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Welcome to the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty.

mother embracing smiling children

Reading the Campaign booklet is a first step for becoming familiar with this Pan-Methodist initiative.  It offers information and resources to encourage your activism in this Campaign. The Campaign’s booklet can be downloaded from this website.  

We also hope that you will contribute information about your work with children.  Your description of ministries that serve children will be helpful to others who want to deepen their involvement to care for children in poverty (see “Be Involved”).

You can influence the Campaign’s effectiveness.  Be involved.  Offer your ideas.  Encourage others to be involved.   Methodists are a connectional people of faith who confer (i.e. “conference”) and cooperate to enact their Christian discipleship.

Trusting in God, we dare to envision a world in which every child experiences love, care, and hope.  Together we can be the difference in the lives of children in poverty.

Our Mission Faith in Action Resources
Pan-Methodist Commission        Educate Social and Religious Context
Campaign Goals       Reach Out  
The Challenge       Advocate  


To affirm the Wesleyan heritage to care for the poor by encouraging “the people called Methodist” to serve children and youth at risk to poverty.

The Pan-Methodist Commission came into existence in 1985. Its primary objective is to foster meaningful cooperation among the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant, Christian Methodist Episcopal, United Methodist, and Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches. Through this cooperation, the Commission strives to bear witness to Methodist principles of Christian formation, service, and social justice.
Pan Methodist Commission website:

Do you love children? Do you want to see children reach their fullest potential? Do you want to become involved by helping children, especially those who are suffering and living in poverty? If the answer to these questions is yes, then the challenge is to get involved. One suggestion is to become a part of the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty.

The Pan-Methodist Campaign began in 1998 after the bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church voted to launch a dramatic demonstration of their solidarity in commitment to children in poverty. When the African Union Methodist Protestant and Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches joined the Commission, they also joined the Campaign.

Two primary Campaign objectives are: (1) to renew and empower the efforts of congregations already serving children at risk to poverty; and (2) to challenge and enable congregations, that are not involved with children at risk to poverty, to establish ministries to such children. The campaign is the first time these denominations have collaborated to make a social witness as Methodist partners.

The Pan-Methodist Commission wants every Methodist congregation to be involved with ministries that care for children in poverty. Churches should be active in advocacy and nurture for all children. The Campaign’s emphasis on children in poverty recognizes that they are the most vulnerable to deprivation and to being denied needed resources. Initiatives for children in poverty will sensitize congregations to ways they can also serve the needs of children who do not suffer from a lack of economic resources.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children and youth within the congregation and greater community. Churches can develop their own ministries and/or collaborate with other faith communities to ensure that all of God’s children receive the care and nurture they deserve.

The Children’s Sabbath is the single event in which all churches and seminaries are encouraged to participate (sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund). This observance unites congregations of many faiths in activities of worship, education, service and advocacy for children and families. Begin your planning early and find ways to join hearts, hands and voices for the sake of children.

We are excited that 100% of the Pan-Methodist denominations’ seminaries have endorsed the “Campaign for Children in Poverty.” Their endorsements are a major commitment to address the mission and goals of the Campaign by preparing church leaders for nurture and justice ministries. Their faculty and students conceive courses, programs, and projects that involve their seminaries in care for children in poverty. See the Campaign website for information on how seminaries are involved in the Campaign.

1. To renew and empower the efforts of Methodist churches, agencies, and seminaries already serving children
and youth at risk to poverty.
2. To challenge and enable all Methodist churches and seminaries to establish ministries to children and youth at risk to poverty.

The Pan-Methodist Commission recognizes how difficult it is for congregations to develop specific ideas about how to care for children in poverty. However, such involvement often starts with an individual who is committed to a particular cause. When one person unites with others, they can begin ministries that powerfully impact the lives of children. The following pages contain the Campaign for Children in Poverty’s “Faith in Action” possibilities. These action possibilities are to assist churches in exploring how they can be responsive to children in need.

