Article by Urban Alliance staff. Photos by New Dimensions Christian Center .

September began a season of growth for the children (ages five to twelve) at New Dimension Christian Center (NDCC). Their Children’s Ministry applied for and received a Next Generation capacity-building grant last year, to fund a retreat geared to empowering the children to take an active role in their community. Next Generation is an Urban Alliance initiative that helps churches and ministry organizations reach and serve youth so they develop the character, relationships and skills needed to succeed in their schools and communities.

The children got together and brainstormed on what to choose as the project topic, coming together on the idea of expanding on their recent Sunday School study of God’s creation of the world. Desire was expressed to share God’s love with the community through the creation of a flower garden and mural, and the children’s leaders quickly got behind them with support.

Embracing and expressing individuality was encouraged throughout the planning process and coping skills were gained as the group worked closely together on both projects. Opportunities for growth like this are practical examples of the vision that Urban Alliance’s Next Generation has for the partnering churches and ministry organizations, always looking to increase the quality and scope of their youth-serving programs by equipping them to foster a culture that affirms the inherent value of each youth, build community connections that provide greater opportunities for children and youth to grow, and implement programming that is linked to positive youth development outcomes.

After months of planning, the project took place over two recent Saturdays, on September 2 and 9. The first project tackled was the mural. The children planned out the design, working together as a group with parent support. Through this experience of collaborating, lessons were able to be taught on delegating, sharing input and respecting the ideas of others. Eight year old Daniel, McGuire explained, “We did the mural to help people see that God can do anything. People can pass by and see how great God uses kids to do stuff.”

The following Saturday was the garden. The project’s coordinator, Johan Gonzalez, shared how the children were empowered to learn about the basics of gardening and how to work together again as a team to make it happen. Each of them learned to prepare the soil before planting, plant the seeds properly, water and maintain the garden. “Planting was fun, because I was able to work outside and see all the flowers. I feel like I want to have a garden when I grow up,” shared McGuire.

“It was exciting to see the children make the connection between the Bible lessons and the hands-on gardening. Many of them came to the realization on their own, that they were part of the story themselves, ‘as flowers in God’s creation’, also needing a firm foundation,” shared Children’s Ministry Assistant Director Addy Lefebre, who volunteered alongside her nephew.

Growth was seen between the other families that participated also, as adults and their children worked closely together. Going alongside the grant funding from Urban Alliance’s Next Generation initiative, was the expectation that in addition to the actual project, there would be incorporation of healthy adult-youth partnerships. This was represented through the quality time that the parents and children set aside and spent together after a busy week of work and school and the support that they showed each other.

Gonzalez shared, “It was beautiful to see a parent and their child working together to create something that showed God’s wonderful creation and expressed the shine of His love on our hearts. The parents were even so engaged in the project, a few stayed working on it, not even noticing that their children had moved on to the next part of the program!”

The students were proud of their hard work and were excited to share the results at their church service on September 29. Plans are in the works to rake leaves from the garden this fall and to add cut-out leaves with Bible verses or motivational quotes to their mural as a way to encourage those passing by to take a leaf home. The theme of the retreat was “Let Your Light Shine” and the children are committed to doing just that.

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