* Be Encouraged

* Be Equipped

* Be A Part of Our Community

* Be Renewed

* Be Refreshed

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God…”      — Psalm 78:5-7

Children’s Ministry Leadership Training 2019
Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center
April 9-11, 2019

The Children’s Ministry Leaders at your church (pastors, children’s ministry staff, volunteers in leadership roles, nursery coordinators.), are invited to CDM’s annual Children’s Ministry Leadership Retreat at the Ridge Haven Retreat Center at Brevard in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Come join a community of leaders of the PCA, who are passionate about reaching the next generation for Christ! David and Nancy Guthrie will join CDM’s Children’s Ministry Team to encourage and equip you with a biblical and theological understanding of Children’s Ministry.

Meet David and Nancy Guthrie, the co-hosts of the Grief Share video series used in more than 12,000 churches. They also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, at conferences worldwide, and is the host of the “Help Me Teach the Bible” podcast, a production of The Gospel Coalition. David publishes kids’ musicals for the church through his company, Little Big Stuff Music. They are the authors of When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One. Nancy is the author of numerous additional books, including Holding On to Hope, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps and What Really Hurts, and the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series. Her newest book is Even Better Than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story.

Meet CDM’s Children’s Ministry Team. With decades of experience in churches of all sizes, the team can relate to the specific struggles in your church—and help develop practical strategies to enhance your ministry to children.

Attend Workshops about:
  • Nursery
  • Equipping Parents
  • Urban Ministry
  • Engaging Disability
  • Theology and Catechism
  • Recruiting,Training, & Celebrating Volunteers…..and much more!

Cost: $300/person (includes lodging and food)


Conference Details


Cost: $300/person

(includes registration, lodging in a shared room, and 6 meals).

Registration deadline is 3/18/19. If you need a private room, the additional cost is $125; there are a limited number so register early!

Things to know when registering:

  • You will need to choose your 3 workshops and Affinity group when registering.
  • Priority rooming assignments (types of rooms) will be based on the order that you register. For example, those who register first, will get first priority on rooming choices. There are rooms with 2 double beds, and rooms with bunk beds. Register early!
  • If you have a roommate preference, please be sure to indicate that when registering.
  • If you would prefer a private room, there is an additional $125 cost.
  • You will receive an email 3 weeks prior to the conference with the list of other retreat attendees in order to share rides from the airport.
  • You will have an opportunity to indicate if you have medically necessary dietary restrictions.

If you have registration questions, please contact Kathy at or 678-825-1132.

A limited number of partial scholarships are available. Please email Bethany Belue at for a Request for Scholarship form.

Keynote Speakers:

David and Nancy Guthrie are the co-hosts of the Grief Share video series used in more than 12,000 churches. They also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, at conferences worldwide, and is the host of the “Help Me Teach the Bible” podcast, a production of The Gospel Coalition. David publishes kids’ musicals for the church through his company, Little Big Stuff Music. They are the authors of When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One. Nancy is the author of numerous additional books, including Holding On to Hope, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your SorrowWhat Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps and What Really Hurts, and the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series. Her newest book is Even Better Than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story. 

Workshop Speakers:

Ashley Belknap serves as the Director of Engaging Disability (the Special Needs Ministry of the PCA). A gifted communicator with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary, Ashley has the ability to tackle challenging issues with creative and practical ministry applications. She served for four years as Director of Women’s Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson MS, where she led a wide variety of ministry initiatives. As the mother of a son with autism, Ashley has a personal passion to see families touched by disability reached with the good news of the gospel. Ashley and her husband, John, have three children and reside in Brandon, MS.

Bethany Belue works for the PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministry as the Established and Certification Coordinator as well the Executive Assistant for the Coordinator. Before coming to CDM, she worked in Children’s Ministry for 9 yearsat 2 large PCA churches as the Children’s Director, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City and Oak Mountain Presbyterian in Birmingham. She currently lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Dustin.

