by Mark Jones

BROKEN ARROW—More than 900 preschool and children’s leaders from six states met at Broken Arrow, First April 16-17 for a two-day training convention called “Heart of the Child.”

Childhood ministry associates from Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas/Nebraska and Oklahoma planned together for two years preparing for the event. Two hundred conferences were provided for workers in every age group from birth to sixth grade.

From the reactions and responses received from some of those who attended, the event was a huge success.
“Heart of the Child was a great instructional time. Thanks so much! My ladies have all kinds of new ideas to take back and put into practice . . . me as well,” said Rita Hall, from Cleveland, First.

Special areas such as music, missions, Bible skills, Church Weekday, camps and conferences for ministers were all a part of the mix.

“Thank you for Heart of the Child. Words cannot express my thankfulness for this wonderful workshop. I work with preteens, and I loved the information and help I received,” said Gwen Grizzle, McAlester, First. “The team I came with was very excited as well. And teaching the next Sunday was so fun. My class seemed to like the new things I did with them. But most of all, I came away with more passion for my class than I’ve had in a while and a new appreciation for our children’s director, whose heart truly loves the kids.”

Heart of the Child allows children to teach the teachers by having Sunday School on Saturday. Children of all ages came to create classes so conferees could watch a class being taught by a mentoring teacher.

This observation class is always full and often the most benefit to our conferees. Instead of hearing about the work, they can watch an excellent example in progress with real children participating.

The Heart of the Child Convention is a joint effort with all five conventions, LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union.

“The conference was first class and the people were so great!” said Mitzi Eaker, of WMU.

With this kind of support and encouragement, we know there will be great success in training our many preschool/children’s workers.

The theme for the convention came from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Each keynote speaker took a portion of that verse challenging and encouraging conferees to stay the course and be assured the work is not in vain. Children’s workers are often underappreciated and devalued in their ministry. This verse was chosen to remind them of the calling we have and the courage it takes to make a difference in the lives of boys and girls during their most impressionable years.

Keynote speakers included Jerry Vogel, director of childhood publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources; Daryl Eldridge, president of Rockbridge Seminary; Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids and Tommy Sanders of Dallas Baptist University.

“I attended the Heart of the Child conference, and it was just what I needed! It was food for my soul,” said Carla Spunaugle, director of children’s ministries at Miami, First. “All of the main speakers really touched me with what God gave them to say, and I came away from the workshops with writer’s cramp because they had so many great ideas! I will be looking forward to the next conference in 2012!”

The Heart of the Child Conference occurs every other year, and is planned for April 20-21, 2012 at Broken Arrow, First. The theme verse is “We must not hide them from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the Lord, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed.” Psalm 78:4.

“Heart of the Child was fabulous. When is the early sign up for 2012?” exclaimed Shelby Egender, Oklahoma City, Quail Springs.

See for pictures and resources from this event.

Mark Jones is childhood ministries specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.