It Worked for Us
The Rev. Melissa Meyers asked, "What can we do for kids to help them with life skills and create a place of wonder?" Her answer: Offer cooking and art classes.
Twelve attended when Meyers, pastor at Faith United Methodist Church in Genoa, Illinois, first invited the children for a cooking lesson during vacation Bible school in 2015. Seeing the interest sparked, Meyers and church members organized to offer the 90-minute classes weekly.
Each Wednesday evening, 28-49 children gather to peel and chop vegetables with kid-friendly knives and do other prep work. Meyers then demonstrates how to cook the meals in the kitchen with the older youngsters actually cooking.
Children and their parents then enjoy the meals of pizza, tacos, salads, pineapple salsa, cupcakes and many other delicious dishes. "The parents love it, and they appreciate that their kids are excited," said Meyers.
"I can make it with my own hands and taste it with my own mouth," said 8-year-old Kelly.
On some Sunday afternoons, families and single adults attend cooking classes.
Offered in rotation with the Wednesday cooking classes are art classes for preschoolers through sixth graders. Twenty to 60 creative artists do projects while youth help. Sometimes the fun gets messy, Meyers said. One night they threw paint-filled balloons onto an empty canvas to create art. They also learn about artists like Vincent Van Gogh and do projects related to their work.
Art class offers more time for conversations said Meyers. A young girl spoke to Meyers about her grandmother dying and how sad she felt for her mother and family as they were grieving.
The church received a $3,000 grant from the Northern Illinois conference for food and art supplies. Church members donated utensils and other items. "We may not talk about Jesus, but we are acting like Jesus," said Meyers.
"The church is a safe place and a place of wonder."
Christine Kumar is a freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference.