International Children’s Ministries Hosts Inaugural Leadership Summit

On September 22-24, 2022, Church of God of Prophecy children’s ministry leaders, regional/state children’s ministry directors, and two administrative bishop couples from the United States gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, for the inaugural International Children’s Ministries Leadership Summit. The Summit was held in conjunction with the Child Discipleship Forum (CDF), a gathering organized by Awana, a global child and youth discipleship leader in 134 countries. Invitations to the Summit were extended to all state/regional bishops and state children’s ministries directors in North America.

For the first two days of the Summit, COGOP leaders gathered with around 500 other leaders from local churches, denominations, publishers, and parachurch organizations to hear a series of presentations on topics such as child discipleship and children’s ministry, as well as the challenges confronting today’s families in the areas of technology, gender and sexuality, and race.

COGOP participants remained for a day of processing and strategic planning on the third day. Mike Handler, Chief Innovation Officer at Awana, and Melanie Hester, Partner Communication Specialist of Awana, met with us to guide a debriefing discussion. They also presented a workshop on Awana’s discipleship model, which centers around their core 3 B’s of Discipleship, “Believe,” “Belong,” and “Become.”

Following a lunch provided by International Children’s Ministries, International Director Dr. Shaun McKinley led a strategic planning session guiding attendees through a series of activities that led to the development of an action roadmap to advance the ministry’s strategic priority of child discipleship in the Church of God of Prophecy. Goals were set for the next six months, twelve months, and five years.

“I desire to expand the mission of International Children’s Ministries beyond Leadership Development to include more intentional resourcing in discipleship training and formation,” said McKinley. “The Leadership Summit provided a great springboard for action. Within the next three months, we will share more about a newly formed Child Discipleship Council that will serve our ministries by advising our team on discipleship strategies and tools for local church ministry.”

Denise Junkin, state director of Children’s Ministries in Alabama, was in attendance. Junkin said, “We may be from different states, regions, and countries, but we all have the same heart, discipling children. I am grateful to learn and vision cast with these amazing people.”

Eliette Garcia, a member of the International Children’s Ministries Global Advisory Team, overcame challenges associated with Hurricane Fiona to attend the Summit. “As I sit down and reflect on these past few days, I am hopeful of the future,” says Garcia. “Not only was I ministered by the speakers, but I think what most touched my heart was the camaraderie; learning during our open table discussions that what I am experiencing at my church and country is happening all around. While it saddens me, I am also encouraged to know I am not alone and that together, we can grow and help COGOP move forward. We are at a pivotal time when shifts and changes need to occur to reconcile the world to Christ…”