From its founding, Methodist Children’s Home has provided opportunities for children, youth and families to grow in their understanding of God’s love and in the spiritual gifts they have been given.
Through the years as MCH has adapted its programs and services to meet the needs of others, the opportunity for spiritual development through the building of intentional, meaningful and healing relationships has remained a constant.
According to Spiritual Development director Kim Clark, the Spiritual Development (SD) team serves as the local church for the MCH community.
“We are equipped to intentionally meet the youth where they are, physically, spiritually and emotionally,” she said. “It is my hope that we, as the SD team, are a tangible reminder of God’s call and that our actions, words and programs communicate the love and grace of Christ.”
Ron Britton, MCH minister, believes that SD can impact every aspect of the MCH organization.
“Spiritual Development strives to remind all people that they have purpose here that is much larger than they know,” said Britton. “Students have an opportunity to change their lives, plant faith and let it grow. The staff have a sacred call to be a part of our mission, to show the love of Christ to these students, to the community and to each other. We strive to represent Christ in the lives of everyone we are blessed to meet.”
As the team seeks to remind people of their value and potential, new programs have sprouted to allow MCH youth even more involvement with the spiritual development process at MCH.
In recent years, MCH organized a student praise team to encourage youth to claim and grow in the gifts they have been given. Interest grew and this year 60 young people applied to join the team to participate on Sundays during the MCH chapel services.
The group now makes up the worship choir, worship dance team, sound and lighting team, and supplemental vocalists, soloists, instrumentalists, Scripture readers, and rappers.
As the praise team community grew, the SD ministers formed a smaller student leadership team in January 2018 to give youth opportunities for more in-depth personal growth and leadership training.
Jill Sims, a minister on the SD team, sees the newly established student leadership team as an opportunity for an ongoing, intensive discipleship training for youth who want to learn more about being a leader.
Student Testimony – Kiayani
My life was once bad. When I was younger I was abused and bullied and was eventually taken from my situation with my younger siblings by CPS. We moved from family to family and eventually were taken by a half-sibling’s parent and I was treated like family. After a year of living with them, it became clear that the best thing for me would be to move to Methodist Children’s Home due to the trauma I had gone through. At first, it was hard to live at MCH, but it has grown on me. I have had little problems at MCH, though I am not perfect. After coming here, I started going to church. I now listen to what the pastor tells us about God and Jesus. At first, I did not care but then I started to believe that God is my Lord and Savior. Almost two years later, I can see that I might have trouble, but I can learn. I started to practice how to pray. I have started to join activities like the student leadership team, and I go to church on Sundays to worship the Lord. I am glad to be at MCH.
“Our leadership students meet once a week to discuss servant leadership, standards of behavior, the power of influence, and how to encourage others,” said Sims. “The group also focuses on exploring different types of leaders who have made a difference in local communities and around the world.”
In the summer, youth on the leadership team attended a performance featuring an artist and storyteller who used music to share personal stories of overcoming adversity as well as to advocate for social justice and equality. Youth also watched and discussed a documentary that showed how other leaders have used their God-given creative skills to lead others and evoke positive change in the world.
Providing yet another avenue for youth to be involved in spiritual formation, the SD ministers created a youth-led worship planning team.
“Our goal in building a student planning team was to bring together youth from different backgrounds who have a heart for worship, who care about the worship in our congregation and who want to see growth in our congregation,” Sims said.
“We want the students to bring their backgrounds with them to the MCH worship space to create worship that represents all MCH youth.”
Once a month, the MCH ministerial team meets for a full afternoon with the worship planning team. The SD ministers bring with them their prepared sermons for the next month while students come prepared to brainstorm and plan the upcoming worship services.
“Each student at MCH has a different background and different story to share,” said Sims. “It would be foolish to think that I, from my singular worldview, could plan a worship service for such a diverse congregation.”
The monthly planning meetings are a space for collaboration. During the meetings, SD ministers go over the planned Scriptures with the students and youth are encouraged to think critically about the words. The group works together to find sermon illustrations, supporting text, song ideas, and supplemental spiritual expressions for the sermon that they believe will connect and resonate with their peers.
“This is a chance for the whole congregation to say something to God,” Sims said. “This group gets to act as the voice that leads our congregation by the planning they do. We strive for worship that tells the truth and that accurately represents how our congregation would express it.”