Resources are offered for churches to begin to care and nurture children. Every church and every seminary can do something to nurture and to advocate on behalf of children at risk to poverty. 

I. Educate the Congregation about the Needs of Children and the Poor

Goal: To sensitize Methodist congregations to circumstances faced by children and by poor families in order that churches might respond with acts of compassion and justice.

Assess the need of children in your community.

- Form a committee or task force.
- Speak with children, parents, school personnel, other churches, and organizations devoted to children.
- Report findings to the congregation.

Celebrate Annual Children’s Sabbath.

- Designate a Sunday in October, or another Sunday during the year, as Children's Sabbath.
- Order lesson plans and manuals for Children‟s Sabbath from the Children‟s Defense Fund:
- Use the materials, not only in worship on the designated Sunday, but in adult and children‟s school and weekday programs.

Consider the needs of all children:

- Ensure that your faith community is welcoming to children with disabilities. For information visit The Interfaith Disability Connection

- Implement support groups for children with disabilities or mental illness.

Host Church Programs that Focus on Children and Poverty.

- Hold a study series on the needs of children and the poor, by at least 10% of the adults in the congregation.
- Have a sermon series on the needs of children, with an emphasis on children in widely differing circumstances and communities.
- Hold a series (at least two sessions of seminars) on the needs of children in your community. Include one “hearing” with a panel of various community leaders and one “open mike” session to hear from parents and guardians.

Educate congregants on how they can respond to child abuse:

- Invite a representative from a local child abuse prevention program to talk with your faith community.
- Provide support for families under stress, especially single-parent families.
- Offer opportunities for parents and other caretakers to improve parenting skills and learn about children‟s developmental stages.
- Be certain that leadership of the church is acquainted with the Safe Sanctuaries book, a resource aimed at preventing child abuse in the church. To start a Safe Sanctuaries program in your faith community visit:

Keep congregants posted on issues of children and poverty:

- Generate a monthly bulletin insert or electronic newsletter that gives updated information on the status of local, state and federal legislation affecting children and families, and statistics on children and poverty in your state.
- Place a Children and Poverty bulletin board in a strategic location in the church, updated regularly with information on poverty and issues such as hunger, housing and employment.

II. Reaching Out to Children in the Community

Goal: To engage in ministries aimed at improving life for children and for poor people in the neighborhood around the church as well as in nearby communities.

Support public schools.

- Monitor school board elections.
- Establish an active partnership with a nearby school.
- Sponsor a fundraising event for a local public school.
- Recruit members to be volunteers at local schools.
- Provide school supply kits to neighborhood children.
- Enter into partnership with a church that serves a school.

Provide supervised before and/or after school programs or weekend events that include:

- Safe passage (transportation or escorts for walking)
- Nutritious snack or meal.
- Help with homework.
- A faith component.
- Recreation.
- Enrichment experience.
- Art, dance, drama and music programs.
- Computer practice/training.
- English/Spanish classes.

Educate children outside of the classroom.

- Offer a well-publicized Vacation Church School or a summer education program that‟s open to community children.
- Establish mentoring and tutoring programs that seek to nurture children so that they stay out of the juvenile justice system. For more information visit the Children‟s Defense Fund

Care for the health of community members.

- Sponsor a Family Health Fair at the church which offers health and dental check-ups, immunizations, and various screenings for blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, vision, hearing, etc. Consider sponsoring a blood drive at the same time, so that those who receive have the option of also giving.
- Provide transportation for pregnant women to prenatal classes and health clinics.
- Offer a drug prevention program for neighborhood children and youth, utilizing United Methodist Global Ministries resources on Substance Abuse and Related Violence.

Care for families within the community.

- Develop a community garden on church property that encourages children and their families to plant, cultivate and harvest.
- Provide a “lending closet” of costly items families need for children, such as child safety seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers, musical instruments, coats, etc.
- Develop partnerships between experienced mothers/grandmothers and new and/or single mothers, and between experienced fathers/grandfathers and new and/or single fathers.

