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Hood Theological Seminary

Serving Children Through Partnerships

by Mary Love and Teaira Parker

Over two years ago, the idea of a 501(c)3 was tossed out in a Hood Seminary Children's Ministry class. That idea became a reality with the inception of Big Changes Start Small (BCSS). BCSS is actively engaged in forming partnerships to make a difference in the Dillehay Courts Community in Charlotte, NC. The main partners currently include three area churches (Greenville Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church, First Mount Calvary Baptist Church and Walls Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church) and the Salvation Army. This apartment complex has a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club on the premises and the youth who attend make up our main target audience.

In August, BCSS, our partners and others sponsored a Back-to-School summit with approximately 225 children, youth and adults in attendance. Each child was given school supplies, a book bag, books, hygiene items, and more. Classes were provided on parenting best practices, bullying and establishing children's ministries that make a difference. In addition, there were classes on mental health, suicide prevention, helping children belong, and the first 2000 days. Not only were the youth positively impacted by this experience, but their parents also gained new insight on better ways to engage their youth and strategies on reducing burn-out for single parents.

Food, fun, and giveaways were also a part of this great outreach. Children played in the bounce house and explored a fire truck from the local fire department. Lunch was also provided to families. One of our student volunteers took note of joyful reactions from students and parents when given bookbags, school supplies, etc.:

“While guiding the young people off the stage when they received their school supplies, I heard many of the students and some parents express how excited they were for what they received. Parents grateful that they did not have to spend money they didn’t have on items their kids needed. Students excited about the upcoming first day of school and having everything they needed to excel. The immediate impact I felt from the people in attendance was gratitude, but even more I felt the presence of God in that space.” Teaira Parker, volunteer

The Children’s Summit was also transformative for Teaira, a volunteer, and has given her the desire to organize and implement a Children’s Summit in her community in Washington, D.C.:

“I learned ... that I should never judge a community based on its economic status. These community members did not have a lot of money. They are considered poor, but the love they showed for the church stepping in made such a huge impact on me that I felt inspired to recreate, on a smaller level, the same school supply giveaway in my own neighborhood. When I saw the people being served and the love that genuinely flowed from everyone in the building, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew that even if no one said thank you, the smiles said it all for them.

...This event made me want to do ministry better...”

Big Changes Start Small and our partners desire to be a continuing presence in the community. As a result, a Christmas festival was sponsored in December. Each child was given a gift by the Salvation Army along with various hygiene items donated by the partners. Some coats were also made available for the children. Ninety-five children were served during this event. Some members of the group continue to visit the Center to lead exercise classes and provide teaching/learning experiences for Martin L. King Jr. Day and Black History Month. Plans are in the works for several activities during 2018.

Some elements of the work with children have been duplicated in other areas. BCSS worked with two pastors (Rev. Dr. Doris Hicks and Rev. Flavian Coleman) in the Columbia area to sponsor a summit there. The goal was to raise the level of awareness regarding the needs of children and to bless the children of an elementary school in the community. [October 2018]


Persistent Care for Children
 
The partnership of Hood Seminary Faculty (Dr. Mary Love and Dr. Sharon Grant), Hood Alumni (Rev. Dr. Sheldon Shipman, Rev. Kevin Griffin, Rev. Lisa Moore, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James), plus SouthBrook Church and community agencies grows and continues to impact children in the Charlotte, NC Dillehay Community. These partners sponsored a Back-to-School Bash on August 18th and provided workshops for children, youth and parents. After the educational lifting, participants were granted the opportunity to shop for book bags, school supplies, hygiene items and clothes at no cost. Approximately 400 participated and over 300 children/youth received books bags and other items to prepare for the beginning of the school term.

Impact is greater when it is consistent. This cross-denominational and community partnership has committed itself to be engaged with this community three times a year. The Back-to-School Bash was the fifth major lifting event and the team witnessed growth, need meeting and trust building. To God be the glory! [October 2018]


Children and Poverty Initiative 2012

To highlight the focus on children, Hood Theological Seminary implemented three-fold focus in motion in the Spring, 2012 semester: (1) Class - PTH 300 Seminar in Christian Education among Children, (2) sponsoring a Children’s Summit in the Alabama area to target workers with children and (3) sponsoring a Children’s Summit in Salisbury.