Jimmy Brock has been involved in children’s ministry since he was a child himself, serving churches in Virginia, California, Missouri, and Georgia as a Sunday school teacher, camp counselor, camp director, nursery coordinator, and most recently Pastor of Family Ministry. He is now the Church Planting Pastor for the Princess Anne Mission in Virginia Beach, VA.

Stephen Estock is Coordinator for the PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM). A former USAF officer, he has been in pastoral ministry for 20 years, serving churches in Montgomery, AL and St. Louis, MO. Stephen has also been an adjunct professor at Birmingham Theological and Covenant Theological Seminaries. His Ph.D. is in education, with an emphasis on competency-based learning and leadership training. He and his wife, Susan, have three children and live in Atlanta, GA.

Deborah Harrell grew up in Tucson, Ariz., where she developed a love of teaching and a passion for helping children develop deeper understanding of the gospel. She graduated with a bachelor’s in Child Development and Family Relations from the University of Arizona. In 1987 she married her husband, Jason. They have a daughter, Sarah. Since 2001, Deborah has served as the Overseas Educational Advisor for Serge. Deborah is the co-author of What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are, a middle school Bible study. She is currently working with other Serge writers on a Bible study for parents. She also is the author of What’s Up curriculum for elementary and middle schoolers.

Sue Jakes is mother of four, grandmother of 10, and lives in Atlanta, GA where she serves as Children’s Ministry Coordinator for the Presbyterian Church in America’s Committee on Discipleship Ministries. She has served as director of children’s ministry at Covenant PCA in Fayetteville, GA and is now serving as children’s director at Westminster PCA in Atlanta. She has been teaching children, youth, and women’s groups in the church for over thirty-five years. Sue is co‑author of “Heart of the Home”, a Bible Study ministry for moms and Teach Me To Worship, CDM’s children’s church online curriculum.

Anna Johnson is the Director of Children’s Ministry at Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church. Anna has over twenty years of experience working with children in Christian Education and Children’s Ministry. Anna has a Master’s degree in Education (curriculum) from Covenant College as well as degrees in elementary and early childhood education. Anna and her husband, Jack, have one daughter and live in St. Louis, MO.

Sherry Kendrick has served as the Children’s Director of Covenant Church of Naples in Naples, FL for nine years. She has a degree in elementary education from East Tennessee State University and over 30 years of experience in children’s ministry as well as homeschool, private school and public school education. She loves children’s curriculums and tends to collect them. Sherry was married to her pastor husband, Mike, for 36 years serving in both small and large churches. As a widow, she continues to serve the church and has three grown children and one grandchild.

Dr. John C. Kwasny is the Director of Christian Education and Children’s Ministry at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, Mississippi.  He is also a Biblical counselor, an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, and Director of One Story Ministries—authoring a complete discipleship curriculum for the church, home, and school—for children and youth.  John and his wife, Martie, have eight children, two sons-in-law, and are expecting their first grandchild.

Aaron Messner graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in Theological studies. While at Wheaton he met his wife Nancy Jo. After graduation from Wheaton and teaching school for a year, Aaron and Nancy returned to Wheaton where they completed Masters degrees together and Aaron served for almost 18 months as the stated pulpit supply for Wheatland Presbyterian Church. Upon completing their Masters degrees, the Messners moved to Princeton NJ where Aaron completed a Master’s of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Princeton, Aaron and Nancy began to attend historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia. Aaron served as a seminary intern at Tenth working with their outreach ministry and upon graduation was called to serve on the pastoral staff.  After 5 years on staff at Tenth, Aaron accepted a call to serve as College Chaplain and member of the faculty at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia where he served for five and a half years. In January of 2013, Aaron was installed as the new Senior Minister of Westminster Presbyterian in Atlanta and is honored to have the opportunity to lead this historic congregation in the heart of one of the world’s great cities. In addition to his duties at Westminster, Aaron also serves as Adjunct Professor of Homiletics at RTS Atlanta. Aaron and Nancy have five children.

