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Ian Hartland

The wonder of Sportshall 2

Every July since 2012, in University of Ulster Jordanstown, Elim churches in Ireland come together for Wondrous - six nights and five days of high-quality ministry in all its forms. Running alongside our evening celebrations and morning Bible studies is our kids’ ministry run by Generation Next, the Kids ministry department for Elim in Ireland.

It’s the job of the Generation Next team to make sure our local churches kids’ ministries are encouraged, valued and equipped to live in the call God has placed on them as teams and individuals. In 2012, our then leader, Charlotte Curran, was given a space called Sportshall 2 and what she created in that space was a place where our kids could grow in and encounter God. It has continued to be such a space ever since.

stage

Two years ago, I took over Generation Next at Wondrous and what happens in this space never ceases to amaze me or any of our leaders year on year. This is not only an amazing space for kids to encounter God but also it’s our greatest training platform. It gives our volunteers opportunities to serve in spaces where they wouldn’t ordinarily do so, in a comfortable, encouraging and family feel environment where we teach that it's OK to fail, make mistakes and take risks. During this time we have the greatest opportunity to help our volunteers grow and develop their skills as they return to their home church and community.

In the hall, we have also developed a more comprehensive SEN space where our special kids not only have their own space with their allocated one to one team member, but they also offer sensory stories and activities the same as what is going on in the hall, but on a level they can get the most from. Our one to one team volunteers are encouraged to try and get their kids to interact with the rest of the kids and program rather than have them excluded so they have a tangible connection to what’s going on and feel a part of the group.

Through all of the information we gathered over the last six months through Kids’ ministry consultation meetings with a good number of our local churches’ kids teams we noticed a trend in the desire of our churches to see kids being able to reach other kids with the gospel and that was our focus in building this year’s program.

kids2

T.O.Y.S. (Tell Others Your Story) was born. We decided to help our kids understand that it’s not just through the words we say but by the way we live that creates the most opportunities to tell others about Jesus. During Wondrous week we looked at the power of forgiveness, friendship, words, kindness and integrity. On the final night, we looked at how the Holy Spirit gives us the power and ability to go and share the good news of Jesus with our friends and families.

Like most holiday clubs, we build our program around the main point and reinforce it through every other medium we offer, worship, Bible stories, memory verses, quizzes, craft, blackboard ministry time, etc. The most important part of our program is to give our kids an opportunity to respond to what they have heard. We believe as a team that to share a message with anyone and not allowing them to respond is defeating the purpose of why the lesson is so important.

Life application is a key to kids growing, hearing and living for God. This is why we believe response time is so important and every year we see God do incredible things through our kids and leaders. No one has been more impacted by this space than me.

leaders

In 2012, on a Wednesday night in Sportshall 2, I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. Yes me! Every year we watch our kids encounter God in so many ways and this year was no different from kids giving their lives to God for the first time and those using the tools we give through teaching to help them solve issues in their every day and communicate Jesus.

Here are some of their testimonies:

This year we had two of our Limitless Kids team serving with us, from Tuesday to Friday, and Bex Roberts’ first encounter with one of our kids was when a child spoke to her for the first time and said, “I gave my heart to Jesus on Sunday night.”

 
So many parents contacted us letting us know that their kids had received Jesus for the first time and as a team, we rejoiced over little lives changed and saved forever.

Another parent contacted us regarding an issue her child had after Wondrous had finished. Her message went like this:

Thanks team for all you’ve done this week. Just wanted to share this little story with you. My daughter was out playing with her friends in our street and although it’s not like her, she said something that hurt wee twins that she’s friends with. They went home crying. My daughter came into me crying because she hadn’t meant to hurt them. I told her that I thought she already knew what she should do. She told me that this was a chance to put into action what she’d learnt at Generation Next this week when you were talking about the “Power of Integrity”, and away she went, tears and all to apologise! Thankfully they’re best of friends again. You guys are really impacting our kids with what you do, thank you.

 
A parent of one of our SEN kids sent us this:

Thanks guys for all you’ve put into this week. My little one is learning more than ever and is happy to discuss the stories she’s learned over the last week. It such a blessing to know my kids are in the care of people who not only love them but want God’s very best for them.

 
As I conclude never underestimate the power of relationship and encouragement within any team or group of kids. God has given each of us the ability to communicate Him in so many different ways but as leaders, the best skills to have to get the very best out of your team is relationship and encouragement. Our focus as a team is 1 Thessalonians 5 v 11 “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” When team and kids know you value and care for them they will give and do so much more. It creates the environment God wants us all to serve in.

Sportshall 2 carries a special place in each of our hearts. We’ve seen leaders grow, develop and serve on a whole new level. We’ve seen kids encounter God and step out in faith in ways that only God can empower them to accomplish. We’ve seen our kids grow up and return to serve, on a team, in a place where they encountered God for themselves.

It’s such a special space every year and yet for the next 51 weeks, it’s just Sportshall 2. Frankly, I can’t wait to return and see what God has in store for us all next year as He fills Sportshall 2 again with His presence. Wondrous 2020 from 19-24 July 2020.

About the author

Ian Harland is the Generation Next leader, the kid's department of Elim Ireland.

He has pioneered primary schools ministry for his local church over the last few years and also works with community kids on a weekly basis. His heart and passion is to see kids encounter the love and keeping power of Jesus Christ. Also, that every volunteer, in kids’ ministry, truly understands their value in working with kids and to see each volunteer empowered and developed to reach their full potential as they serve kids and use their gifts to impact and encourage others to do the same.

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