Treasure Park Through an Elder’s Eyes

John Harms greets elementary boys.

Steve Hoke substitutes in Treasure Park wherever he’s needed.

By Cathy Gannaway
Director of Children’s Ministries

Both John Harms and Steve Hoke are elders in our church, but they also participate in Treasure Park as parents and volunteers. I thought it would be interesting to interview them to get a sense of our children’s ministry through their eyes.

Cathy: Since you both have kids involved in the ministry, what are your thoughts as fathers about your childrens’ experience in our programs?

Steve: I am excited to talk to my kids about what they are learning, especially when they begin to see God at work in the everyday aspects of their lives.

Having godly men and women speaking into the lives of my children is a real blessing. They get to experience God through the lives and words of people outside of our family.

John Harms greets elementary boys.

I also see the relational component of the ministry impacting the kids as well. They are excited to be a part of the ministry, and they often go in as soon as they have their tags. Additionally, Treasure Park has provided my oldest daughter with an opportunity to serve in a safe environment where she feels needed.

John: Our daughter just turned three. While she learns about Jesus at home, too, it is encouraging to see her feel welcomed and at home in the church body – learning about God from believers other than just Mom and Dad, and trying to articulate to us the exciting things she learns. It is so wonderful to see a three-year-old who is excited to go to church, who throughout the week spontaneously sings Treasure Park songs like “God is watching, watching over you… 24/7, watching over you…”, who counts the ministry leaders like Lauren Otto among her best friends, and who, at bedtime prayers, eagerly declares she wants to thank God for Jesus!

Cathy: As elders, what effect do you see Treasure Park having on the church body as a community?

Steve: I think Treasure Park impacts Hershey Free Church in a number of ways:

Having a vibrant children’s ministry is a vital part of reaching people in the community. If we want to reach parents, we have to minister to their children. The lessons children learn in Treasure Park provide a firm foundation for God to build upon as they grow and mature. Children are able to experience what it feels like to be valued for themselves, with nothing to prove and no expectation of reciprocation.

Our church-wide emphasis on connection is effectively modeled in Treasure Park. People are able to see discipleship in a relational context, which continues as kids grow out of Treasure Park and enter Core student ministries.

John: Treasure Park is truly a hub for connecting, growing and serving.

It’s more than just children learning about their faith. Each Sunday, I see adults connecting. Parents are meeting other parents, parents and volunteers blessing one another, and volunteers rubbing shoulders and learning to minister together.

I also hear the stories of volunteers who, amidst their serving, are being challenged to grow deeper in their faith and who regularly are blessed to see God work in, through and around them.

Cathy: Steve, you substitute in elementary ministries when needed. Thank you so much!!! What do you enjoy about your time with the kids? How has God used this part of serving to bless your life?

Steve: I often find myself to be a “reluctant volunteer,” but I find that while God uses me to impact the lives of the kids, he often uses the kids to impact me. I often leave wondering if I haven’t learned more than the kids. Seeing children worshiping God without pretense, not worried about what other people might think of them, has convicted me to do the same. I often take myself way too seriously and need to be reminded to look at the world with wonder. I truly enjoy watching the kids be kids, and I am blessed to receive a reminder that sometimes God wants us to come to him as children.

Cathy: John, you hold the important position of being Orange Lobby coordinator for the 9:15 a.m. service. How have you seen God work in the many situations you have handled each Sunday? Why do you enjoy your ministry in Treasure Park?

John: I’m continually blessed by the faithful volunteers who work in children’s check-in each Sunday and who long to serve and encourage their church family. I never know what a Sunday morning will bring: running photocopies, calling help for plugged toilets, troubleshooting computer problems, running to locate people or helping catch a chipmunk in the church! One of my regular joys is to welcome new families to Hershey Free and to help them check in their children, show them to their rooms, answer questions, and guide them toward the other welcoming ministries, coffee and Connecting Point. The best part is to see the same parents walk by after the service, trying to absorb the exuberant report from their children, and then return the next week, and the next, feeling at home in our family. That’s thrilling! God is at work!

If you would like to join the Treasure Park team, contact Cathy Gannaway, 533-4848, ext. 2004.

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