What started as the idea of a group of stay-at-home mothers four decades ago has grown into a weekly tradition at Ellsworth United Methodist Church.
Kids of the Kingdom draws about half of the students of Ellsworth Elementary School, across the street from the church, for 100 minutes of music, recreation, crafts, Bible lessons, verse memorization and snacks every Wednesday afternoon after school for pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade.
“It started 40 years ago with about seven or eight children sitting around the piano, telling Bible stories and just enjoying our time together,” said Alice Robson, one of the early mothers who organized the group. “We never advertised it as such, but the kids began inviting their friends and it just kept growing year after year after year.”
The anniversary was celebrated in early April during the church’s Homecoming Sunday.
Robson said about 10% of the 120-or-so children belong to the United Methodist church, and another 25-30% belong to other churches in the central Kansas community of 3,000. The rest, she said, are unchurched.
“There’s always been a need for people to hear about the Word,” she said. “It’s got to start somewhere.”
While there is ready-made material now to work with the youngsters, in the early days lesson plans were made up by the church members, including the Fruit of the Spirit, Armor of God, the Beatitudes and Psalm 23.
In all of them, the mission was “just to show them that God loved them and had a very special plan for their lives,” Robson said.
Kids of the Kingdom has spun off into a separate group for fifth- and sixth-graders, God’s Wednesday Warriors, that meets at the nearby Presbyterian church.
“Most of those children have come up through the ranks and wanted to continue something after school that they could go to and be safe,” Robson said.
All of the volunteers at the church have been certified by Safe Gatherings, she added.
Patrick Schroeder, Ellsworth Elementary principal, said both of his children had been through Kids in the Kingdom.
“It’s definitely a fine program,” Schroeder said. “They’re doing a lot of things with it.”
Twice in the mid-2000s, the church was awarded grants from the former Kansas West Conference to provide healthy snacks to the children.
“It’s easy to buy cheap cookies and Kool-Aid, but they need something that’s nourishing and helpful for their soul,” Robson said. “We realized early on that when kids aren’t hungry, they’ll sit and listen a whole lot better.”
The students aren’t charged and there’s no offering taken, she said.
“People have just stepped forward and provided financially,” Robson said. “It’s amazing. We’ve never been in need.”
Rev. Dennis Carter, in his first year as pastor of Ellsworth/Kanopolis UMCs, helps teach the God’s Wednesday Warriors program.
“I was amazed to see so much participation,” he said. “There’s churches in Wichita that would love to have 100 kids on a Wednesday.”
David Burke, communications content specialist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.