In the photo above, Cathy Gannaway, our new director for children’s ministries, meets Jen Stoner, director for elementary ministries. Cathy begins working with us February 5.
By Jane Suter
Cathy Gannaway will hit the ground running February 5 as the new director for children’s ministries here at the Hershey Free Church – and boy, does she have big plans! Not just for our children, but for every single one of us who worship here. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her.
Tell us about your family.
I have been married to my husband, Peter, for 40 years. We met through Campus Crusade for Christ. Peter is a minister and we have three grown children. Our home is in York.
Cathy, what age group falls under “Children’s Ministry”?
Birth through grade 5; but in the future I would like to expand that to include a pre-teen ministry.
What will be your first order of business?
To change the image of what children’s ministry is. I want it to be more than just Sunday school and child care. My vision is to concentrate on the power and purpose of God in every life. I intend to focus on the way we reach these children because I believe we can open them up to fully experiencing the Lord. It is a plan that centers on four core values.
Tell me about these 4 core values.
The first is: A God-dependent ministry. By this I mean, we are God directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The second core value is: Life on Life. Children need to feel we are invested in them. We can show them this by talking to them, not at them. We will accomplish this through the blessings of a professional leadership team and volunteer teachers in our congregation. It is exemplified in 2 Timothy, 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
The third core value I want to emphasize in the children’s ministry is: Minister to the whole child. I want our children to cognitively know about God, behaviorally put God’s word into practice, and mystically/spiritually experience God in their very soul.
The fourth core value is: Build a kingdom of God everywhere around the world.
Explain what you call, “The heart of the ministry.”
Oh yes! The heart of children’s ministry is volunteers. This is where it gets really exciting! I would like to give our teachers the summer off and run a summer camp utilizing volunteers from our congregation. It will be an opportunity for people of all ages and occupations to share with our children how being a Christian translates in the real world. This goes back to the “life on life” I mentioned earlier. Imagine a retiree or a heart surgeon or a mail carrier ministering to our youth about their individual passion and giving them real-time examples of their faith walk? It is so powerful! Of course I plan to pour myself into every volunteer who wants to take it on! I will also teach classes on how to craft a lesson using just the Bible and mentor anyone who asks for my help. I have seen, first hand, how life-changing it is for kids to engage in conversation with everyday believers!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Well, I am an award-winning watercolor artist and a garden fanatic.
What makes you happy?
I would have to say, watching God work. I am constantly blown back by the amazing things He does!
If you could teach a child just one thing, what would it be?
For very young children, I would like them to learn how to be comfortable being alone with God; to never feel awkward in God’s presence. For older children, my wish is for them to be confident in their sense of destiny. As we read in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Just imagine how much easier high school – and life – would be if every child knew for a FACT that God has big plans for them. Imagine if they were so sure of this, that no one could tell them differently. Now that would change everything!
I closed my interview with Cathy (who I now adore, by the way) by asking her if she has a favorite quote. She told me this is the one that hangs in her office:
“Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We’re afraid.’ ‘Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We will fall!’ ‘Come to the edge.’ And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.” ― Guillaume Apollinaire
Jane Suter, aka “plain jane,” is an award-winning, syndicated columnist whose column appears in Central PA Parent magazine. She attends our church.