Calvary Baptist Church in Gravenhurst runs a program that is going into its third year this September called Growing Together. The program consists of about 25 church volunteers and 60 parents and children ages 0-12 from the community. It goes from Sept to Nov, and Jan till May. Following is a summary of how the program works.
The philosophy of the Growing Together Program is to be a blessing to families with children ages 0 – 12 years of age in our local community by sharing with them a taste of life in the Kingdom of God. We want the citizens of our community to experience the love of God, the life of Jesus and the power of His Spirit through His people. We want them to feel safe, to feel welcome and wanted, to be refreshed after a long day, and find a place for both children and adults to grow, to develop, and as opportunity permits, learn more about how special they are in God’s kingdom.
The program which is offered freely one night a week (5:30-7:15 p.m.) consists of three main parts.
A full course and nourishing supper meal where families sit down at a table and eat together with one of our church family functioning as a coach.
- After supper for one hour the children are in age appropriate programs with program staff assisting them in developmental activities such as school homework, crafts, stories, and games.
- For one hour the parents have their own program where they form a study and discussion group on topics related to raising children, running a home, and getting along with their partners/spouses.
Normally parents are not invited unless they bring their children, and children are not invited unless they are accompanied by at least one parent.
Staffing: Church family can volunteer in one of four areas.
1. Food Services: This involves working as a team member in preparing food, serving, and cleaning up the kitchen and eating areas afterwards.
2. Program Staff: This involves planning activities, or assisting in teaching or leading activities in either the children or adult areas of the program.
3. Helpers: Their role involves assisting in the supervision and directing of the children as well as supporting the program staff in whatever areas that are required. They must be assigned to program staff.
4. Coaches: The coach’s role is primarily required at the dinner table. In this role the coach becomes the face of the church, the face of a Christian and the face of a helper and friend to one family. They sit with the same family each week.
The coach should fulfill the following three roles:
a) The coach in the role of a helper assists the parents in the practical areas of helping the children to bring their food to the table or to go to the serving line and bring the beverages back to the table themselves. For younger children, they may require assistance in cutting up their food or cleaning up minor spills. The role of the coach here is to try to make the dinner experience as easy and as pleasant as possible.
b) The coach in the role of a friend gets to know each member of the family and takes an interest in them, and not just on program nights, but all year long. This means promoting lively conversation at the table, celebrating birthdays and special events in the lives of the family, taking an interest in their school activities and periodically contacting the family over the summer as a friend of the family. As the coach becomes aware of the special needs of the family, they should contact church leaders to access the needed resources.
c) The coach in the role of a facilitator slowly assists the family to become integrated into the life of the church. This involves inviting them to church services, special events, explaining their faith and answering their questions. The coach should never push their faith on the families but foster their curiosity and be ready to give an answer as to why there is so much joy, kindness and love everywhere. In this role the coach should regularly bring this family to the Lord in prayer and periodically pray with the family in times of crises or special concerns.
Food Box: The food box is a large chest whereby church members put in groceries on a weekly basis so that families on program nights can take home one bag of needed groceries.
Toy and Clothing Exchange: The church has put aside a room where anyone can bring in used toys and children’s clothing. Others may take what they need from the room. The Exchange is now open one morning a week for community people who are not part of the Growing Together Program.
Benevolent Program: As we learn of family difficulties we have assisted in the payment of hydro/water/heating bills, have distributed gift certificates to grocery stores, and have assisted in the payment of fees for a professional Christian counselor for families on the verge of breakup.
Church Family Picnic/Corn Roast: At various times of the year, those enrolled in the Growing Together Program are invited to attend church family events such as picnics and corn roasts which encourages everyone to get to know one another better.
Reverend George Johnston is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Contact him for more details on this program.