Covenant fourth graders are getting a lesson on how to live out Covenant’s mission statement: “Encouraging one another to follow Jesus wherever we live, work, and play.” The group of about 25 boys and girls learns about a local mission every six weeks.
Covenant’s Children and Family Ministry (CFM) team started a new curriculum for fourth graders this fall. Titled “Connect,” it takes the kids through the Old Testament and, as is the case with many church curriculum plans, comes a few Sundays short of filling the entire schedule. Staff and the four dedicated fourth grade teachers met to figure out how to best fill the remaining Sundays. Many options were considered but filling them with service projects was the resounding favorite. It’s proving to be a favorite Sunday for the kids, as well.
“We’ve noticed that there is a surge in attendance for these special mission Sundays,” CFM Director Christy Milam said. “Covenant kids are coming and some are inviting friends.”
Associate Director Rachael McConnell, who was instrumental in starting the program, agreed. “We see our families connecting with the missional portion of this. They are our highest attendance days.
“We knew there was a desire to do mission and we needed to figure out how to do that on a regular basis,” Rachael continued. “We felt like this plan would keep us on track for kids to have opportunities to serve outside our walls with a dedicated time and place. Every six weeks, our fourth graders have a break in their curriculum; that’s when they do this mission project.”
“So far, God has given us missions that track to the Bible stories the kids have been learning about,” Rachael said.
Rachael explained at the beginning of the year the kids were learning about creation and the first group they heard from was Street Youth Ministry.
“The kids learned to see all people as the children of God and to treat other people with dignity. They learned about other children who are homeless whose lives may have started out similar to their lives, but now are quite different.”
The next six weeks, the kids were still in the book of Genesis learning about Jacob and also Joseph and his family. They learned about Above Being Under, a ministry that assists families experiencing a financial hardship to stay housed. The organization provides basic necessities, laundry supplies, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and a set of tires or preventative car maintenance to ease the burden and help families stay in their homes.
As part of the Above Being Under lesson, Covenant kids made “dignity bags,” bags filled with the items needed to survive if you have to leave your home.
The third lesson was presented by Carrying Hope, an organization with a goal of giving a “Hope Pack” filled with comfort items and necessities to every child entering the foster care system in Central Texas. This lesson followed the kids’ study of Exodus, of wandering in the wilderness. The kids discussed what it would feel like to be taken from their homes and put in constantly changing situations. Covenant kids filled backpacks with the needed items and included personal notes.
Rachael said the presenters have been impressed with our kids. “Every presenter has talked about how empathetic the children are, how much they want to understand about the people they are serving, that they really have a heart to make sure they are doing helpful things.”
Rachael provided an example: “The kids were so thoughtful in the assembly of the backpacks; they were thinking about the child who would receive it. They were looking through the socks, clothes and books, and being thoughtful about the color of the backpack and adding things for a specific child that they created in their minds.”
Four dedicated teachers serve our Covenant fourth graders. “They are pretty amazing, committing to a full year,” Christy said of Cherrylynn Burris, Allison Crutchfield, Daniel Campbell and Elizabeth McBride.
Cherrylynn said she has really enjoyed the kids and the curriculum. “Part of the appeal of teaching this curriculum is that it makes me read my Bible in a different way. I am more disciplined because know I am accountable to a group of fourth graders and I anticipate their questions.”
The CFM team is looking for more support for its popular program. The team is hoping to get some older adults to engage with fourth and fifth graders. “There’s no planning,” Christy said. “We just need a loving person to show up and assist the teachers. In fact, participants of Men in the Word, our men’s Bible study, are talking about how they can help.”
The new curriculum has fourth graders learning to read the Bible. “It’s a shift for them to be in the Bible, using the Bible, finding different books of the Bible, writing in their Bibles and really making it their own. The fourth graders are going through the entire Old Testament. Next year, as fifth graders, they will read the New Testament.
“It moves fast and it’s challenging,” Christy continued. “We want Sunday school to be an engaging and fun experience. The kids are spending a lot of in-depth time with the Bible. They are creating routines in their life. They have the space to wonder about the content and ask a lot of questions.”
As for the mission projects, Christy said, “We’re excited to see what God brings us and to start working more with Whitney (Bell, the new Missions Director). Whitney is excited because so far two of the organizations are new to us but are connected through members of our community.”
If you are interested in helping Covenant fourth or fifth graders next fall, contact Rachael.