IDABEL—Deep in southeast Oklahoma, at Idabel, First, a children’s ministry is rapidly expanding. The program isn’t expanding because of any miracle materials or special event, the growth has been fueled by prayer.

Months ago, Jana Hughes, children’s minister at Idabel, First approached her pastor, Andy Bowman, in order to brainstorm about different ways the children’s ministry could reach more children in their town. The two concluded that prayer was the best way to begin reaching their goals.

“At that point we were averaging about 30 children each Wednesday night. So we set our goal at 75 children and started praying that we would have the workers needed for that amount of children,” Hughes said.

Months and many prayers later, the children’s ministry at Idabel, First is averaging around 75 children each Wednesday night.

First, Hughes and Bowman saw a family from the church donate funds for another vehicle for the church’s van and bus ministry.

Then, they saw volunteers begin to pour into the children’s ministry. “It seems like all churches struggle with getting enough volunteers, but we just started praying about it, and we’ve seen a lot of new people who are coming. They just have a heart for kids,” Hughes said.

Hughes noted that the volunteers aren’t necessarily people who have attended Idabel, First for a long time, but these members felt the need to be connected in their new church home and jumped in to serve where needed.

Next, they saw the Lord move in the lives of some of the new children attending their church through the bus and van ministry.

Bowman specifically told the story of one boy who started to come to church on Wednesday nights and made a profession of faith in Christ. The boy brought his family members to church with him, including his brother, cousins and some friends.

“I would look up every week or two, and he’s bringing a cousin or friend down the aisle in the invitation. We’ve seen him, his brother, mother and two or three cousins all get saved and baptized now,” Bowman said

Sunday School attendance has also increased through Wednesday night outreach and 12-15 children and adults have been baptized as a result.

“About a year ago, I was concerned about all the church kids who weren’t coming, and God just laid it on my heart to not worry about the kids who aren’t coming but focus on the kids who want to come but don’t have a way to come,” Hughes said.

Children would call the church, Hughes said, on Wednesdays immediately after school, asking if the church would pick them up and bring them to church that evening. “I realized that was where I needed to put my heart—into those kids—majority of them being kids that we bring on the bus,” she said

Bowman pointed to the leadership and heart of Hughes as one of the key factors of the growing program saying, “The heart of Jana Hughes, our children’s minister, is behind all of this, and she just has a great compassion and burden for these kids.”

“When the kids come, I think they just feel like we want them here. They feel welcomed and loved, and really that’s all they’re looking for is to be accepted and loved,” Hughes said.

Prayer and petitioning for the lost in Idabel are the tried and true methods of the church at Idabel, First. Hughes says, “Prayer—we’ve just bathed our ministries in prayer, and the Lord has been good to hear our cries.”