Using the P.R.A.Y. Program in Sunday School

P.R.A.Y. as Evangelism!

Cornerstone United Methodist Church
Houston, TX
Dr. Dave Meadows

In January 2014, P.R.A.Y. processed an order for Cornerstone United Methodist Church that included young people from the AHG, BSA, GSUSA, and several Sunday school members (non-Scouts). We knew that Cornerstone UMC had been offering the P.R.A.Y. program every year for the past ten years.  On a whim we gave a call to Dr. Dave Meadows and boy are we ever glad we did!

Dr. Meadows told us that after more than ten years of offering the P.R.A.Y. program as a separate class to the Scouts meeting in their church*, Cornerstone UMC decided to try something different. They offered it in Sunday school. In the fall of 2013, they incorporated God and Me and God and Family into the Sunday school curriculum for children in grades 1-3 and grades 4-5. Scouts from the community who wanted to earn their religious emblem were invited to attend Sunday school. Dr. Meadows was pleased to report the program was a great success! Two families formally joined their church, and there are other families who are attending and might yet join.

According to Dr. Meadows, "We're always looking to reach out to the community. The P.R.A.Y. program has a double benefit. We used it as a successful Sunday school program AND Evangelism tool."

The idea was actually suggested by a Scout parent who also teaches in the Sunday school program. Each of the P.R.A.Y. lessons was broken into two different sessions to fit into the Sunday school setting. Dr. Meadows met with each of the classes three times. At each visit, he talked with the children as a group and then met with each child individually reviewing their work. At his last visit, he heard each child recite the memory work required for that particular study. Dr. Meadows said the kids really enjoyed it! The PRAY awards and certificates of completion were presented on Scout Sunday during the 10:45 worship service.

Over the years, there might have been a family or two that joined the church because they got to know Dr. Meadows through the P.R.A.Y. classes, but this year was different. The P.R.A.Y. award wasn't presented as a separate Scouting activity, but as part of the church. Scouts who earned their P.R.A.Y. award were participating in Sunday school, and their families got to know people in the church.  Dr. Meadows reports that the program was so successful they have plans to implement it every other year as part of their Sunday school curriculum.

*Cornerstone UMC charters several Scout groups:  2 Packs, 5 Troops, and 2 Girl Scout Troops.

Equipping Parents For Discipleship

ChangePoint Alaska hosts over 750 children, from birth - 5th grade, in our weekly Sunday school program.  Many of our children grow up in broken homes with first-generation Christian roots.  We embrace, celebrate, and praise God for the privilege and opportunity to communicate Gospel and kingdom truths to such a large and broad audience.

For many years, fine-tuning and executing our Sunday morning programs with excellence held top priority for our Children’s Ministry staff and volunteers.  However, in His great love and grace, the Lord has recently revealed a game-changing reality to our ministry leaders…

The one hour a week we spend loving, encouraging, challenging, and teaching our children in Sunday school programming, though strategic and important, is not enough to effectively disciple this next generation of children for life in Christ…

Prayer and discernment led us to conclude that the Lord was calling us to equip and empower parents and adult mentors. 

They are the primary discipling leaders and faith influencers in the lives of ChangePoint kids.

They are the strategically placed and God commissioned leader teams building this next generation during the other 167 hours of the week.

These were our first practical steps in response to the Lord:

  • Rename our ministry, from Children’s Ministry to Family Ministry, to communicate our change of heart and focus.
  • Equip, encourage, and empower parents and mentors to strengthen relationship and build memories with their children through hands-on workshops.
  • Model for parents and mentors, at every opportunity, reproducible teaching methods they can use at home to communicate and transfer spiritual concepts.
  • Integrate Gospel conversations and theological training at every opportunity.

God and Me, God and Family, God and Church, and God and Life have been powertools in this endeavor. 

We call these “Parent/Child Theology Workshops”:

  • God and Me: The Theology of Salvation
  • God and Family: The Theology of Family
  • God and Church: The Theology of Church
  • God and Life: The Theology of Life in Christ

For one month, we gather at a weekly Sunday meeting that is completely hands-on, fun, and interactive, often using creative manipulatives like Legos, experiments, skits, and projects to magnify big ideas and concepts.  During the workshops, we position parents and mentors to actively instruct, guide, and lead their kids after a method and a concept is modeled and introduced.  This in class teamwork between adults and youth continues throughout the week as homework projects are completed. Parents, mentors, and children often present their work and discoveries together.

As we build Gospel and theological fluency in parents, mentors, and children through the class experiences, we are simultaneously building an army of parent/mentor teachers who are confident and competent.  The content rich courses are backdoor discovery opportunities for parents and mentors as they “try on” their own teaching styles and methods.  The course instructor models a spectrum of activities and strategies throughout the month. 

Here’s reality… 

The courses finish, the awards are presented, and everyone goes back to their homes and routines… 

And here are some courageous questions…

How can we as church leaders equip and empower parents and mentors?  They are the greatest God given resources that our kids already have. 

How can we assure that discipleship and Life in Christ continues beyond the few sessions we spend with our families? 

