I had the privilege of sharing in worship at Central Baptist Church in Quincy, IL, yesterday. Occupying a downtown corner in a stately, towered structure, the church is humming with mission and purpose. Led by a thoughtful pastor, Rev. Ivan Greuter, this nearly 175 year old congregation has found a way to make a difference in this storied old river town. Put simply, the church has taken seriously the challenge of ministering to children in poverty, an initiative put forward by American Baptists Churches, USA.
There were plenty of children around on Sunday morning in worship and Sunday School. The third floor of the church building is dedicated to children's ministries, and they fill it up! I visited a SS class that meets in the floor below, and the scraping of chairs, clapping to music, and happy shrieks of discovery and delight made it clear that children felt welcome in the house of the Lord. (And not a soul griped about the racket!) I remarked on the activity level and was told: "You ought to see Wednesday evening!" On Wednesday evening, the church brings many poor children to various activities--including a good supper. Their children's ministry goal is to "teach children the Scriptures in a loving and safe environment." On the church website is this test of excellent children's programming: "Do your children run across the parking lot to church?"
The epistle reading for the fourth Sunday in Lent, Ephesians 2:1-10, concludes with these words: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Central Baptist Church has determined that caring for children in poverty will be a congregational priority. They will train workers, staff activities, devote building and budget, and hire an energetic young woman to lead the program--all because they want to follow Jesus in welcoming the children. The "good works" of this congregation will bear enduring fruit in the lives of these children, and in the meantime, the church is being renewed through its missional outreach.
Molly T. Marshall