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Making the Most of a Community Connection

What does good ‘follow on’ look like in Children and Families Ministry? How can churches make the most of opportunities to reach families in their communities when kids come along to programs? These are some of the questions Benji Carey and the team at Onekawa Bible Church have been wrestling with after growing numbers of children from their community are attending their holiday programs.

“We started running holiday programs in 2016 and we’ve seen them grow over time. At our last program we had 100+ kids coming along; with the majority from the lower-socio- economic areas around us and from families who don’t attend our church regularly.”

“We’re so excited to share the good news about Jesus with these kids, and we’re in the process of figuring out what ‘follow on’ looks like. These kids are providing an opening and we can see that people are keen to hear the good news, but what happens now?”

Benji serves as the Community and Kids’ Worker at Onekawa Bible Church and says he’s been encouraged to see God at work through the church: “There’s a sense that the whole church is behind our holiday programs, there were 20 adults from our church who served on the team these past holidays as leaders, then there are those who make lunch or morning tea, and those who faithfully pray.”

In 2019 Onekawa Bible Church ran three holiday programs. Kids are charged $2 per day and the program runs from 9.30am—1pm, including morning tea and lunch. Benji and the team develop the content for the program themselves around a theme (‘Directions’ was the most recent theme). There is singing—with lots of action songs, a story time, games and crafts, finishing off with more singing and lunch together. On the final day they host a big celebration, including a meal with all the kids and their families where we can share some of what the kids have been doing.

But it doesn’t stop there: Benji and the team are prayerfully beginning to visit as many of the kids and their families as they can manage. “The aim of visiting is just to get to know the families better,” says Benji, “to sit and chat, and show them that we care, and sometimes there are opportunities to share the gospel.”

Overall the visits so far have been really positive, some people have opened up about their life experiences and families: “I went visiting with another leader and we met with a mum who shared about a bad experience she’d had with a church as a child, saying she had not been to a church since then, but that she’d softened since her daughter had started attending the holiday program. It was such a joy to see her open up and begin to trust—an opportunity made possible through her child.”

Late last year Benji moved with his wife Kezia and their baby into the community where many of these kids are from: “It’s close to the church offices and it’s a joy to be living nearer to the people we’re hoping to reach with the good news of Jesus.”

Benji says it has been wonderful to see God at work in the community and through the holiday programs: “It’s been such an encouragement to see the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of children and their families. From kids asking a lot of questions, to kids joining our afterschool program—and even bringing their parents along to church with them. We’re working hard to be good at ‘follow on’, but we have a lot of growth to do in this area too—we’d love to hear how other churches and ministries have been connecting with their communities to reach them with the good news about Jesus.”

Story by Sophia Sinclair.


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