Theri Santos Recognized with 2021 Excellence in Ministry Award

At the closing session of the 2021 Institute of Children’s Ministry (ICM) on Sunday, November 7, 2021, two individuals were presented with the Kathryn H. Creasy Excellence in Ministry Award. The award, which was first announced at the 2019 ICM, was intended to be an annual award presented at ICM and during International Children’s Ministries’ activities at the biennial International Assembly. With the cancellation of the 2020 Assembly, the award presentation was not able to be made, although the recipient had already been selected.

Below are comments made by International Children’s Ministries Director, Dr. Shaun McKinley, when introducing Theri Santos as one of this year’s recipients:

At the 2019 Institute of Children’s Ministry, I introduced a new award, to be presented annually, from International Children’s Ministries. Abi Avila was the recipient of the first-ever Kathryn H. Creasy Excellence in Ministry Award, an award that recognizes those leaders among us who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributionsthat advance our mission of developing leaders who impact kids. The recipient of this award is selected by the International Director.

This morning, it is my honor to present this year’s award to another worthy recipient. She is someone who I have only gotten to know in the past year; however, her reputation preceded her. I have long heard about her remarkable training and outreach ministry.

Today’s recipient grew up in a home that modeled Christian service. Her mother was a Sunday School teacher and would often call on her to assist her in the ministry. At the age of 13, she along with her mother, took a teacher training course. And at that same time, God called her to be a missionary. She soon stepped up to take on the role as teacher of the 3-year-olds, leading a team of two adult helpers. Recently, she recalled having a love to present dramatic Bible stories that involved children in the learning experience—something that she continues to do to today.

From those humble beginnings, God would open doors for our recipient to lead a cutting-edge training ministry while serving as the missionary God called her to be.

Theri Santos has been serving the Lord in children´s ministry for the last 38 years. When she arrived for the first time in Ecuador in 1994, she immediately saw a great need for teacher training and Biblical resources for the local church. She found the Ecuadorian children receptive to the message of the Gospel and has since personally led thousands of children to Christ. In the past decade, the fruits of her labor have begun to become apparent as children´s ministries associated with her work have progressed significantly and pastors have become much more supportive of this work.

As founder and president of New Generation Foundation, Theri has been serving in this ministry since 2006. The Foundation’s projects include: teacher training, Christian education resources, child evangelism and discipleshiptools, and social projects. Since 2016, she has been an international missionary in Ecuador and became credentialed with the Church of God of Prophecy. She has had the opportunity travel and teach with Children’s Ministries in several countries of South America, serving as a translator and speaker in our international institutes. Theri also served as the National Director of Children´s Ministries in Ecuador (COGOP) from 2010 to 2016. In the last year, she has joined the International Children’s Ministries Advisory Team.

Last year, Theri started an online program for kids called, “Story Zone,” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using this program, she reaches children in all of Latin America through REDTVE, teaching them Christian values through the creative arts. Additionally, she organized a shoe drive for children living in a town called, “La Sequita” which took place in February 2021. 50 children and their parents accepted the Lord during that event.

Over the last 15 years, through the work of the New Generation Foundation, Theri has trained an average of 350 teachers per year, and a total of 5,000 altogether. As national leader of Children´s Ministry in Ecuador, she trained and graduated an additional 130 volunteers.

When asked what defines a leader, Theri said, “A leader is someone who is compelled by a cause or calling and has the vision and impulse to rally their team together to meet a specific goal, in spite of the obstacles that may come their way. A leader must be creative, self-motivated, hardworking and sensitive to the needs and feelings of the members of their group in order to successfully complete their mission.” Theri Santos is the personification of this perfect definition.

Theri’s vision for her ministry is to continue to work to change hearts and minds regarding the importance of children´s ministry in Latin America. She also feels compelled to challenge leaders to do their part in order to prepare children for Christ´s return. Through social projects she desires to touch many communities with the love of Jesus through donations to meet specific needs, as well as creative evangelistic presentations using puppets, drama, dance, and storytelling.

ICM would you help me celebrate this gifted leader, Theri Santos, as the 2021 recipient of the Kathryn H. Creasy Excellence in Ministry Award.

Santos received her award to a standing ovation from the audience. To view video of the presentation, click here.