  1. The children’s ministry class had a total of eleven students enrolled including both sites. Students have studied key texts to understand the development process of children and the necessary strategies to enhance faith development. They have been involved in the process of planning for the Summit at both sites and the development of materials to be used during the summits.
  2. The Alabama Children’s Summit was held on March 9th at Metropolitan A. M. E. Zion Church in Birmingham. Approximately thirty people attended representing four denominations: African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Methodist Episcopal, United Methodist and Baptist. The attendees all possessed a love for children and expressed a commitment to be involved in partnership to make a difference. Other highlights of the summit are given below.
    • Theme: “Joining Hands to Lift Children”
    • Formed a partnership with the Black Church Family Council (BCFC), a non-profit 501 C3 organization that is working in the Alabama and Mississippi area. The March 9th Summit was the first in a series of planned events in the Alabama area with a focus on children. The BCFC will sponsor a Black Swann Fatherhood Initiative Community Education Summit at First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa March 29-30th. It will begin with a banquet with the Alabama State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Thomas Bice, as the speaker. Workshops are planned for Friday, March 30th.
    • A Children’s Initiative Planning meeting has been scheduled for March 30th in Tuscaloosa. The goal is to begin development of a five year plan with some things to begin in 2012. They will compile a Pan-Methodist directory for each of the three identified areas and include others as well.
    • The attendance at the Alabama summit showed a great diversity as they represented Sunday School superintendents and teachers, public school teachers, librarians, foster parents, children/youth workers, superintendents of Buds of Promise, conference, district and local church directors of Christian Education, grandparents, children’s class leaders, organizations to aid children, and special education teachers.
    • The Summit challenged attendees to make a difference in the lives of children in the Alabama area. Three cities have been targeted: Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa and three persons have volunteered to serve as coordinators for the three cities.
    • A special litany was written and used to promote awareness of children and offering the challenge to put one’s faith in action.
    • The Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty booklet was distributed to all participants and a quantity given to the Black Family Church Council for distribution at their March 29-30 event in Tuscaloosa.
    • Resources and discussion centered around twelve ways that persons and congregations can join hands to lift children. A display of resources was made available along with graphics depicting children. The ways to lift children that were addressed included:
      • understanding the biblical directives for the care of children
      • setting the tone for spiritual connections within the home
      • knowing what is happening to children in the geographic area
      • exploring ways congregations can respond to the needs of children and develop intentional ministries for children
      • assisting parents in developing of good parenting skills and developing strong family relationships
      • providing assistance for grandparents rearing children, foster parents, and single parents
      • evaluating the decision making process of adults and understanding the impact of adult decision upon children
      • protecting children from all forms of abuse
      • improving our communication skills with children
      • using social media to effectively connect with children
      • forming partnerships with other groups who have children at heart and intentionally connecting with schools
      • discovering resources for Children’s Ministry
        For additional information regarding the Birmingham Summit please note the tabulated evaluation results and the photographs.
  3. The Salisbury Children’s Summit is scheduled for April 21st on the campus of Hood Seminary. Students are learning from the Alabama Summit and making plans for the Salisbury Summit
  4. Hood Seminary endorsed this campaign for children in poverty in 2007 and held its first awareness week to call attention to the issues affecting children.  The Seminary remains committed to this cause and the related issues. A Children’s Summit was held in October of 2009 and 2010 in Salisbury connecting with the observance of the Children’s Sabbath and the Children’s Defense Fund. [September 2012]

Report of Hood Seminary Awareness Week

Children, Domestic Violence and Breast Cancer

October 13-17, 2009

October is awareness month for Breast Cancer, Domestic Violence and the observance of Children’s’ Sabbath. Realizing the connectedness of the issues, the three were united to lift the level of awareness within the Seminary family and the Community. During the chapel hour services were focused on the issues and called eduworship. The week began with a focus on domestic violence and breast cancer. Student Debra Hall coordinated the service and provided the main focus with a dramatic sermonic word using the poem, “I Finally Got Flowers Today.” This drama showed the escalation of domestic violence and the painful results. Linda Coplin of Family Crisis Council of Rowan County also told of her interaction with domestic violence in her family. The second chapel service focused on grandparents and kincare raising children. Rev. Clifford Barnett, Pastor of Brighton Rock A. M. E. Zion Church and a Consultant for the Children’s Defense Fund shared with a sermon entitled, “Seek the Welfare of the City” based on Jeremiah 29: 1-13 and Matthew 9:35-38. The third chapel service focused on children with Professor Mary Love delivering the message using the title “To Change or Not to Change” based on Mark 10:13-16. The call was to stand for children. On Saturday, Rev. Lula Williams, Faith Based Coordinator for the Children’s Defense Fund was the speaker focusing on Rachel’s lament for children based on Jeremiah 31:15-17. The CDF theme for Children’s Sabbath was Create Change for Children Today: Bring HOPE and a Better Tomorrow”stressing call for advocacy for children and commitment to make a difference in their lives, especially those who are struggling against horrific odds. Special litanies were written for each service.

The first Children’s Summit was held on Friday with 38 participants. Rev. Lula Williams shared with the participants the work of the Children’s Defense Fund and the wealth of statistics regarding children. Attention was drawn to the cradle to prison pipeline, freedom schools and the possible partnerships to engage in ministry to children. Participants included pastors, Christian educators, parents, youth ministers/counselors, Sunday School Superintendents and teachers, guardians, representative from youth and family services agencies, Pfeiffer University and Western North Carolina Conference U. M. C. CEF chapter. Denominational representation included A. M. E. Zion, C. M. E., Baptist, U. M. C., and Disciples of Christ. A packet of information covering the gamut of issues affecting children was given to each participant.

Summit participants and students carried the materials into local congregations and conducted additional services to raise the level of awareness. They suggested additional summits to address the issues of parenting and fathers.

Hood students Courtney Alexander and Valerie Washington were participants in the 2009 Proctor Institute and shared their experiences. Alexander also shared her experience in conducting a freedom school.

In addition to the chapel services, Rev. Barnett shared a wide variety of children’s ministry possibilities with the Foundations of Christian Education Class. Rev. Williams shared with the Children’s Ministry class and the Track 2 - Foundations of Christian Education Class which allowed her to connect with students on the Greenville, Alabama Hood campus via teleconferencing.

This Awareness Week was sponsored by the Children’s’ Ministry Class, the Student Government Association, and the Hood Chapter of Christian Educators Fellowship. It was also in response of the Pan-Methodist Initiative for Children and Poverty. [March 2011]

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