Burress McCombe loves living in the Shenandoah Valley and has had the privilege of serving there at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Harrisonburg, VA as the Pastor of Worship for the past eleven years. Burress also takes great joy in being a husband and a dad. He cares deeply for the church and desires to be a part of aiding the church in singing rich, biblically sound theology. He enjoys playing guitar, running, laughing and being bald.

Joseph Parker is a native Californian who spent nearly five years in Atlanta before God called him to Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs in 2018. After more than 25 years of ministry with children, he is committed to the equipping of adults to diligently disciple children in such a way they will grow to become Christ-changed, hope-filled, productive adults (Ps. 78:1-7). Joseph and his wife Kelly have two sons, whom they adopted in 2013.

Dana Russell has been a member of Christ the King in Cambridge, MA for over 20 years and started serving in children’s ministry when the first children were born into the congregation. She spent her early years helping lay the groundwork for nursery and teaching Sunday School. With degrees in engineering Dana did not anticipate serving full-time in children’s ministry until she stepped in as director in 2013. Dana is passionate about equipping teachers and parents in guiding and growing children in faith and recently joined the CDM children’s team. With her husband she is also navigating raising three teenaged girls.

Becky Sinclair is the Children’s Director at Clemson Presbyterian Church in Clemson, SC. She has a passion for teaching children God’s Word and encouraging memorization of Scripture. She loves to explore different avenues and curricula to communicate Scripture in innovative ways. Her hobbies include spending time with her husband, David, and their adult children, walking her dog, Riggs, and knitting.

B.A. Snider has more than 20 years’ experience as a children’s director in PCA churches ranging in size from 200 to 4,000 but finds her passion is the same no matter how many children she’s serving or teaching about Jesus. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and taught college until the Lord called her to seminary and full-time ministry. She graduated with a master’s degree in Christian Education from Columbia International University. Speaking at conferences, consulting with leadership, and training teachers brought her to Great Commission Publications in 2014 as the Children’s Ministry Consultant and Marketing Director.

Tony Souder is the Founder of the Pray for Me Campaign and Executive Director of the Chattanooga Youth Network, a ministry dedicated to helping churches flourish in bringing the greatness of God to the next generation. For over 24 years he has connected, coached and cared for youth ministry leaders across denominational and racial lines around the southeast. Since 2014 he has specifically been equipping churches across the country in building natural and effective intergenerational relationships beginning with prayer. The Pray for Me Campaign has been launched in over 391 churches in 39 states equipping over 31,000 adults to be Prayer Champions for the next generation in the US, Canada and Scotland. He is author of the Pray for Me Prayer Guides, which have been translated into both Spanish and Chinese. Tony and his wife Rhonda have been married since 1985. They have twin adult daughters and live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Christine Stone is a physical therapist and the Director of Children’s Discipleship at Christ the King Somerville. Christine and her husband Geren originally moved to Boston in 2007 where they were part of CTK Cambridge. Having grown up on a farm, Christine was surprised by how quickly she fell in love with the city. In 2010, shortly after the birth of their first son, they left to live and serve in Kenya. While working with Indiana University and Moi University in Kenya, their second son was born. Christine and Geren were excited to return to Boston in 2013 to see how God would be at work in their hearts and in the hearts of their children in this urban setting. They have loved joining with a larger community in discipling their children within the city’s diverse and religiously pluralistic culture. Christine and Geren live in Somerville with their three children.

Lisa Updike is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Covenant in Harrisonburg, VA. Her ministry experience includes teaching, special education, leading children’s choirs, and curriculum writing. She has also spearheaded children’s programs in several churches. She and her husband, Kevin have been married since 1989 and are blessed with 4 children, 3 of whom joined their family through adoption.

