The pandemic. If I never hear those words again in my lifetime, that will be all right. So much had to change seemingly overnight: people were working from home, schools were closed and teachers had to learn to teach online, sports games were stopped, restaurants had to close their doors, people were urged to attend churches “online” and church attendance plummeted.
Central Baptist Church, Sarnia, was affected like the other Baptist churches. When attendance plummeted during the pandemic, it never really did recover completely. Sunday School attendance was zero. Our Youth Group attendance was zero. The overall feel of the church was one of hopelessness, uncertainty (how do we get people back in the pews, can we afford the upkeep of our building particularly when most of it is unused or used as storage), and fear for the future.
You see, another group that was severely impacted by the two years off, was the children Grades JK to Grade 2, and it really showed in the lag in the children’s reading. The children who missed the JK/SK years missed the foundations in language and word recognition, and despite what parents were told, the teachers simply didn’t have the time to teach them to read.
The Learning & Growth Ministries at our church was busy investigating ways we could make a difference in our community. As I helped in this investigation, none of our ideas really felt right. However, God was “on it” and used me. I woke up one morning with a reading support program fully formed in my head, including registration, mentors, scheduling, attendance records, police checks … everything I would need to run a reading support program. I was a modern-day Jonah, and had every reason not to go to Ninevah (my reading support program) but God insisted.
I presented this idea to the ministry and they were delighted. I presented this idea to the council and everyone was delighted. But it was when I spoke to the congregation about the vision I had for our church, that I noticed a difference. People were sitting up straight, heads cocked as they listened, smiles blooming on their faces … what God’s reading support program gave them was something they sorely needed … hope.
Kids Konnection – Reading Support is a weekly opportunity for a child to practice reading and receive encouragement and support from a dedicated mentor. The fact that our mentors are seniors, provides a whole different element to the interaction: the interaction of grandparent and grandchild. As a retired Ontario Certified Child & Youth Worker, this program checks off all the boxes for me.
Our one-year anniversary is in March 2023, and I would dearly love to share this program with any church anywhere. If you are interested in doing this program in your own churches, just contact me. I’d be happy to do a zoom meet with anybody anytime; I can send a video we made (including testimonials) and all the setup info you need.
Churches that are stagnant and needing a vision … I would like to give you the vision which God shared with me.
Marg Johnson, Coordinator
Kids Konnection – Reading Support