By Ashlee Johnson Landreth
SURFSIDE BEACH—Dandelions is a group at Surfside United Methodist Church that encourages girls to be strong and healthy both physically and spiritually so we can carry out the amazing plans God has for each one of us.
This group offers girls ages 4-13 a chance to experience God’s word in a variety of ways, including cooking, gardening, art, nature, yoga, exercise and more.
Our young girls today are flooded with images and ideas from society about what they should look like and how they should behave. As a children’s and youth ministry leader, I see girls constantly comparing themselves to others and never measuring up. We have all these young girls seeking acceptance and approval from the wrong places and trying to be like someone they weren’t created to be.
As a child and teen I was raised in church, but society did a great job of making sin look appealing while a life with Christ seemed dull. Church programs were often boring, and as an energetic and outgoing girl, I wanted something more. I sought adventure and excitement in the world but, of course, was left unfulfilled. I finally realized what I was seeking was only found in a life with Christ, and I desired to share this with others.
How much more confident, bold, brave and world-changing could our children be if we showed them that an exciting, fulfilling, joyful, life came from a relationship with God? Instead of having girls concerned with how many Instagram likes they get, we could have a generation of young people comfortable enough with themselves to truly be the hands and feet of Christ and spread the Gospel.
Thus, Dandelions was born.
This year, we have 60 girls participating in the program—60 young girls who are excited and can’t wait to come to church each week; 60 girls who are telling their friends and teachers how much they love coming, and sharing what they are learning. We have girls in this program who have never been to church before and who are now hearing about a God that created them, loves them and has a plan for them.
Each week, a family devotion card is given to the girls, along with a challenge for them to complete. Families that haven’t attended church in years (or ever) are now sitting down with families that attend church faithfully, reading God’s word together and completing a challenge that involves them sharing God’s love in their community.
Our volunteers get as much out of the program as the kids do. In fact, I have heard repeated several times, “I wish we had this when I was a kid.”
Walking between the groups and activities, I find our volunteers participating as wholeheartedly as the kids, because the concept behind Dandelions doesn’t just work for kids—it works for all of us.
As our pastor, the Rev. Scarlett Hester, said, “For me, as the pastor and as the mom of one of the girls, I see blessings and benefits for the girls, the volunteers, the church and the community. Last week, they considered John 16 and how Jesus is with us in times of trouble. As a hands-on experience, they talked about making lemons into lemonade. I love that they tie everyday things like lemonade to great biblical truths!”
How can each of us experience God’s word in a way that is meaningful and hands-on is really what the program boils down to. Through this realization, we have decided to branch out and form a Dandelions program for women. We will continue to encourage women to be who God has created them to be, and to use the special gifts He has given each one of us to build His kingdom.
This is where we will each find purpose, passion and peace.
Landreth is director of children and youth ministries at Surfside UMC, Surfside Beach.