In just two years, 89 youth and over 75 adults and mentors who support these kids have participated in P.R.A.Y programs at ChangePoint Alaska. 

Momentum continues to grow!

 

Michael Warren
Family Pastor
ChangePoint Church
Anchorage, Alaska
changepointalaska.com

A Lasting Impact: Journey to Ordination

By The Rev. Christopher D. Owens

When working with young people, we never know the huge impact we may be making on a life.

Case in point: over 30 years ago, the Rev. Dr. Ken Lyons taught a God and Country class for local Cub Scouts.

A boy’s mother signed him up for this class in the belief that some faith instruction might be a good thing.

This boy and his family were not churchgoers. In fact, at age 9, he had no idea how to read a Bible.

Lessons learned

Ken taught the youngster how to read the Bible along with some basics of the faith. He learned about Jesus, Christian love and faithfulness, and what it means to live as a Christian in his home, school and community.

That knowledge and skill received in the God and Country study helped shape his life.

Nine years later, this same boy––now an Eagle Scout–– accepted a classmate’s invitation to visit Mt. Zion UMC in Lothian, Md.

He accepted the invitation because he remembered how loved he was by Ken Lyons and his church.

The young man later gave his life to Christ and was baptized.

A year later, he answered God’s call upon his life to enter the ordained ministry.

I am that young boy.

While I was not raised in a church and I was nominally Christian at best, God preveniently used things within my scouting experience to move me towards faith in Jesus.

One of the three duties of a Scout is to God. The 12th point of the Scout Law states that a Scout is reverent. And there are pastors like Ken Lyons who take the time to mentor Scouts in the faith through the God and Country program.

Looking back at my strange, windy road to faith in Jesus and the ordained ministry, I’m reminded that coming to faith and answering God’s call is never contained in isolated moments. It truly is a long journey of steps forward and backwards, lessons learned––often the hard way, and the persistent, patient love of Christian mentors like pastors, youth workers, parents, and other adults.

God and Country is one of those pieces, and when I was an unchurched child, a pastor like Ken Lyons teaching God and Country was a highly impactful part of my journey.

Ordination

Ten years ago, I knelt before my bishop to be ordained as an elder in the UMC. One of the hands on my head belonged to Ken Lyons. After all those years, he remembered me and agreed to be one of my ordination sponsors.

It all began with a God and Country program he taught to a Cub Scout eager to learn about the Christian faith.

 

Article used with permission: http://www.gcumm.org/scouting-news/god-and-country-class-starts-journey-to-ordination

Incorporating Scouting Programs

  1. Church Board
    • Understand how the youth agency programs can be a part of youth ministry
    • Articulate the benefits to working with youth agencies
    • Incorporate building relationships with the local councils into the church plan
    • Assign responsibilities for these objectives to the appropriate groups
  2. Pastors
    • Encourage committees and departments to include scouting programs in their planning
    • Help teach P.R.A.Y. classes and conduct the final review session
    • Use scouting groups to make the church more visible in the community
  3. Christian Education
    • Offer “P.R.A.Y.” classes to all children and youth (not just Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts)
    • Encourage adults to participate in the P.R.A.Y. Mentor program
    • Display P.R.A.Y. program service projects (use bulletin boards, table top displays, banners, etc.)
    • Help plan devotions and worship services for camping and other events
    • Help scouts understand and fulfill their “duty to God”
    • Help young people connect the values they learn in scouting with the Bible lessons they learn in Sunday School
  4. Worship Committee
    • Plan special worship services for Boy Scout and Girl Scout Sundays
    • Recognize P.R.A.Y. award recipients and present them with their awards during worship services
  5. Men’s and Women’s Fellowship Groups
    • Help sponsor a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troop
    • Help sponsor young people who want to earn a P.R.A.Y. award
    • Provide service opportunities for troops
    • Partner with a troop on a specific project
  6. Building Committee
    • Help coordinate scouting events and the church calendar
    • List the services available to troops (meeting room, storage, etc.)
    • List the responsibilities of the troop and what facilities require special permission
  7. Outreach
    • Invite scouts and their families to church events and worship services
    • Connect the troop to the church as much as possible (make the church visible at all troop events)
    • Invite members of the community to join the scout troop
    • Volunteer to help with interfaith events for the local council (Ten Commandment Hikes, interfaith tours, Scout Sunday Celebrations, etc.)
    • Publicize P.R.A.Y. classes and open them up to youth (and other scouts) in the community
  8. Membership
    • Identify adults to work with troops
    • Encourage adults to share their talents with troops and to be resources for specific badges, career information, role models
    • Invite scouting groups to special events
    • Ask scouting groups to help with special events
  9. Youth Group
    • Invite members from the scouting troop to a special youth group event
    • Bring the two groups together to work on the P.R.A.Y. programs
    • Attend religious retreats and youth events together
  10. Newsletter
    • Publish names of P.R.A.Y. award recipients
    • Publicize Interfaith events (Ten Commandment hikes, interfaith tours, Scout Sunday/Sabbath Celebrations)
    • Promote Scouting (Duty to God)
    • Announce workshops and opportunities for adult leaders