Research shows that the number one factor for church growth is how we treat our families. However, the challenges during these times are clear. “We’ve done a good job of getting our message out through online church services or prayer service on Zoom,” acknowledged Ben Martin, Pioneer Memorial Church Family and Discipleship pastor. “But as far as nurturing the family, this has been a challenge. For some families the pandemic was a time to bond. But for some, this has been a nightmare. So, to shift focus and do something like this, where our families could connect, is healthy.” Left: Mbaiwa family. Top Right: Press family. Bottom Right: Osman family.
Here’s a proven idea from the Children’s Sabbath School leaders at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University which can be replicated in any community.
On Sabbath, February 6, dozens of families with children between the ages of 4 and 12 lined up in the Pioneer parking lot awaiting their turn to experience a drive-thru scavenger hunt. When their time came, participants received their first clue via text. But these weren’t just any clues. These were stories – thoughtfully written by Seminary Student, Nashonie Chang – that taught about the lives and work of several of our Adventist pioneers. All of these pioneers have a building named after them on the campus of Andrews University, names such as White, Bell, Horn, Griggs, Sutherland. At the end of the story clue, participants drove to the building which bears the name of the pioneer and read a brief life sketch on the person.
Upon arrival at the building, Children’s Sabbath school and other volunteers greeted the families. At each building, the families were given items relating to Sabbath school, including a craft, apples, Sabbath school magazines, the beloved smooth stones in exchange for memory verses, and a Nathan Greene postcard at the finish. Participants were also able to take part in a little service activity at one of the stops. They were given a piece of paper with a person’s name and contact information on it and were asked to contact the person – right then and there – to show them some love and give them a sense of the community that they may be missing due to the pandemic.
To add to the fun of the adventure, there was a prize drawing at the end. Three lucky families received either an Adventist Book Center or a Your Story Hour gift card.
This adventure was organized by Glynis Bradfield, one of the Pioneer Sabbath school superintendents. Bradfield, along with Ben Martin, the Family and Discipleship pastor at Pioneer, explained that research shows that the number one factor for church growth is how we treat our families. However, the challenges during these times are clear. “We’ve done a good job of getting our message out through online church services or prayer service on Zoom,” acknowledged Martin. “But as far as nurturing the family, this has been a challenge. For some families the pandemic was a time to bond. But for some, this has been a nightmare. So, to shift focus and do something like this, where our families could connect, is healthy.”
Many photos of smiling families holding up all their treasures were shared in the Pioneer Children and Family Discipleship Facebook group page. And many comments shared the fun that they had and the interesting things that they learned. “We enjoyed learning so many new things about the history and heritage of this amazing Pioneer community we call home. We were especially inspired by the story of the Horn family's faith” posted the Press family.
“It is also interesting that ordinary people like you and me were guided by God to find this lovely place and now we are enjoying their dedication to God’s work,” the Mbaiwa family wrote. The Mello family shared, “We loved hearing all about the heroes of our faith that have come before us! We’re ready to be pioneers in 2021!” Summing it all up, the Maseko family stated, “We learnt about friendship, adventure, joy and honesty in all we do for Jesus. We too can share Jesus no matter how small.”
Do note, you don't have to be on a university campus in order to enjoy a driving scavenger hunt. You can do this with your church or school or any group. Just choose some local landmarks, parks, or prominent buildings and guide people to each one with clues that describe them. If you don't have the capability of texting the participants, you can type up the clues and email them out or give them as handouts at the starting point. Depending on the size of your group, you may want to stagger start times or take people on different routes, so cars don't get backed up at any one location. Providing an opportunity for participants to share photos with each other adds to the sense of a shared experience. So, give it a shot and have fun exploring your area in a different way!
Diane Helbley, Pioneer Memorial Church member who participated in the event