I’ve always loved working with children. I grew up in The Salvation Army from age six and got involved in Children’s Ministries as soon as I could, when I was about 12 or 13. My parents are The Salvation Army officers in Greymouth and were officers in Gore for eight years.
I began volunteering with the Invercargill children’s ministries in 2010, when I moved to Invercargill to train as a primary school teacher, and have stayed ever since, taking over as the children’s worker in 2012 when the previous children’s worker left.
A lot of people think of children’s ministries as running Sunday school, but these days it’s so much more than that. As well as Sunday mornings, we run a Thursday morning programme for pre-schoolers, a Friday night outreach for children aged six to 13, and since the end of last year I have been working in an Invercargill primary school taking a reading recovery class and helping out where needed.
People also think children’s ministries is loud, intense, running around having fun—and some of the best times, it is. But it can also be quiet and reflective.
Children can do amazing things. One of my favourite moments is at the start of our Friday night event each week when the children have a prayer time. They write things they want prayed for on pieces of paper and put them in jars, and then they get into groups and pray about them. They often carry on for 10 minutes, talking with each other and God.
It’s awesome to see a kid’s face when they understand that God really loves them, that he wants to be their friend and will stay with them. Especially for kids from the community, where home life might be tough, it’s huge for them to know there’s one constant they can rely on, and that’s God.
One girl from the community came through our Friday night programme. She came with very low self-esteem, very shy. You wouldn’t recognise her now, to see her so open and bubbly. When you see that, you know it’s the reason why you’re doing this.
As long as the children understand that God loves them, he’s always there for them and that regardless of what happens they can talk to him any time, that’s a win as far as I’m concerned. While they might not make a commitment now, 10 years down the track I hope they’re able to think back to those fond memories and those messages and reconnect with the church.
At the school I work in, we’re not there to preach, but if people ask we will talk to them about Jesus and the church. We’re there to walk the walk. I wear some Army regalia when I go to school, and through this I’ve had some good conversations with the teachers, and some of the children have come along to our Friday night event.
At the end of this year, I’m moving to Dunedin to get married. I have been blessed to work with Invercargill’s young people. I have built some strong relationships and I will miss them, but I am looking forward to new challenges in children’s work in Dunedin.
by Amy Owen (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 18 October 2014, pp9.
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