III. Advocating for Legislation and Public Policies that Improve Children’s Lives and the Lives of Poor

Goal: To engage in programs and activities aimed at improving life for children and for poor people in the neighborhood around the church as well as in nearby communities.

Engage in child advocacy work.

- Join a child advocacy network.
- Publish child advocacy information and legislative alerts in your church newsletter.
- Sponsor a forum on state and federal legislation, and have a monthly “offering of letters” to congresspersons, governors, the president, etc.
- Set up an advocacy center or bulletin board in the church that provides information about pending bills affecting children.
- Send out postcards to legislators.

Encourage voter participation in elections.

- Hold a community-wide voter registration drive.
- Arrange transportation to voting polls for all local, state and national elections.

Challenge all candidates for public office to “put children and their families first” by asking them to respond to the following questions and holding them accountable for answers:

- Are children's needs and well being considered first in evaluating health and welfare reforms of any new programs or policies? How will state and federal budget proposals effect children?
- Will this program or policy make fewer children poor and increase the likelihood of children growing up healthy, educated, and prepared to work?
- Will this program or policy support families in providing care, nurture, safety, and stability to children?
- Will this program or policy refrain from punishing children for the actions or inactions of their parents or guardians?
- Will this program or policy actually save money in the long run, rather than gain a shortsighted savings that leaves the next generation to pay the price?

Children’s Defense Fund: “The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. We champion policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation.” Website:

Information on National Observance of Children’s Sabbath

Information on the Cradle to Prison Pipeline®

Interfaith Children’s Movement: ICM is a child advocacy movement that works on an interfaith basis to ensure the care and
nurture of all children. ICM’s “Faith in Action” program provides practical information on how faith communities can advocate for child friendly legislation, address juvenile justice issues, combat the sexual exploitation of children, prevent child abuse, and
effectively respond to abused, disabled and mentally ill children. Website:

Interfaith Disability Connection: Interfaith Disability Connection “educates and engages faith communities in cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with people with disabilities.” Their website contains success stories of faith communities that responded to the disabled and to those with mental illness (see section titled “Resources for Family and Caregivers”). Website:

Kids Count Data Book: State Profiles of Child Well-being: Presents state by state data on the well-being of children in the U.S. and uses this information to rank states. Published annually, The Annie E. Casey Foundation. 701 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. Phone: 410.547.6600 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website:

March of Dimes: Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center - Provides facts and information on what to expect during pregnancy and prenatal care visits. For information on free and low cost prenatal care options call (800) 311-BABY (800-311-2229). For Spanish, call 800-504-7081. Website:

One Church One School: “One Church One School brings together churches and schools in partnerships that teach our children to value life and to value learning. This national network of church/school partnerships also acts as a catalyst to build bridges between other community-based organizations, social service agencies, business enterprises and schools.” National Headquarters, 7841 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60619 Phone: 773.651.0071 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website:

Prevent Child Abuse America: A national organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Each year PCA America compiles a Resource Packet for families and communities. The 2009 Resource Guide “focuses on five important factors that have been shown to protect children from the risk of abuse and neglect.” Website:

Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church: This program was adapted from the book by Rev. Joy Melton which outlines policies, procedures and guidelines adopted by the United Methodist Church aimed at preventing child abuse in the church. Information on starting a Safe Sanctuaries program in your faith community can be found at

United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship: Children’s Ministries: Provides information and resources on how to nurture, educate and minister to children. Website:

The Crisis Among Children

Child sacrifice has been taboo among the world’s great religions for at least three thousand years, yet today children are being sacrificed to the gods of consumerism, violence and neglect. Economic injustice, racial and ethnic and religious hatred, and the abuse of political power are resulting in genocide of the world’s most vulnerable citizens – children who live in poverty. Malnutrition kills an estimated 5 million children under the age of five every year which means that on average, a child dies from malnutrition every six seconds. Malnutrition now impacts 15% of the world population – more than one billion people. Every year, as many as three million children die from hunger-related causes. 1

