First Lutheran Church’s new Fusion program for children finds big success in its 1st year

Published 9:00 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

Jello-O pudding pops. Banana Nut Cheerios. NBC’s “Community.” All three were popular foods or, in NBC’s case, a television show that — for a variety of different reasons —  were discontinued.

But people do not have to fear the same fate will befall Fusion, First Lutheran Church’s popular after-school program that was started by Roger Fears, pastor at First Lutheran Church, and Jenny Edwin, education director at First Lutheran, last September and wrapped up in April.

“Fusion was just a reimagining of our children’s ministry,” said Fears. ”Preschool through sixth grade we kind of completely reimagined what that ministry would look like.”

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That meant changing the activity time and providing transportation every Wednesday for students at all the elementary schools as well as St. Theodore Catholic School.

“It was extremely successful,” Edwin added. “I think it blew us all away on how many kids consistently came every week.”

And like restaurants reimagining what fast food means, the times for the program will change this year from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

According to Edwin, the change was made to give them more time. At the end of the program a dinner will be provided, with a worship service afterwards. 

“Anyone can come to the dinner, it is $5 a person,” she said. “Anyone is invited to the worship.”

Fears said there were a lot more participants than they expected, and Edwin said the almost two-hour program gave them more time to explore different avenues.

“We had more music opportunities, more art opportunities, longer Bible study periods,” Edwin said. “It was also extremely nice for families. Families are busy on the weekends, which is traditionally when education programs for children have been run.

“And families want to participate, but when they’re called away for other things, instead of fighting that entity, we just as a group decided ‘You know what, let’s accommodate these families that want to be church-going families and kids and work with them in the middle of the week so that their weekends are free to do what they want to do. But we can still give them an excellent education program to grow in their faith.”

Fears admitted one area the church needed to grow was in helping their own congregation shift their perspectives of children’s ministry.

“A shift from Sundays to Wednesdays was a way that we were actually able to better serve that part of our ministry,” he said. 

Edwin agreed, and said traditional education programs did not have to be on Sundays.

“We have to think outside the box and work with our families if we want our church to be filled with families,” she said.

For Fears, he admitted seeing children and families was a great source of energy for the congregation. He also said the children had different needs but that they had an ability to address them.

There will be an open house at First Lutheran from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 31 about the program.

“It’s just to come, pick up all the information for Fusion,” Edwin said. “If you haven’t registered you can register online that night.”

Fusion is scheduled to start Sept. 7. Edwin said anywhere from 80 to 100 students attended the program on any given week last year, while 142 in total were registered.  

“I hope we just continue to get more and more families who want to participate, and more and more adults who want to come and work with kids,” she said.

Fears concurred with the sentiment.

“I think it’s just great that we can teach our students that church is meaningful, that it is important in life but also that it can be fun at the same time,” he said.