Workshop Session #1

Engaging Parents to Train their Children in God’s Word (John Kwasny) – Since Christian education begins at home, an essential task of children’s ministry leaders is to equip and encourage parents to teach their own children God’s Word. As leaders in the church, come get some practical help and gospel-centered resources to engage the parents of your congregation as their child’s primary Bible teacher.

Nursery Ministry (Lisa Updike) – Nursery is so much more than childcare; it’s introducing our children to the family of God! Let’s not only establish good policies and procedures, let’s point our littlest covenant members to Jesus while we bless and encourage their mommies and daddies.

Kids and Technology: What’s a Parent to Do? (Jimmy Brock) – Screens, smartphones, and social media can be overwhelming for us as parents and as those who equip parents. How does God’s Word apply to these issues and what can we do to practically disciple children and equip parents in the use of technology?

Our Theology Makes a Difference: Why Covenant Theology Changes the Way we Teach (Sue Jakes and Stephen Estock) – How does Reformed and Covenantal theology define our ministry to children? From foundational principles to basic teaching methods, let’s compare typical children’s ministries to what we should be expecting as we seek to make kingdom disciples.

Step by Step: Creating a Healthy Children’s Ministry Program (Sherry Kendrick) – In this workshop we will look at 5 key strategies that every children’s ministry should have as well as the programs and events that accomplish those strategies.  You will take home a usable graphic to help you outline your own ministry and communicate it to leadership and parents.

Infusing Gospel Hope In and Around Your Children’s Ministry Beginning with Prayer (Tony Souder) – Ministry to and with the next generation is vital and necessary for the future of the church and yet the challenges involved are rapidly escalating. Our dependence on God in prayer should be a primary part of the foundational fabric of all of our ministry efforts. This seminar will focus on how to infuse prayer into every level of ministry so that every young person can know and experience the blessing of the prayers of God’s people.

Choosing Curriculum (Anna Johnson) – What curriculum is the best one for your church? Choosing curriculum is never easy and there are many questions that we must answer before even beginning the search. We will look at the most important questions that will lead you to curriculum that works best in each of your ministry programs.

Workshop Session #2

Child Sexual Abuse in the Church: Its Prevalence and Prevention (Steve Collins)  We will look at the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the church and what steps can be taken to protect children. Participants will receive valuable resources that will help in writing and implementing child protection policies and procedures.

Recruiting, Training, and Celebrating Volunteers (Bethany Belue) – Volunteers are an essential part of a children’s ministry, but how do we effectively recruit, train and celebrate in a way that will encourage our Church Members to invest in the next generation. This workshop will talk through big picture ideas as well as practical tips to help you in your ministry.

The Big Deal about Little Big Stuff (David Guthrie) – After twenty-one years as head of the largest publisher of church music, Word Music, David Guthrie and his partner, Rob Howard, launched Little Big Stuff, a small company that creates two kids musicals a year for kids choirs in churches and Christian schools to perform. In this session David will give participants a taste of some of the musicals as well as talk about what they’ve learned about handling the Bible well while having some fun, getting to the gospel and not just good behavior, and how a fun musical has unusual potential for long-term gospel impact.

How to Give the Gospel to Children: Getting to the Heart of the Matter (Deborah Harrell) – Recognize the ditches of unbelief we fall into as parents and teachers, the importance of molding belief versus behavior, and how to find Jesus and the Gospel in every Bible Story.

Catechism Class, Communicants Class, and Children’s Choir: Ways to Teach and Enfold Every Child (Ashley Belknap) – Many of the challenges that special-needs children encounter in church are intricately connected to their language abilities. We may see children demonstrating behavior problems when the real issues are lack of skills. They may simply not be able to read quickly enough to sing the words to a song, or they may not have the memorization or social skills needed to recall and answer questions. There are ways to adapt often-challenging but essential children’s ministry programs so that every child can thrive!

