How are the kids?
By Tom Logsdon
IGRC Director of Connectional Ministries
How are the kids?
It’s more than a decade since Bishop Christopher, our Resident Bishop at the time, asked this conference that most of basic of questions: “How are the kids?”
A common inquiry for folks who haven’t spoken in a while, she proposed “How are the kids?” is one of the most important questions any conference can ask and a key measure by which all conferences should be judged.
From the earliest days of our Methodist movement, clergy have been asked a series of questions including “Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?”
That same John Wesley who admonished us to “Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary” considered the diligent instruction of children to be one of the most important things we do.
Our own Chris Ritter notes in his book Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids:
Starting in 1768, one of the questions asked [by Mr. Wesley of the clergy “in connexion” with him] was this: “But what can we do for the rising generation?” In other words, “What about the kids?” Wesley’s response was pregnant with urgency: “Unless we take care of this, the present Revival will be res unius aetatis [a thing of only one age] . . . . Who will labor herein? Let him who is zealous for God and the souls of men begin now.”
“Gift or no gift,” Wesley continued, “you are to do this, or else you are not called to be a Methodist Preacher. Do it as you can till you can do it as you would. Pray earnestly for the gift and use the means for it.”
Not just our children but all children – “the children in every place” said Wesley which, for us, means every congregation, every community, and all across the countryside that makes up this “land between the rivers.”
How are the kids? Some are doing OK, thank you, but others are beaten, broken, battered, and abused and, for over a hundred years, the Methodists in this part of Illinois have been working hard to do something about it.
- Chaddock of Quincy was founded in 1853.
- Cunningham Children’s Home of Urbana was founded in 1895.
- The Baby Fold of Normal was founded in 1902.
- Spero Family Services – formerly known as the United Methodist Children’s Home of Mt. Vernon -- was founded in 1913.
- Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House of East Saint Louis was founded in 1914.
These institutions scattered across our Conference are very different from each other and have changed over the years as the needs of children and their families have changed – many of them, like Spero Family Services, have changed their names, some multiple times – but they remain laser-focused on the physical, mental, social, developmental, and spiritual needs of our children.
It was Woodie White, then Resident Bishop of the Central Illinois Conference, who said at The Baby Fold’s 85th
anniversary banquet in 1987, “We’re dispensing love, the greatest commodity in the world.”
“We do not live in a cushioned world,” Bishop White continued, “I wish it were. Then little children, and those who grow old, would not know the pain of loneliness, abandonment, even physical abuse; but since it is not a cushioned world, I’m grateful that we have a place like Baby Fold.”
I, too, am grateful for The Baby Fold – the subject of my doctoral dissertation – as well as Chaddock, Cunningham Children’s Home, Spero Family Services, and Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. Together they have provided 608 years of ministry to children and their families in this part and most of Illinois and, by your action last year, we have committed ourselves to raising $2.5 million to endow the spiritual life programs of these child-serving ministries until Christ comes to take us home.
We hear you Bishop Beard. We hear you Bishop Christopher. We hear you Bishop White. We hear you Father John. We will diligently instruct the children in every place – especially those places set aside for child-serving ministries – and we will tell those bruised and broken children about Jesus and love them into the family of God.
And when the day comes that we stand before Christ and the Books are opened (see Revelation 20:12), I pray we all hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23) “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
How are the kids? Well, the United Methodists of this part of Illinois are about to raise $2.5 million to permanently endow the care of their souls and the sharing of God’s love through Jesus Christ at five child-serving agencies until Christ returns.
You do the math.