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‘Stories are a way to feel how wide God’s love can be’

Children’s ministries at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis embrace Matthew 25 vision

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

Welcomed by a sign, the drive-through VBS Parade at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis also served as a canned good drop-off for the food pantry. For many children it was their first time back on the property after mid-March. (Photo courtesy of Second Presbyterian Church)

LOUISVILLE — Matthew 25 tells us to feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and welcome the stranger. These basic tenants of Christianity aren’t limited to adults, though. Start with the children.

Kathryn “Kat” Green-Ross, coordinator for Children’s Ministries at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, believes that children should be focused on what adults are focused on when it comes to mission and ministry. “Take adult resources, curriculum, etc., and make it child forward, accessible,” Green-Ross said, “telling stories in a way that can fit inside a child’s mouth.”

The Children’s Ministries at Second Presbyterian is taking that seriously, even in the pandemic or maybe because of it. Coat drives, food pantries, welcoming the homeless to sleep inside the church (on hold during the pandemic), community gardens, drive-through Vacation Bible School parades and blessing of the animals are just a few of the ways the youth are practicing radical hospitality.

Youth at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis safely host a coat drive for the community. (Photo courtesy of Second Presbyterian Church)

“Children at Second Presbyterian strive to be playful, prayerful and active in the life of the church,” said Green-Ross. “They are as dedicated to social justice issues as adults — maybe more.”

Working to keep their language and imagery child accessible, Children’s Ministries at Second Presbyterian is integral to their understanding of what Matthew 25 means to them.

“When the pandemic first hit, it occurred to me that before any organization, government or social agency, the church should be able to do this and do it well,” said Green-Ross. “Church begins at home. Just because the sanctuary is closed doesn’t mean church isn’t happening. Paul’s letters are a good example of a shared experience not in real time.”

When it comes to Advent and the holidays, the youth are embracing the virtual with a “Meet at the Manger” event, where they will gather via Zoom singing songs of faith and sharing the story of Christmas. They will celebrate communion at home, offering gifts to the baby Jesus and dressing up as a character in the nativity story. “The manger story has always started at home,” said Green-Ross. ”Youth are encouraged to think about how they will show their love for Jesus and for the ordinary people in ordinary places. It puts them in the story, not just a teller of the story.”

The themes of Advent — hope, peace, love and joy — are touchstones as Christians wait for the birth of the King. This year especially, they are also touchstones of promise. “We were made royal for times like these,” said Green-Ross. “We are children of a King.”

“If we don’t come out of this experience changed, we have done something wrong,” said Green-Ross. “In this virtual world, opportunities haven’t always been limited, they have been expanded. Physically challenged members are able to access everything much easier in the virtual world. The services aren’t just accommodating but accessible. There is a difference.”

Launched in April 2019, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Matthew 25 invitation has received more than 800 congregations, groups and mid councils to make the commitment to radical and fearless discipleship. Convicted by the Matthew 25 passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the PC(USA) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.

To see the map and list of all 800-plus congregations, groups and mid councils, click here. You can learn more about the work of each congregation through their stories and videos.

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