Mark Jones, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma children’s ministry specialist, said he was thrilled with the turnout for the first “Nuts & Bolts Conference” for childhood ministry leaders Feb. 14.
“It was a huge success,” Jones said. “I was really hoping for about 12 and we had 45. I was thrilled to death and I’ve had great feedback from folks who said what it meant to them.”
The first-time event came about through evaluation of past conferences, Jones said.
“We realized we needed to do some of this type of training for directors and bivocational leaders,” he said.
The Nuts & Bolts Conferences will be offered three times per year at the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City. The remaining two sessions this year will be held Sept. 12 and Nov. 14.
“These are free of charge, paid for by gifts to the Cooperative Program,” Jones added.
Topics for the first session were Enlisting Workers, Extended Teaching Care and Leading a Child to Christ. Jones taught the first and last, while Willa Ruth Garlow taught the middle session.
Future topics will be driven by the leaders who attend the sessions.
“I surveyed the folks and asked them what their greatest needs with childhood ministry were, and they were able to prioritize some ideas I gave them and to come up with some topics of their own,” Jones said. “Of course, I’m open to other ideas, so people may e-mail me (email@example.com) with those.”
In his first session, enlisting workers, Jones said three considerations are of prime concern.
“First, boys and girls must have the opportunity to hear about Jesus and an opportunity to respond. We have to make it our focus to share Christ with these children.
“The second thing is boys and girls must obtain their Bible skills. This means from the Sunday School teacher to the missions teacher, there has to be the opportunity of using the Bible, from the preschoolers turning its pages and learning that this is a valuable thing— It’s God’s Word to us so we can understand how to live and what He instructs us to do—all the way to the pre-teen, who is learning to find Obadiah and what is the book before it and what is the book after it.
“Remember this, I don’t think they’re teaching Bible skills in the youth and adults (departments) do you?
“It is squarely on our shoulders to help these children have their Bible skills.
The third thing is children need an opportunity to serve and to learn about missions. We hear about great things people have done and missionaries we can pray for. But, you know, there is an opportunity to put feet to the words that we are teaching. I encourage Sunday School teachers to not just have a little party, but to also go and do in action and have lots of fellowship while you do it.
“Children will not understand the joy of Christian life until they follow the example of Jesus in serving others the way He instructed and showed us. So I encourage you to find ways for children to serve. Let them make those connections early and develop a life of service.”
Jones encouraged the leaders to be able to state their vision for childhood ministry.
“Be sure you’re able to convey whatever God may lead to be your passion or your vision; to be able to put that into statements easy to say and understand that others may value that and join you in the effort,” he urged.”