One Million Hours for Children!By Jessica Brodie
How much do South Carolina United Methodists care about children? If organizers have their way, the new 1 Million Hours of Service initiative will show they care a million times over.
United Methodists in ministry with or for children—whether tutoring, on a school board, serving as a reading partner and more—are being asked to log their hours on a new website launched by the conference and overseen by the Children in Poverty Task Force. The hours can be past, present and future (from Annual Conference last June through now and beyond).
“We want you to log your hours and then continue to do so,” said the Rev. Kathy James, Connectional Ministries director. “We want to see how long it takes for us to reach a million hours of service!” The 1 Million Hours of Service initiative takes last year’s Million Book Effort service project a step further. While the Million Book Effort focused on collecting and then donating books to children in need, the 1 Million Hours of Service initiative focuses on working with the children themselves, whether directly or indirectly.“What the Million Book Effort has done and we hope the 1 Million Hours of Service will do is show the state that we care about children and we want to be a voice for their wellbeing,” James said. After all, through the New Testament, Jesus invites people to make caring for people a priority, and Methodists historically have a tradition of caring for the vulnerable, including the poor, widows and orphans. “As Bishops (Jack) Meadors and (Ken) Carder are fond of saying, children don’t have a voice in government, so they need us to be a voice for them.”
Martha Thompson, chair of the Children in Poverty Task Force [and Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty liaison], said the act of logging one’s hours not only helps the conference stand strong for children in poverty, but it can be quite surprising to the volunteers themselves, many of whom often don’t realize how much time they give. After all, she said, volunteering with children was part of Jesus’ own ministry when He walked this world.
“My favorite picture of Jesus is where he is surrounded by children—children who are the greatest gift from God,” Thompson said. “To be in ministry with children is to be in ministry with God. A compliment to a child who is lonely, a smile to a child who is afraid, telling a child you love them is like touching the hand of God. Volunteering time, energy, love and joy is worth everything!”