At the first Imagine Conference two years ago, Thompson, minister of children and families at Simpsonville Baptist, met Animal Tales—a group that presents animal education programs in schools and shares the gospel through animal programs in churches. Animal Tales’ naturalists use live animals in their presentations.
After the conference, Thompson partnered with two elementary schools in Shelby Country, where Simpsonville Baptist is located, to present Animal Tales to students.
At the assemblies, the presenter invited students and their families to the church that night for another presentation that included the gospel. As a result, dozens of visitors heard about the love of Christ, and several families began attending the church.
The Imagine Conference “sparks ideas,” Thompson said. “You never know what little idea that you see, hear or pick up is going to do something. Just (Animal Tales) alone has opened up Shelby County schools to us for us to be able to go in and partner with them.”
This year’s Imagine Conference is scheduled for Feb. 8-9 at Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown. Registration is $25 per person before Feb. 6 and $35 after. Among the breakout sessions:
–Using Amazing Science Experiments to Teach God’s Word
–Blending Church and Unchurched Kids
–Hosting a Father/Daughter Ball
–Managing Behavior in the Classroom
–Small Church Children’s Ministry
Based in Mayfield, Animal Tales was an ideal ministry partner for Simpsonville Baptist because the church had been searching for a way to reach teachers, students and parents at local schools. The schools wanted animal education, but it was not in their budgets. So Simpsonville Baptist paid for assemblies at Simpsonville Elementary School and Painted Stone Elementary School in the spring of 2012. Thompson said principals selected the specific Animal Tales’ presentation for their schools.
The only thing Simpsonville Baptist asked the schools was to hold the assemblies on a Wednesday and announce another Animal Tales program at the church that night.
“When you want be in the elementary schools, you need to become their friend,” Thompson explained, “somebody that they trust, not just somebody who’s always coming and looking for something from them.”
Students had the opportunity to see a boa constrictor and a tarantula, along with other animals, and learn about their habitats.
That night at the church, the Animal Tales naturalist showed more animals but he also explained that God created each one and cares for all His creatures. That led to a discussion of God’s love for humans—a special love that offers salvation through faith in Christ.
Animal Tales “opened up our community to coming to our church,” Thompson said. “It’s a chance for us to make first-time contacts with a lot of families.”
The experience strengthened the relationship between the schools and the church, Thompson said.
After the school assemblies, students wrote notes to Simpsonville Baptist sharing what they learned and thanking the church for bringing Animal Tales to them.
“I just pasted those all over the wall outside my office so that people could see the impact we had on the schools that day,” Thompson said. “So when I went back (to the church) this year, (people said), ‘Oh yeah, we want to do that again.’”
The ministry impact went further than the assemblies.
In the months that followed, Simpsonville Baptist developed a relationship with the schools that opened doors for additional ministry. Thompson plans to start an after-school Bible club in one school, and a principal has asked her to start a morning Bible study for teachers as well.
The initial animal program “opened that door and it’s kept that door open for us,” Thompson said. “The schools now see us as somebody who’s trying to partner with them and help them. We’re very fortunate to have principals that are … open to having us partner with them and help them.”
The church plans to sponsor assemblies at the same two schools again this year.
“If we had the funds, we would love to do all six elementary schools in our county,” she said.
Learn more about Animal Tales at www.animaledzoocation.com.
Register for the Imagine Conference at www.kybaptist.org/imagine and see a list of presenters and breakout sessions.
Parkway Baptist Church is located at 2580 Springfield Rd., Bardstown. The conference begins Friday at 5:30 p.m., EST. Saturday’s session starts at 8:30 a.m.
Questions? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (502) 489-3390 or 1-866-489-3390 (toll-free in Kentucky).
Story by David Roach, KBC Communications