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Church gives gift to parents: a night out

Church gives gift to parents: a night out

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church gives gift to parents: a night out

Dec. 23, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0419}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

PORT ORANGE — A volunteer at First United Methodist Church helps entertain the younger children attending the church's third annual Parents Night Out event while the older kids watch a movie. Photo by Samantha Noonan, Photo #05-291.

The days leading up to Christmas are busy ones as people buy presents for loved ones and cook holiday meals. For parents, the stress can be overwhelming.

That's why First United Methodist Church of Port Orange gave moms and dads the ultimate Christmas gift — a little time alone.

"This was a chance to reach out to the community and let the parents shop while the children were cared for in a loving environment," said Samantha Noonan, the director of the church's children's ministry.

The church sent fliers to the elementary schools in the community, letting parents know about the church's third annual "Parents Night Out." Nearly 147 children and 25 volunteers participated. The children's ministry entertained the children with games and taught them the story of Christ's birth. The parents enjoyed four or five hours to themselves.

"We had a parent who was in tears. It was the first time since the birth of her second child that she could do what she wanted," said the Rev. Kim Joyner, the church's pastor. "It was an opportunity for her to do grocery shopping with a friend. What a blessing for her."

This was also a chance for the church to reach out to those who didn't have a church home. Billie Jo Colson hadn't been to a church in years, but she let her 10-year-old daughter, Alexandrea, participate. "She had a good time. And my husband and I went out and had supper, which was rare," Colson said.

Now, the entire family attends the church. "Alexandrea wanted to go back the next Sunday. By Thursday, she was saying 'we're going to church, right?' " Colson said.

The church's outreach efforts amazed Joyner. He said many of the children who attended were unfamiliar with the Christian faith until the Parents Night Out event. He recalls one boy saying he'd never heard of Jesus while a volunteer told him and the other kids the Nativity story. "He learned that Jesus can be the best friend we can have and it's about more than Santa Claus," Joyner said.

Noonan views Parents Night Out as a great success. It was a chance for her to reach out to kids who don't have a church home. "I pray they stay with the church, but if not, there was a seed planted," she said.

That seed continued to grow at the church the following week with the "Paper Bag Pageant." The children wore costumes and played the roles of sheep, donkeys and angels as they helped act out the Christmas story. Many of the kids who came to Parents Night Out showed up for the pageant too.

"The best gift I could get was to see those children's faces," Noonan said. "One little boy named Donovan opened his arms to embrace me. I still have goose bumps."


This article relates to Christmas Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.