by Debbonnaire Kovacs
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Submitted February 5, 2014
“The kids saw the cameras in church, and thought, ‘Hey, that might be cool—I’d like to do that!’” says Pastor Randy Maxwell of the Kuna, Idaho, Seventh-day Adventist church. “We had adult camera operators, but we started having problems keeping the schedule full. Sometimes we had to put one or two of the three cameras in a fixed position. Some kids stepped up and said ‘we’d like to try.’ When other kids saw this happening, they got interested, so we had a training, and they do a pretty decent job!”
The Kuna church has approximately 400 members, and a typical attendance of half that, which is fairly large for an Adventist church, especially in a community whose population is only 15,000, and most of that is recent growth. Being a larger church, it’s not unusual that they make use of technology such as power points, video-taping their services, and having a web presence. It’s also not entirely unusual that young people who have grown up with this technology are the ones who run it.
What drew me to this story, reported in the Gleaner in October, 2013, was that it was the kids’ idea. I was also surprised by the ages. There are certainly college-age and older members involved in this media ministry, as Pastor Maxwell calls it, but there are also nine- and eleven-year-olds.
I decided to call Maxwell and ask more questions about the role of children and youth in his church. He said that he believes that all believers should be working in their church, one way or another. So when they are baptized, no matter what age, he asks them what they want to do. “We had an 8th grader that got baptized last Thanksgiving, and that was one of the first things he wanted to do—work with the technology.”
Maxwell points out that working with children is a different matter from working with adults. They can have shorter attention spans, or lose their focus, or need to go to the restroom. The church has set things up in such a way (and has enough eager volunteers) that kids can spell each other.
“Our church has always been very pro-kid and we looked for ways to engage the children in the service so that they feel a part and they feel that they’re contributing. They feel important, needed, that they’re making a contribution. The earlier we can give them a sense of ownership, the better. That will carry over in their future lives and ministries,” said Maxwell.
He commented that it was when he was doing interviews for the Gleaner article https://gleanernow.com/news/2013/10/kuna-kids-reach-beyond-children%E2%80%99s-story that he realized it was having even more of an impact on the kids than he had expected. They said things about helping to do God’s work, that they were spreading the word, and that Jesus “is glad” and “is proud of me.”
There are adults overseeing the things that the kids and youth are doing. For example, the head of the church’s live stream ministry is an elder, the manager of their KTSY radio station. “But the actual brains of it, the one who has put together the core of the computer stuff and everything is a young college student by the name of Joshua Fieldstad. He helps with upgrades, knows how to run the switch and archive the videos… Then there’s Michael Whitsun, I think a senior in high school—he knows how to do everything!”
The church’s technology reaches beyond power points in sermons or video cameras in the sanctuary. “We always encourage people at the beginning of the sermon to go on Facebook and Twitter and tell people the service is beginning. We have a live chat feature on our online stream, and we’re in evangelism right now, so after the sermon I have something we call ‘the conversation.’ We open the floor for comments and questions—and during that time, in addition to whatever is coming live from the audience, the online viewers are able to chat in their questions. We get questions every week. Our live stream is up and we have 50-60 people online watching. Some of those are our members, of course, but there are also some from out of state and out of the country—we have regulars from Australia, Africa, and all across the US. We also have a special Facebook page where we have a ‘community conversation’ and people can dialogue and talk back to us.”
Maxwell’s daughter, Danielle, who is 21, is now doing video editing. “We could archive,” says Maxwell, “but not edit, or pull out YouTube teasers and so on. She’s good at that and has just come on board.”
Other ways children and youth minister in the Kuna church are by reading Scripture, helping with children’s church and nursery care during evangelistic meetings, passing the microphone during prayer and praise request time, and so on. Maxwell’s oldest daughter, Candi Zappia, is the head of the music ministry, and the praise team is “quite blended between older and younger singers and instrumentalists.” During the week, there are small groups meeting in people’s homes to discuss and share the thoughts from the evangelistic series, and young adults make some of the willing hosts.
In other outreach, there are two apartment complexes near the church, and Kuna members have been reaching out to one for a year. They began with Thanksgiving baskets that included an invitation to a pancake breakfast. Then they took Christmas baskets, and eventually an Easter basket which included a story about the resurrection, written by Pastor Maxwell. “We just do it to make friends. After a year, we did a prayer walk, and people knew who we were and were willing to engage and pray with us.” This year, they’ve begun on the second complex.
“Kids,” says Maxwell, “are our main footmen for distributing flyers and baskets, with adult chaperonage. Typically, it’s the entire Junior class. And they love it! They’re not scared, they’re not shy, they’ll knock on any door, and when we run out of baskets, they say, ‘Aren’t there any more?’”
Baskets and invitations usually include web links. “If we can get them to check us out and check in on the live stream, that will break down some of the mystery and make them more likely to come visit us sometime.”
That’s probably true. The face-to-face friendships Kuna members are developing will make people feel even more welcome. And it might be that the eager faces of children who love their church and feel that they are an important part of God’s kingdom could be the most appealing invitation of all.
The church’s website–https://myflock.com/cgi-bin/menu.pl?churchid=church4921
Their Facebook page–https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kuna-Seventh-day-Adventist-Church/141941442519605