Presbyterians Today

OCT-NOV 2017

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44 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay I serve a wonderful congregation that, like many others, is filled with busy people and heavily scheduled families. But sometimes the children just aren't there. Two constants run in my mind as we seek to do ministry today. First, times have changed. I will not rant about how "Sunday is no longer sacred thanks to soccer (fill in whatever is big in your community that drives you crazy)!" This narrative leads from a negative place and is hurtful to parents who want both realities — time in the faith community and time for sports, dance or any other activities with high demands. Secondly, from my long association with LOGOS intergenerational ministry, I've witnessed that relation- ships matter. Ministry where children, youth and adults connect in meaningful ways creates a contagious com- munity of faith. The kids catch something. They see people caring for people Jesus calls the least, listening to friends, restoring peace when feelings are hurt. They see flesh on the bones of this abstract thing we call faith, and they see the words of our beliefs in action. Behaviors are caught more than taught. Children grow into what they see and do. If we don't surround them with their God family, they may never own the faith for themselves. When we create this time and space, immeasurable and eternal things happen, and we are the church God calls us to be. The question for many churches today is: How do we grow relationships if families can't commit the time? Though our Sunday school has excellent teachers and curriculum, our desire to do cool stuff with children — such as creating art, packing care bags for the homeless and singing old hymns — needed more time. How could we capture the excitement of camp and the energy of VBS and create a space for kids to catch the faith by being with their peers and adults? A mash-up of these hopes gave birth to SMASH — which stands for service, music, art, sports and hangtime. SMASH is a Sunday afternoon program for children in first through fifth grade that meets once a month for two hours. Wrapped around a Bible story or faith-fueled idea, SMASH is an unhurried time to create, play and learn together. We use a variety of activities, engaging multiple intelligences, from games to art to acting to EDUCATION THAT EXCITES | Laura Holbrook A SMASH-ing good time Bringing generations together for learning building. Most importantly, we connect the children to adults who are open to conversation and friendship and are able to love them where they are. Each leadership team includes parents, older adults and a youth. We also send home a weekly morsel — a nugget of goodness from the story, in the form of a magnet to foster conversation with family. One session, titled "Up in the Air," featured the lowering of the sick man through the roof to Jesus. We played 9 Square in the Air (you can Google it), folded paper airplanes, prepared music for worship and re- enacted the story. We encouraged conversation about being a helpful and true friend and about how Jesus loves everybody. SMASH's fun, casual character, along with the open and honest commitment to gather children and adults together, has given us space to talk about the intersec- tion of faith with busy families, and we have a smashing good time as we discover ways to live into the hope of Jesus Christ. Laura Holbrook is the interim director of Christian education at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas. Children in first through fifth grade participate in a SMASH program at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas. AMY LAFFERTY

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