I left my daughter at school. I swore I wouldn’t be ‘that parent’, but I didn’t make it past October of her kindergarten year. Of course, it was an early dismissal day, I had made adjustments to my work schedule, and then ministry happened… the next thing I knew it was 12:15 and I was getting a text alert from the Primary School, “Your child is waiting for you to pick them up at school”. I rushed up to the school, made my apologies, and proceeded to write my sermon at home to the soundtrack of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the next five hours.
God started making me think about all the other kids in the Primary and Elementary schools which are right next to, and around the corner from, the church. What about their parents? Surely they didn’t all have the same flexibility to pick up their child and work from home for the rest of the day—or bring them to the office while they finished the work day. The Holy Spirit laid on my heart the parent working the lunch rush at the restaurants in town, or working at the hospital, or the mom who commuted 30 minutes to Beeville, and the dad who drives to San Antonio each day. What do those families do on early dismissal days? More importantly; how can the church help those families and what can we do to make life a little easier?
The United Methodist Church in Karnes City/Kenedy already offered a weekly after school program on Wednesday, which averaged 20-25 kids. What if we extended the day and had an “Extra Long, Extra Fun Day” for all the kids who wanted to come on early dismissal days. The church board thought it was a great idea. Plenty of adults offered to help fill in the extra time. We thought we were ready!
We sent home flyers with all the students on Monday, asking them to RSVP with the church and make sure the school knew the United Methodist Church would be picking up their children at noon on Wednesday. I thought we might have 40 kids show up, we planned for 50 (trying to stretch in faith). By Wednesday morning we had 70-80 kids booked, and the phone never stopped ringing and our inbox was overflowing. (Did I mention we only had our Mission Hall to work in, and the loan of the Elementary School playground, due to the construction of the new sanctuary and education building?)
The final headcount was 110 kids, 13 adults, 5 hours of chaotic fun, 1 God making the impossible happen before our very eyes. 20% of the Primary and Elementary students were a part of our Church hearing and experiencing the love God has for them!
Our church servants fed them pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and PBJ sandwiches, build-your-own ice cream sundaes, fresh fruit and baby carrots, and gallons of lemonade. The kids made Easter cards for our nursing home residents, watched a movie and played on the playground. We heard the book, “God is Really Good”, learned about the Fruit of the Spirit. We played an epic game of Simon Says and became an instant choir of 110 voices singing This Little Light of Mine and Old Mac Donald. It was glorious chaos.
When the parents, grandparents, and guardians came to pick up the students we heard over and over again, “Thank you so much for offering this for our kids, they were so excited to come, we’ve been meaning to find a church, this made our lives so much easier.”
The icing on the cake was the text message from the elementary school principal at 6:30, first she asked if we had survived, then she said, “I’m thankful you all offered it. The kids are blessed. Call me anytime we can work together.”
The church saw a need in our community, they stepped out in faith to meet it, and the Lord blew us away beyond anything we could have asked or imagined. Our church is already planning how we’ll do this again for the next early dismissal day (which thankfully won’t be until next fall)! Thanks be to God!
Written by Rev. Danielle Knapp, Pastor at Karnes City/Kenedy UMC