What a Year It Has Been
A Connections interview with Cheryce Berg, director of children's ministires
A year ago, Cheryce Berg stepped into her role as director of children’s ministries. She had been on the job for six weeks when COVID hit. We recently talked to Cheryce about her rather unusual first year.
Prior to the pandemic, what were some of your goals and dreams for children’s ministries?
My first goal was to listen—to volunteers, to parents, to children and to the children’s ministry team. I wanted to connect with children outside of College Church and to help children within our church to make the transfer from the wealth of head knowledge to heart knowledge. I wanted to dream up new space configurations that would allow for both large group teaching and small groups at all the age levels. I also wanted to support family discipleship.
Then came the pandemic and the strict stay-home orders in the spring. How did CM and Kids' Harbor adapt to all this?
We went to our volunteers and asked them to record Bible school lessons for us to post online for the children. We created yard signs with Psalm 56:3—When I am afraid, I put my trust in you—to help give hope to people. We printed postcards and wrote one to each child in our ministry. Our volunteers sent postcards and birthday notes to children in their ministries. We checked in with our volunteers and invited them to co-host online classes for children and their parents. My team and I also read recorded Bible stories.
And we prayed, a lot. One of the most helpful gifts for me has been a weekly Zoom call with five or six local children’s ministry directors, where we share ideas and pray for each other. I have loved collaborating with these directors, especially as we’ve exchanged ideas about reopening plans. We are stronger when we share ideas. The children’s directors are from Wheaton Bible Church, Christ Community in St. Charles, Chapelstreet in Geneva, Village Bible, Harvest Bible as well as First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton.
What were the biggest challenges at the early stage of the pandemic, and how have things changed from then to now?
At the start of the pandemic, the biggest challenge was how to stay connected to the children and families in our ministry when we didn’t see them every week. It was especially hard for me since I had only a little over a month to start meeting parents and to get to know their children. I didn’t have time to build a foundation for these relationships.
Things have improved since we began to regather in September, but we still only have a small portion of children attending Kids’ Harbor, and there are still so many families I don’t know.
The next biggest challenge was the months spent planning when we would regather and at the same time implementing a new curriculum. The children’s ministries team worked hard all summer to get the classrooms and hallways ready for a safe return as well as get our volunteers ready to use a completely different curriculum and new technology.
With the school year now in place, what are plans for the summer and the Summer Institute of Children’s Ministries (aka SICM)?
Those are in the works. I have tweaked the program and am working on hiring a small team of college students to learn and serve. Stay tuned.
The word “joy” isn’t associated with COVID-19, but what joys or surprises did you discover along the way?
Incredibly gifted and flexible teachers, the strength of the children’s ministry team I work with, each with different gifts. The desire of parents to help “do it themselves,” which I love because it strengthens the family. The pandemic gave me the gift of time to learn my new position. It was a gift of a reset to explore new ideas. Another surprise was the fun of the Gospel Project curriculum and its excellent resources for families who choose to stay home.
Now that Kids’ Harbor is open, how are the volunteers doing in classrooms that look and feel different? What are some of your observations as you walk the Kids’ Harbor hallways on Sundays and Wednesdays?
Our volunteers are amazing. They are willing to wear masks as they teach. We’ve brought them through the ringer with all the changes, and they don’t complain. They keep on teaching about Jesus Christ every single week and it’s incredible.
The children love being here. I am amazed that even our little two- and three-year-olds wear masks and fidget less with theirs than I do mine. The children come running in to the classrooms and are reluctant to leave. I think they are so hungry to be together again, like we all are. And we don’t want to miss the opportunity to teach them about Jesus in any way we can.
What are some ways you’re supporting your volunteers as well as the Kids’ Harbor families?
We send out a weekly enews to both groups with helpful ideas and information. Our team visits each classroom multiple times and looks for ways to help. We hope we’re welcoming when families check in. I have a giant list with the names of every child and volunteer in Kids’ Harbor, and each day I pray for part of that list.
For the older kids, we post sermon questions in advance of Sunday for parents to read the passage and discuss it with their kids. We offer links to the curriculum for families to view and learn together at home. We adjust the curriculum on our end to make it best serve our Kids’ Harbor mission and vision.
And that mission is?
Equip and embolden families to walk as children of light.
With that in mind, do you have any advice and encouragement for parents? For volunteers?
Parents, if you have more time with your kids in this season, ask God to show you how to better teach them the gospel. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. It means reading the Bible together, talking about it, singing about Jesus, praying together, and then, applying the truths of Scripture together. I want to encourage parents to ask your questions, so we know how to help and pray with you. Introduce yourselves to my team and me—we want to build relationships with you. And volunteers? Be encouraged that the seeds you are faithfully planting will bear fruit by the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t give up.
Finally, on a personal note, what has God been showing you in all of this?
God continues to show me that even when everything else changes all the time, he does not. When I feel inadequate. He is not. When I make mistakes, he does not. When I see only fog ahead, he does not. He is unchanging, all-powerful, perfect and wise. He also gives grace and mercy for each day.
What a Year It Has Been