Mission Without An Age Limit
Updated: May 4
Match Mission with Joy with Church.
Welcome friends to Holy Hills, my name is April Cranford.
Today, we will explore the concept of matching mission with church.
We can often place limitations on serving God based on age, gender, experience, or even fear. Yet God is willing and able to call, equip, and lead us in faith to serve in mission.
The Spirit sustains our faith and moves us inside and outside of buildings to spread the light of Christ. All spaces are sacred and open us to the mystery and movement of God's love in the world.
I am with my dear friend Harriet Thompson. In serving with Harriet over the years, one of the many aspects I love about our friendship and her leadership in the church is that Harriet does not place limitations on serving in mission. I look forward to her telling you of her passion for teaching children how to serve God in the world through the mission day camp she started at this church, Tinkling Spring Presbyterian in 2007 where she serves as the Director of Christian Education.
"For almost nineteen years, I have had the blessing of serving as the Director of Christian Education here at Tinkling Spring. During that time, I watched so many youth leaders such as April take our youth to many places to serve others and to find God in the relationships that they were building with people who were not like us. I could hear also the yearning from our children of how they could not wait to grow up and go out and serve on mission trips as the way their older siblings were doing.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to attend an educator's conference. While there, I came across a book written by a mom. She had this idea, a simple idea of pulling children together during the summer and helping them to serve in the community. The book laid out all the aspects of it and I wondered what that might look like here within our own community and family of faith.
It took a while for that idea to take hold, not just with me, but to have the confidence and to share it. Once I shared that idea with our ministry teams, a plan was put into place. We needed to know what to call this camp. In our conversations, what came out was exactly what it is called, Faith in Action Mission Camp; an opportunity and a place, a safe place for our children to learn more about God, deepen their love of God and to deepen their relationships with one another and with those in our community. We began in 2007, with thirteen campers. It was a wonderful experience. None of us knew how it might go, but every single year there after more and more children wanted to come and be apart of this camp, not just those within our congregation but also those within our community.
Over the years, I also saw how important the camp was to our youth who were assisting as leaders within the camp. The relationships that they were building with the young people, but also these children were excited to share their joy for serving and that was contagious for our youth. They were eager to get to their own mission experiences with their peers in the summer and throughout the year.
"One of the things that I discovered, that I was not expecting, was how the children help prepare us to go out into the community without reservation. Their hearts do not know any bounds."
Picture taken by Riley Lowe
They eagerly go where we may say, "I am not sure if I am comfortable with that." They do not have preconceived notions of going up and talking to someone in a wheelchair or has cognitive delays or asking the hard the questions that we are too scared to ask of someone who is experiencing homelessness. They have helped me to break down walls I really did not understand that I had. They have helped me to be able to build stronger relationships with the people in the community that do not look like those that typically sit around my own family's dinner table. And yet out of that experience, we have met God. We have been in soup kitchens. We have been out in parks.
We have gone out to assist with local groups in missions that are meeting people in the darkest of places and darkest of times. And yet the continued message is that there is hope, there are others who stand in the gap. Our children now see that and through that opportunity they realize what a difference they make.
We have had the opportunity to have this camp every year since 2007, but due to the pandemic of 2020, unfortunately we were unable to hold the camp. This year, 2021, thanks to the lower numbers and vaccinations, which I am so thankful that two fully vaccinated people can sit together and share about serving in the community. We will be able to hold the camp this year. We are returning to a modified faith in action camp, we are not able to get out into the community to all the places that we normally would like to go. This year we have to be a little creative in what we are doing.
When God places a call to love God and love neighbor, it is interesting how those barriers can be lifted with a little creativity and imagination.
We will have a half-day camp and we will do mission work onsite here at Tinkling Spring. Over the years, I could not give you numbers of children and leaders who have been part of this camp. I am not one who likes to hold on to numbers because they tell such a small part of God's story. But, what I do know is that the relationships that have been formed to have children over the years have been campers talk about as they reach their final year of camp, how exciting they are to come back to be youth leaders at the camp. They usually are reaching out to me before I have an opportunity to reach out to them. Our goal is that we would instill a love of neighbor and serving neighbor in children by opening our hearts to see the needs within our communities and in building those relationships, we might come to understand how to be of help to others.
Our children have been the best examples in my walk of faith of what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Christ.
When we hold faith in action camp again this year, June 14-18, I can only imagine how the Spirit will guide us into deepening relationships with those we maybe did not know so well but now, because we hear their story we have a shared story. And I believe that is what God's story is really all about."
Thank you Harriet! I encourage you to let go of all the limitations that you have placed on serving in mission and take a simple step this weekend to serve in mission with your church.
Take care and blessings to you this day,
Register your child for the Faith in Action Mission Day Camp at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia. Click here to learn more.
Download the free book referenced by Harriet Thompson, WWJD Day Camp: Kids at Work in the Real World by Donna Thurston, published through Faith Alive Resources.
Ten ideas for your church to consider while serving in the community with children 1. Start a mission day camp for children at your church
2. Serve lunch at a local soup kitchen
3. Bake cookies and create cards for local fire department, police stations, and rescue squads
4. Donate and drop off old towels and linens to local animal shelter
5. Create bookmarks and hang them on neighbor's doors, perhaps meet a few neighbors as well.
6. Play bingo at a local nursing home
7. Lead a painting project at a group home.
8. Plan a water day at a family shelter
9. Go bowling with individuals who are differently able
10. Harvest fruit and vegetables at a local farm.
Many thanks to McHale & Justina for the beautiful background music in the video. Listen to music by McHale & Justina on Spotify and YouTube. Follow them on socials, Instagram and Facebook. Click on their picture to visit their website.