Student Testimony – Madison
I have changed a lot in a good way since being at MCH. I grew up in different homes and it was very hard and I was eventually adopted. In time, my brothers and I came to MCH. When I came here I was a very shy girl but since being here people have helped me not be so shy. I have faced challenges, like no longer being with my brother, and that has been one of the hardest things ever for me. To this day things can still be hard, but while being here I have come to realize even during the toughest things ever, we shouldn’t give up. It is going to be OK because God is good and He still loves you. I’ve learned that if God takes people you love out of your life, it isn’t because of something you did, that person just might need something else and to heal in a different way. I now see that God wanted me to see what I needed to work on instead of worrying about my brother.
Beyond acting as student planners, the youth who have taken on this role grow in communication, critical thinking and relational skills, receive worship education and form an understanding about how church worship is planned.
“This is a space for youth to grow and foster new relationships, existing relationships and their spiritual relationship,” said Britton.
Complementing the process, youth at MCH are also given encouragement from other leaders in the community.
At the end of the spring 2018 semester MCH held a Student Worship Workshop. Individuals from Baylor University, Truett Seminary, Waco School of the Arts, Lake Shore Baptist Church, and MovementUP, an organization aiming to impact the lives of students, volunteered to invest in MCH youth.
The volunteers spent their time teaching, positively refining and affirming various aspects of worship that would later come together as elements of the first fully student-led worship Sunday at MCH.
Praise team students participated in other classes during the workshop, including preaching and public speaking, rap, spoken word, dramatic Scripture reading, piano, and voice. Rehearsals were held for worship choir, worship dance and the full praise team.
Student Testimony – Camray
I was born and raised in church but at the age of 8 God shined in me and came into my life. He even begun my dance ministry and over the years I’ve had a lot of growth. God has given me many opportunities here at MCH. I have learned that the devil always expects me to fail, but God has always had a plan. There are days I question everything, but I know in my heart that there is a God who has much more for me and He’s even broken chains of ungodly things. It is because of God that I am here today. The devil tries to make you fail and get you to believe that you are less than you are, but I know that I am not less than what I am. I thank God for the confidence He has given me. I enjoy being here today and I praise God.
According to SD minister Ahmad Washington, the Student Worship Workshop was a success as the youth left the day with lasting excitement and takeaways for the future.
“God has given our students glimpses of the possibilities of what they can do,” said Washington. “It appears like there is so much we cannot do, but through Christ, our students can share their story.”
When the time came for student-led Sunday, the words, “It is a new day at MCH” resounded through the Harrell Memorial Chapel on the MCH campus. The youth who had prepared the service went into action and managed all worship elements.
Additionally, leadership team students inspired by an earlier sermon series on the book of Acts and the story of The Early Church shared their testimonies with the congregation. Words of healing, freedom and growth were proclaimed through song and dance.
Washington believes there is healing found in sharing personal stories, for the storyteller and for the people who receive the story.
“It is evident that God is moving here, and there is light that is available along this journey for our youth,” he said. “We do not need to look for the light at the end of the tunnel at MCH. There is light now, where our youth are. God is here. He is sprinkling His love and grace now, giving glimpses of His glory.”
The MCH Spiritual Development team works year-round to facilitate opportunities for youth to explore and grow in their faith in new and engaging ways. Summers at MCH are full of mission trips, outings, classic recreation activities, and camps. This summer, SD also provided piano basics, preaching group, visual art as worship, music production, creation care, and mini praise team retreats.
“Our youth are capable of so much,” said Sims. “It is amazing to see our students’ grit because of the places they’ve been. When they come together, they are a community. When they work together to show God’s love, it is powerful. There is so much hope.”
Looking past all the programs and opportunities happening at MCH, it is clear to the ministers that God is present in this organization.
“God is at work in this place,” said Clark. “It takes the entire village of MCH to create Christian community. What an amazing picture of the kingdom of God: people with all different backgrounds, cultures and skill sets working together for the glory of our Creator. My hope is that in every aspect of our agency, it would be clear that we function because God has placed a call on the lives of His people to serve, love and care for others.”
Student Testimony – Akia
In my life I’ve faced many struggles and insecurities. There have been times where I questioned my worth and my life. In the 8th grade I had bad mood swings and eventually decided to stop going to school which led me to MCH. At first I didn’t want to go, but I just wanted to get away from where I was. Fast forward to now, I’ve made new friends and I’ve lost some, but I feel like my life is improving. Before MCH, I only prayed when I was in trouble, but now I pray actually just to feel acceptance. There are staff here that take time out of their day to make me feel wanted, loved and nurtured. I have met a lot of amazing people and I’m working on a gift I did not know I had. I’m just like a normal teenager, still living life and learning. I 100 percent put Jesus ahead in my life. I completely understand life is not easy and it takes time to get better. I am willing to go through it all to be successful in my life. •