Does creative child evangelism pay? “You bet it does!” Barbara Manspeaker, member at the Stanley (Va.) church, will exclaim every time. “Not only does it win children for Jesus, but it teaches them to serve others in their community by raising the moral and spiritual standard.”
Stanley members recently took on Summer Splash, a program which had been part of Potomac’s camp meeting for several years, since so many children who attended were from that area. With conference allotting creative evangelism funds, Stanley launched its first session this year.
Summer Splash is an all-day program in the summer for community children, ages five -12. Mornings begin with a Bible class, followed by activities like community service projects, crafts, field trips and afternoon swim time at the local pool. A driver even busses children in from the local area. “This year we had five teen helpers who had gone through Summer Splash when they were younger,” shares Manspeaker, who served as Children’s Ministries Director for the Potomac Conference and Columbia Union for years. “Four of them have been baptized into the Adventist church and the fifth has been attending other programs, including Sabbath School.”
Manspeaker says one of the most exciting and teary-eyed experiences this summer was during a morning devotional presented by a 14-year old helper. After her story, she made a call for the children to make Jesus their best friend. Several of the kids responded. “Her smile and enthusiasm was indescribable,” recalls Manspeaker. “Our hearts overflowed to see and hear the results, not only from the children, but from the teen who made the call. She was a Summer Splash, VBS, Kid’s Club graduate–now becoming a leader herself. How often in our current age do you see 14 to 16-year olds so dedicated to their Lord?”
The kids who come to Summer Splash and the other programs throughout the year at Stanley come from a variety of backgrounds. Several attend churches in other denominations, but Manspeaker says the majority are truly underprivileged kids, many from one parent or grandparent homes or with one or more parents in jail. “Building relationships with these kids and their caregivers is a truly rewarding experience,” she says. “Many of these same kids are attending our church school, paid for by donors, attend Vacation Bible School and spend the year in our Kid’s Club. One of our teen aids made a decision to attend Shenandoah Academy this year. When asked what she would like to do with her life, she said, ‘I want to be a minister.’ Can it get any better than that?”
A series of four meetings for parents of Summer Splash kids is being planned for Sept. 16 – Oct. 1. Each meeting will cover a different topic: Communication With Your Kids, Health Issues, Choices(an organization on abuse) and Helping Your Child Succeed in School. A thanksgiving luncheon is being planned as well as holding an “End It Now” event, which is a program dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.