Brushing Up on Scripture
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But in 2015, after Kennedy became lead pastor of SouthGate Church in South Bend, Indiana, he realized not just children needed to improve their biblical literacy.
The 90-year-old church had discontinued Sunday School 20 years earlier. As with many 21st century congregations, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening adult discipleship opportunities also had dwindled. Kennedy, 55, didn’t believe the Sunday morning sermon allowed adequate time for developing thorough knowledge of the Bible.
Unfamiliarity with the Scriptures is an ongoing problem in American churches. AG General Superintendent Doug Clay has made biblical literacy a priority.
Kennedy initially thought about adapting JBQ as a teaching tool, but thought some adults might balk at the notion. Then he hit upon a new idea to help those at SouthGate learn more about the Bible.
Referring to Strong Enough to Last, a book by Children’s Ministries co-director David Boyd, Kennedy saw the solution as the Fact-Pak. It had potential to help develop goals such as response to worship, boldness in faith, and biblical fluency, not just for children, but for the entire congregation. Kennedy also wanted to encourage close family atmosphere opportunities for adults, teens, and children to interact around the shared content. The church launched the program with adults and teens in 2017, and with children shortly afterward.
Each family is given a Fact-Pak. Because reviewing the entire set of 576 questions could be overwhelming, every two months Elevate Kids Director Kayla Pierce uses the question generator tool to spotlight 25 examples of varying difficulty. Each new set is featured as a church bulletin insert, and parents receive games based on the questions to engage with their children.
“Interacting with parents really motivates our kids,” says Pierce. “They love knowing facts their parents may miss! And parents say they are challenged to learn more about the Bible when they play.”
Pierce incorporates the topics into the children’s lessons and creates fun challenges. Volunteers take turns doing a life application video about one question each week for the church Facebook page. Other questions may complement a current sermon series.
College students also are involved. Missionary Associate Nicole Rheaume attends SouthGate with several Chi Alpha Campus Ministries members from the Indiana University South Bend campus. The church eventually did start a Junior Bible Quiz team as well.
Early on, Kennedy and his wife, Becky, invited a neighbor child, Megan, to attend church with her family. Megan became especially close to children’s ministry volunteer Kristen Atkins. Megan told her mom, Sarah Owens, she wanted to know Jesus just like the five daughters of Atkins: Leighann, Elaine, Maci, Isabella, and Josie.
“We are so glad we finally made the overdue decision to find a church community for our family!” Owens says.
The SouthGate staff and volunteers encourage other churches to think creatively about increasing biblical literacy.
“We have some really good tools in our Fellowship,” Kennedy says. “It’s time to be more expansive in our application of them.”