF)
Register online by Feb. 22