An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.2 At least, 870,000 children under the age of five have lost their lives as a result of armed conflict, a number far greater than the close to 175,000 fighters estimated to have died in the five-year period. Many of these deaths are attributed to indirect effects of war such as hunger, poor access to healthcare, sanitation and proper infrastructure, and denial of aid.3

It is reported that 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor; 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls. Forty-eight percent of all victims of child labor are aged 5-11 years. Almost half of child labor victims (73 million) work in hazardous child labor; more than one-quarter of all hazardous child labor is done by children less than 12 years old (19 million).4 About 1 million Asian children labor in cramped quarters, making carpets for sale in the West.5

The growing disparity in the distribution of basic resources threatens to drastically increase the number of poor people and intensify their suffering. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income.6 Those most at risk in this growing inequity are the children. They are the most vulnerable to simple disease, injury, illiteracy, neglect, malnutrition and abuse. The opportunity to close the gap for children now exists, but the door is not likely to remain open for very long because the expense increases with each year of inadequate action. Accompanying the economic disparity and violence is the everpresent threat of disease and epidemics.

Although progress has been made in the prevention of childhood diseases, new threats are emerging. HIV/AIDS, for example is creating orphans around the world. Worldwide, as many women as men are contracting HIV. “Globally, young women aged 15–24 years account for just over 65 per cent of all HIV infections.” 7 An increasing number of children in the United States suffer from the demons of violence, poverty, neglect, and inadequate health care.

The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is wider than at any time since World War II. The United States is twice as affluent as it was in 1964 when child poverty was actually declining. Yet even with this affluence, the resources for health, education and the nurture of children is not increasing proportionately. Crime, violence, neglect and despair are bred and nurtured in the soil of America’s growing economic disparity. 8 The official poverty rate is 12.3 percent, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 estimates. That year, an estimated 39.7 million Americans lived in poverty according to the official measure. According to supplemental poverty measure, the poverty rate was 13.9 percent. 9

According to the Census Bureau, 18.5 million people reported deep poverty, which means a household income below 50 percent of their 2017 poverty threshold. These individuals represented an estimated 5.7 percent of all Americans and 46.7 percent of those in poverty. According to Census Bureau Data, a larger percentage of children younger than 18 live in deep poverty than adults in any other age group. In 2016, nearly 8.2 percent of all children lived in deep poverty. While violence affects all socioeconomic groups, poor youth live with increased exposure to violence which also leads to detrimental outcomes. 10  Homicide is now the fourth leading cause of death in children ages 10-14. In children ages 15-24, homicide is the third leading cause of death and suicide is the second leading cause. 11

The statistics alone do not tell what is happening to the world’s children. Children are victims of many poverties. Spiritual poverty is more difficult to measure, but its devastating effects on the affluent and impoverished are evident. To be deprived of love, hope and transcendent meaning is to be robbed of the abundant life that Christ intends for all. All children have a basic need and right to know that they are loved infinitely by God and that God seeks for them a life of joy, hope and meaning. Children need to experience their identity and worth as both recipients and means of God’s grace. What is happening to the world’s children represents a sinful devaluing of God’s gracious gift of life and a thwarting of God’s justice for all humanity.

Methodism, Children and the Poor
Methodism was born among the impoverished of eighteenth century England. So significant was John Wesley’s ministry with the poor that he affirmed, “And surely never in any age or nation since the Apostles, have those words been so eminently fulfilled, ‘the poor have the gospel preached unto them,’ as it is at this day.”12 Studies document that the poor were the central focus of the early Methodist movement.13 Everything Wesley did in leading the Methodist revival was influenced by the impact on the poor – where and to whom he preached, the design of preaching houses, the availability of published material, the education of children, the leadership of the classes and societies.

