One of the things I love the most about working in children’s ministry is learning new ways to connect kids with the community around them. In a world where the rush from activity to activity takes its toll on families, I love to help kids discover some simple ways of reaching out to others.
In my congregation we have fostered this idea of reaching out with kindness and words of encouragement through letter writing. It started out as a holiday project at our annual Advent Fair where we asked kids to write note cards to send to troops overseas. The kids and their families felt strongly about connecting with service members who were far from home. They sent cards with warm holiday greetings and kind words.
After several years, the holiday mail to troops program ended. The kids and families were disappointed. We looked online for another way to channel this enthusiasm for correspondence and connection. Our local veteran’s hospital was in need of cards for the patients, not only for Christmas but throughout the year. Now the kids were able to create cards for Valentine’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving. Writing cards helped them understand that there are many, many people in the world created in God’s image whom we can pray for, even if we will never know them. They found out that their cards would be placed on meal trays at the veteran’s hospital and given out to all the patients. The idea of writing to a stranger with words of good cheer and encouragement was exciting for the children. They worked hard on creating beautiful cards to send.
We expanded our letter writing ministry to include the homebound older adults from our congregation. The kids write to members whom they have never met and tell them what is going on in their lives—how they are connected at the church through Sunday School or music, and about their day-to-day. Sometimes the older adults write back, and a new connection is formed in the church.
The kids learn a lot about loving their neighbor through this ministry. In so many ways not knowing the person they are writing to frees up their imagination and they create letters that speak love to a stranger.