Illinois congregation prioritizes ministry with children at risk
The celebration in 2008 of 150 years of ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Homewood, Illinois, was a time to both cherish the past and embrace the future.
As it looked toward future opportunities, the congregation decided one focus should be children considered at risk served by the nearby Jones Memorial Community Center.
Serving in the Spirit of Education
During the anniversary year, members of First Presbyterian converted a random collection of children’s books into a functioning library at Jones Center. Karen Maurer, a retired early childhood educator, volunteered in that project and continues to serve in the tutoring program.
She tutors a third grader who struggles to add two-digit numbers, but she also works with a gifted first grader. While she and the first grader were playing Shut the Box, an old fashioned wooden box game, he showed her a new dimension of the game. She had learned it as an addition game from her grandchildren, but he surprised her by demonstrating that it can also be a subtraction game.
Karen is among a steady stream of First Presbyterian volunteers who visit Jones Center weekly. These volunteers tutor in the after-school program, work in the children’s library, and help with other activities. The commitment the congregation made to children during its anniversary year continues to this day.
Karen says providing moral and emotional support alongside academics is crucial. “Most aren’t from great home situations, and they often come to the tutoring program after a stressful school day,” she says.
Serving in the Spirit of Music
Another Homewood member, Chris Dederer, led a children’s choir and taught piano classes for nearly a decade at Jones Center.
He says an “inner desire to be missional” and a love of teaching prompted him to work with children who had few other opportunities to learn music. “I sought to a lay a foundation in these children’s lives and give them an opportunity to see a positive male role model,” says Chris, a professional church musician. “I’m not sure how many of these kids have that in their lives.”
Serving in the Spirit of Love
First Presbyterian also contributes to Jones Center through members’ gifts to the Pentecost Offering. Congregations make an impact on young people in their communities through the 40 percent of the Pentecost Offering that can be retained for local ministries. Sixty percent of the offering goes to the national church to support ministries with youth and children at risk as well as the Young Adult Volunteer program. The transformational impact of the offering is felt in places near and far.
Nancy Jo Dederer, pastor of First Presbyterian, says congregations open themselves to the “joy of ministry” when they decide to serve children where they are. “It’s not about getting members,” she emphasizes. “It’s about sharing the love of Jesus Christ.”
Through the Pentecost Offering, congregations share Christ’s love in their communities and around the world.
Let Us Pray
Gracious God, We pray that all children will be able to reach the potential you give them. We are grateful for those who work alongside children at risk and give them hope. Give all of us the faith and courage to stand up for children and help build a brighter future for them. Amen.
For more information and resources related to the Pentecost offering, visit presbyterianmission.org/pentecost.
This post is based on the Minute for Mission script which can be found on our website as a script.
Please give generously to the Offering:
- Through your congregation
- Text YOUNG to 20222 to give $10
- Donate online