Wesley considered regular visitation to the poor as a necessary spiritual discipline. He would no more neglect regular visitation of the poor than he would miss partaking of the Eucharist. The poor literally accompanied him to his grave. As directed in his last will and testament, he was carried to his grave by six poor people who were paid one pound each. The black drapings used in the chapel for his memorial service were remade into dresses distributed to poor women.14 

Children and their total needs were of particular concern to early Methodists. Wesley was especially concerned that impoverished children not only learn “to read, write and cast accounts, but more especially (by God’s assistance) to ‘know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.’”15 The curriculum of the Methodist schools included religious instruction, worship and even fasting, as well as strong academics. Methodist preachers were expected to spend time with the children. Whenever a society included ten children, the preachers were ready to establish a band and meet with them twice a week. Some preachers hesitated claiming, “but I have no gift for this.” Wesley’s firm response was, “gift or no gift, you are to do it, else you are not called to be a Methodist preacher.”16

Wesley’s commitment to children and the impoverished went beyond friendship and proclamation. He sought to provide holistically for their needs. He provided education, opened free health clinics, established a sewing cooperative for women in poverty, provided a lending agency, opposed slavery, visited the imprisoned, and ministered to condemned malefactors.

Methodism in the eighteenth century was a movement of the poor, by the poor and for the poor; and Wesley considered affluence the most serious threat to the continued vitality and faithfulness of Methodist movements. 17

The Challenge and Opportunity for Methodist Churches
The crisis among the world’s children and impoverished people represent a kairos opportunity for Methodist churches. Many agencies are paralyzed by fear and despair in the face of the overwhelming needs. Yet signs of hope abound for “those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.” For the first time in history, it is actually possible to create a world in which all children share in at least the basic opportunities in life.

The technical resources are available to protect children from the most common diseases, to provide them with the necessities of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare. For the most part, we know what to do and how to do it. What is lacking is the vision and moral will. Vision and moral will are the responsibilities of the Church.

Children are amazingly resilient. Recent studies suggest that the primary sources of the resiliency of children include a supportive community of hope and love. Loving relationships, hope for the future, and a sustaining value system are necessary for children to flourish and fulfill their God given potential. All children need to know that they are made in the image of God and loved supremely by God, who is present with them and who intends abundant life for them. Jesus Christ welcomes them as an integral part of a community of grace and service. Children of all economic conditions need to experience the gospel.

The crisis among children and impoverished people is, in reality, a spiritual crisis that affects all persons. The growing fear and sense of powerlessness and boredom between the middle class and affluent have roots in the poverty of vision, community and hope. The “poverty of affluence” and economic poverty are related. Without a challenging vision that includes justice and compassion for the vulnerable, we become self-absorbed.

This is a revised statement of The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church entitled: “Children and Poverty: An Episcopal Initiative.” This revision of the statement, Faith in Action recommendations, Resources for the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty is done with permission.

 1 Doctors Without Borders,
 2 United Nations,
 3 Hillary Leung, “Almost Five Times as Many Children Died in Conflict Zones Than Fighters, Report Says,” Time, February 15, 2019
4 Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and Trends 2012-2016 / International Labour Office. Geneva: ILO, 2017
5 Child Rights Information Network,
 6 Global Issues: Poverty Stats and Facts,
7 Global Issues: Poverty Stats and Facts,
8 Child Info, “Statistics by Area HIV/AIDS: Global and Regional Trends”
9 Center for Poverty Research UC Davis,
10 Sheri Marino, “The Effects of Poverty on Children,” Focus for Health, April 1, 2019.
11 Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group – United States, 2015,
12 The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., ed. Thomas Jackson, 3rd edition, 14 vols. (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872; many later reprints), 8:308.
13 See Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Good News to the Poor: John Wesley’s Evangelical Economics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), and M. Douglas Meeks (ed.), The Portion of the Poor: Good News to the Poor in the Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville: Kingswood Brooks, 1995)
14 Henry D. Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 533.
15 Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 105-6.
16 Ibid, 232
17 See Wesley’s Essay “Thoughts Upon Methodism,” dated August 4, 1787, and his sermon “On God’s Vineyard,” written in 1787 after Wesley visited the societies across England.

Special appreciation to Caitlin Foley Phillip and Jamila Garrett Bell for their assistance in creating the previous and current editions of the booklet.