A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHILDREN'S MINISTRIES
Work in the 1800s
While Children's Ministries did not become a full fledged department of the General Conference until 1995, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had long recognized the importance of ministering to children even back in the 1800's. Work for children began in 1863 when Adelia Patten wrote a two-year series of lessons for children. In 1852-even before the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded-James White began publishing the Youth's Instructor, published lessons for children, most of which centered around biblical history and narrative Bible stories. In 1869 G. H. Bell wrote a series of lessons for children.
Work in the Early 1900s
In 1890 the magazine Our Little Friend began carrying the Sabbath School lessons for primary and kindergarten children, which lasted for 67 years. In 1957 Our Little Friend began to publish Sabbath School lessons for cradle roll children together with the kindergarten children. Sabbath School lessons for primary children appeared in a new publication, Primary Treasure, in 1957. Sabbath School quarterlies for primary and junior ages started in Australia in 1911-1913, and soon more quarterlies were produced for children for the rest of the English-speaking world. From 1933 to 1936 a series of five volumes called Bible Stories for the Cradle Roll appeared. Other curriculum materials for children appeared periodically, both from the General Conference Sabbath School Department and from active and enthusiastic teachers and personnel in local Sabbath Schools around the world.
In the 1970s, Howard Rampton, Tom Ashlock, and Curtis Barger were developing children's Sabbath School materials. In the 1960s through the 1980s several women in the General Conference Sabbath School Department, who had a passion for children, also developed materials for them. They were Louise Myers, Alice Lowe, Maureen Luxton, and Helen Craig.
The Sabbath School Department produced program books for the Cradle Roll and Kindergarten levels. A new Bible lessons curriculum was developed for Cradle Roll, Kindergarten, and Primary children. A new Vacation Bible School program was developed, with pencil activities being placed in Our Little Friend and Primary Treasure.
Children's work under Church Ministries
At the 1985 General Conference session in New Orleans, the Church Ministries Department was created, which was formed from a merger of four departments: Sabbath School, Lay Activities, Stewardship, Youth, and Home and Family Service.
The Church Ministries Department, in cooperation with the Review and Herald and Pacific Press Publishing Associations, produced Sabbath school lessons, program helps, and teaching aids for Cradle Roll, Kindergarten, Primary, Junior, and Earliteen Sabbath School departments. The Mission quarterly was also produced for children.
From 1985-1990, children's ministries received its impetus from the vision and prompting of Helen Craig, former Sabbath School associate director for children's Sabbath School, Vacation Bible School, and child evangelism. From 1990-1995, Virginia Smith led out in the work for children's ministries as one of the various support ministries of the Church Ministries Department.
Emergence of the Department
The 1995 General Conference session at Utrecht marks a watershed for children's ministries. On July 4, 1995, A. H. Tolhurst proposed from the floor that a Children's Ministries Department be established as a separate ministry-a separate general department of the Church. It was seconded and voted, and Children's Ministries became the newest department of the Church, the only department in history to be suggested from the floor at a session.
Subsequently, Virginia Smith from the Church Ministries Department became the director of the newly formed Children's Ministries Department from 1995-2002. From 2003 to the present,
Linda Mei Lin Koh has been the director of this department.
Since the organization of the department in 1995, there has been an increased understanding of the need to minister to children. Leaders and members have become more passionate about children's ministry. Children are being trained to preach, witness and serve in the community. Many activities are organized for them, such as Bible camps children's congresses, community service projects, stewardship camps, etc. Many children have been baptized into the church. Today, Children's Ministries has become a worldwide ministry with every division in the world field having a director to oversee the work of spiritual nurturing and training of children.
For nurturing the children in their faith journey, each year the department produces many resources. For example, Michael Ask Why, Ellen White's Great Controversy was adapted for children and was published in 2000; God Loves Me 28 Ways, book and music based on the 28 fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, was published in 2004; and many more.
Children's Ministries is preparing children who will be our future leaders-future conference president, pastors, missionaries, teachers, doctors, etc. They need to grounded in a faith that will carry them on to the next century. Tomorrow's leaders, tomorrow's missionaries, or tomorrow's members begin with Today's children!
In the year 2000, a new resource, Michael Ask Why, Ellen White's Great Controversy was adapted for children and was published by the Children's Ministries department. At the same time, a new children's Bible curriculum was written for the world church by the Sabbath School & Personal Ministries Department. This was a product of creative thinking and evaluation by many people from all the world divisions. Known as GraceLink, this new curriculum stresses four core aspects of the Christian faith:
- Grace, God's part in the plan of salvation;
- Worship, our response to God's saving initiative;
- Community, how God's grace compels us to live together in harmony as the family of God; and
- Service, our response to God's love as we reach out in soul winning and service to others.
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