By: Steven H. Atherton
But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14.
This year’s conference has now come to an end, for the children as well as the adults. Each year, we seek to come up with a plan for the conference that will work well for the many children who come out to the Ranch with their parents. 2016’s “Grace Ranch Olympics” was a huge success so it was with a little trepidation that we started planning this year’s activities.
Unlike many places, the children participate in our regular services and Bible studies, together with their parents. At this year’s services, for example, in order to underscore that which the people had been learning about the distinctive roles of husbands and wives, parents and children during the daily seminars on practical Christianity, we anointed the husbands in attendance, who then in turn anointed their wives, who then joined together to anoint their children. This exercise, in submission to the ways of the Lord brought families together (often in a new way) that was mightily blessed.
We do know that children can get a little rambunctious so we kept the length of our services down to about an hour. Our daily seminars on practical Christianity, however, were frequently longer so we organized coloring and similar activities for the children to engage in quietly while they listened. We also provided the children ample time to get outside and play.
Some of that play time was free time for the children to get together in groups of their choosing to play various games. (For many this is a particular blessing because the annual Ministers Conference is a time to reunite with their friends.) Often parents engaged as well, leading a group on a rock hounding expedition or taking a group of children on a hike to the stock tank to climb trees, build forts and look for wildlife.
Other play time was directed. This year, in an echo of last year’s Olympics, we organized individual and/or team competitions involving running, biking and playing games. We also did calisthenics, jump roping and had water balloon fights!
Getting in from the heat of the sun is also important so we organized many indoor activities. This year, the children built things out of clay, played pass the parcel, watched movies and played cards or board games.
In order to see to it that the children were not left behind in any good thing that the Lord had for them, we had a daily meeting exclusively for the children. My sister Robin led those meetings. She asked the children to share what they had learned in the previous evening’s service and reviewed the principle points in simple terms. Those proved both fun for the children and profitable in the Lord. Before the end of this year’s conference, one of the young teenagers chose to enter into discipleship training for the ministry and others were baptized.
In short, a good time was had by all. Children received the attention they need. No parent was overwhelmed and we all had the opportunity to learn and be enriched by one another.