The story of Rising TIDE will float your boat

Relationships have led to a lasting partnership between Covenant Presbyterian Church in Long Beach and its innovative afterschool ministry

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Revs. Adele and Rob Langworthy were the guests of Dr. William McConnell, top left, on Monday on “Between Two Pulpits.” (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — Monday’s Between Two Pulpits, an online conversation put on each week by Special Offerings’ interim director Dr. William McConnell, was a how-to in effective after-school ministry, as told by two pastors who decades ago co-founded Rising TIDE at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, California.

Watch McConnell’s 23-minute conversation with the Revs. Rob and Adele Langworthy here. He is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church; she is associate pastor and executive director of Rising TIDE, which the two co-founded 20 years ago.

“Our program is designed to uplift young lives, to train individuals to develop and excel. That’s the ‘tide’ part of ‘Rising TIDE,” Adele said to describe the free program available to youth ages 2½ through grade 12. “That involves academics, emotional and spiritual support, recreational health and wellness, life skills — in everything we do, we try to have a teaching moment.”

During the most difficult months of the pandemic, many students were tutored online daily. Before Covid, they received weekly tutoring.

Covenant Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, California, has a deep and abiding relationship with its afterschool program, Rising TIDE. (Photo courtesy of Covenant Presbyterian Church)

“It’s the major mission work of the church,” Rob said. “The church owns it and is proud of it. It prays for it and financially supports it. The church also volunteers a lot of time to do it. We have a lot of wonderful programs … but I really think it’s about the relationships. For a lot of our children and youth, we become as much of a family if not more of a family than their family of origin.”

 

“We’ve been doing this long enough,” he said, “that we now have parents who were once children in Rising TIDE who are now sending their children to Rising TIDE. The relationships are transformative, I think.”

Once the pandemic began, it soon became apparent that many students were caught in the digital divide. Rising TIDE raised money to make sure participants had a digital device and good internet access, he said.

Art and baking classes continued online on the days when Rising TIDE delivered needed supplies to participating homes. At-home baking proved especially tricky: while many homes had a stovetop and oven, other kitchens contained only a microwave or hotpot. “We have to figure out what we could bake,” Adele explained, “so everyone would feel like an equal.”

McConnell noted that congregations retain 40% of the Pentecost Offering to support ministry to youth, young adults and children at risk. How does the Pentecost Offering, he wondered, fit into the ethos of Covenant Presbyterian Church?

“The church participates in the Special Offering partly because they know some of it will stay here for Rising TIDE,” Adele said. “But they also want it to have a global effect, knowing that ministry doesn’t take place just on East Third Street and Atlantic Avenue, but in other places as well.” The youth involved in Rising TIDE are also invited to contribute to the Pentecost Offering, “so they’re not just receiving.”

The timing of the Pentecost Offering helps Rising TIDE to beef up its summertime offerings, she said, including a Bible series requested by the youth themselves.

The Rev. Adele Langworthy

“They said, ‘Give us Bible stories where you learn how God helped people overcome hardships,’” she said. “These were fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders. We did a course on Joseph. It was a really good theme to know what they needed in life,” including “how they need to understand God better and God’s presence in their life better. Those funds helped us bring those stories alive — those Scriptures alive — in creative ways.”

“Helping young people know God and the love of God is more important than money — and it costs a lot of money,” Rob said. “This program, which is actually a pretty expensive program, is utterly free to the families who send their kids here. We do that as an act of grace, but we also do it because we know for some families it would be very hard to collect the money … It’s just better to make it free.”

How, McConnell asked, can congregations take the first steps toward starting such a ministry as Rising TIDE?

“When we started this, we sat down with members of the community. Some of them were children, who were part of the planning from the start,” Adele said. “We didn’t sit down and say, ‘We’re going to have this huge program.’ We said, ‘There’s a need. How do we start?’”

At first, lunch was a small cart of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches rolled in by a volunteer. “Then we got food donated by the grocery store so they could eat better,” she said. “Now we have a food distribution program that’s part of it as well.”

“It starts with partnering with those who are in position of needing resources or looking for ways to move forward in life but don’t have the means to be able to do that,” she said. “Have those conversations with them and have them be part of the decision-making.”

Partnerships begin with relationships, which in turn begin with “listening and getting to know people and developing trust,” her husband said.

The Rev. Rob Langworthy

“It became very pastoral during the time of Covid,” Adele said. “We are in a very close relationship with the parents now in a way we never had been before. Some have started coming to worship.”

“Out of that bad place people found themselves in came the life of Christ in a way that’s really powerful — in the relationships.”

“We know our destination,” Rob said. “The exact means of getting there is something we have to learn on the go with some stops and starts and some false turns as well. But we can trust God because God is faithful and God is in control. It’s all going to be OK, and we’ll all be better for that.”


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