It was in a conversation among the leaders of our denominational conference that the first Clergy Family Day Away with the Bishop came to be. Camp Glisson was booked, invitations were sent, and a precious band of children’s ministry champions brainstormed what could be offered the children while the clergy and their spouses gathered for a bit of chapel life and face time with the Bishop.

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson was appointed the Bishop of the North Georgia Conference just over a year ago. She is known for her accessibility and her comfort in participating in small group. Oh, she shines in the large group, too, because she’s a fabulous communicator. But it’s in these small groups where you walk way feeling you’ve been heard, you’ve been encouraged, and you have a new friend and champion for what matters most: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. She shared in our district Meet & Greet that when she retires, she’ll go back to teaching children’s Sunday school. Yes!

The plans for the day included small group time, a large group photo, lunch, a sharing by the Bishop with the children with a children’s Q&A, then the families could stay on campus to hike, swim in the huge pool with a cooler filled with freeze pops, play in the falls, family choice. With all this planned, the real action happened on the ball field.

While the clergy and their spouses enjoyed small group time with the Bishop at the beginning of the day, Ministry With Children colleagues led children in ‘get to know you’ games for preschoolers, early elementary, and upper elementary. There was a nursery provided for the little-littles led by a local church’s nursery staff in an adjacent building.

I had the preschoolers. The brainstorming team were geniuses to include games with balloons, pool noodles, foam sticker picture frames, hula hoops and laundry baskets.  One KidMin champion and her husband brought most of the supplies after arriving home from a week’s vacation at 1am that very morning. The other KidMin champion traveled more than two hours, with the first hour before dawn to extend extravagant hospitality to these families. I had a helper in a first-born 4-year-old and brought small, white bags to go on a nature hike for treasures. We each gathered a rock, a stick, a leaf, and a nut. If we found more than one of each, we shared with those who didn’t have any. We called each other by our names, we made new friends, and none of the games were done as originally intended, because playing with preschoolers has no rules except to laugh, to succeed, to be kind, to be together. We did it all!

It was a precious gift to serve these families in play with their littles. It was a precious gift to hear the Bishop share with them that they, too, are in the family business of sharing the love of Jesus. It was a precious gift to join the team to provide an environment where clergy families can be encouraged, be heard, be served, and make personal family connections beyond professional connections.

We closed our preschooler’s play time with a hula hoop and pool noodle dance party because dancing is what preschoolers do best. Sharing the love of Christ Jesus through play is what WE do best. I’m sure all these clergy families had a billion (probably not a billion, but this is how kidmin people talk) other things to do, but they chose to connect with the families of their peers professionally AND personally. And I am so glad I was invited to play in the sandbox….with their kids…watching squirrels…gathering treasures…laughing…in the sun…on a beautiful Saturday morning…in North Georgia.

“For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'” Psalm 122:8