Raising Kids in the City: The Gifts and Challenges of Urban Discipleship (Christine Stone) – In the midst of living in densely populated, culturally diverse, and religiously pluralistic cities, how can we disciple our kids to grow deeply in their faith? What are some of the gifts and challenges of urban discipleship? How can we help come alongside our kids as they live out their faith in a peer group where they may be one of very few who share the same Christian worldview?

Celebrating Milestones (Sherry Kendrick) – Celebrations are important in connecting with your children and families. What are the ways that you celebrate the spiritual milestones that happen for the children of your church? What are the “memorial stones” that you lay to help your children look back on their faith experience and see God’s faithfulness? This workshop will explore many ways to celebrate with our children and families!

Workshop Session #3

Engaging Parents to Counsel their Children Biblically (John Kwasny) – Today’s children are increasingly struggling with anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and addictions, as well as identity and gender issues. Children’s ministry leaders need to be equipped to help, encourage, and challenge parents in their congregation to counsel their children Biblically. This workshop will get you started as a church leader to address the basic mental and emotional problems of children Biblically.

Helping Kids Memorize Big Truths (Lisa Updike) – Our minds are formed by what we stick in them, so let’s fill our children’s minds with as much substance as we can while we’ve got the chance. This session will present some techniques to make memorizing easy and fun. You might even leave with a thing or two memorized yourself!

Retreat to Advance (B.A. Snider) – The demands of children’s ministry can keep us in a rhythm of constant activity, but that rhythm can lead to burn out. The importance of intentional time away is critical to both your spiritual health and the health of your ministry. Come discover how you can plan time to refresh your soul and plan for the future of your ministry.

Why Do We Baptize Our Babies? (Aaron Messner) There is a very practical explanation for the Biblical reason that we baptize infants and the children of believers. After hearing this foundational teaching on baptism, you will be able to answer this question when asked by the parents in your church.

Training Children for Corporate Worship (Becky Sinclair) – This workshop will look at the benefits of including children in corporate worship and discuss practical ways the church and parents can help children learn to worship God.

Talking with children about sex and sexuality (Anna Johnson and Dana Russell) – It is crucial for parents to establish themselves as the first and loudest voice their children will hear as they navigate the ever-increasing murky waters of sex and sexuality in today’s culture. But what should they say and when should they say it? This workshop will provide resources to help parents get started and assist ministry leaders in equipping parents in their church.

Transformational Discipleship (Joseph Parker) – How do we so intentionally disciple our children in the Gospel, that we see faith-based transformation occur? Come learn how Scripture informs us how to disciple children, and then to develop pragmatic means to do so using the resources available in your church.


Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center

215 Ridge Haven Road
Brevard, NC 28712


Conference Schedule:

Tuesday April 9, 2019

2:00-4:00 pm: Check–In

4:00 pm: Opening Session

4:30-5:30 pm: Workshop #1

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:30-9:30 pm:  Plenary Session 1 with David and Nancy Guthrie

9:30-10:00 pm: Dessert Social

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00-10:00 am: Plenary Session 2 with David and Nancy Guthrie

10:15-11:15 am: Workshop #2

11:30 am-12:30 pm:  Church size Affinity Groups

12:30 pm: Lunch

1:00-6:00 pm: FREE TIME (organized activity options/individual appointments/Exhibits Open)

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:30-9:00 pm: Worship Service

9:00-9:30 pm: Connecting to CDM

9:30-10:00 pm: Dessert social

Thursday, April 11, 2019

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00-10:00 am: Workshop #3

10:30-11:30 am: Plenary Session 3 with David and Nancy Guthrie

11:30 am-12:30 pm: Closing Session

12:30 pm:  Lunch

1:00 pm:  Departure

It’s a curvy and mountainous ride to Ridge Haven, but once you’re there it’s beautiful!

Here are some things to note about transportation:

  • Best airports:
    • Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) – About 1-1/2 hours from Ridge Haven
    • Asheville (AVL) – About 1 hour from Ridge Haven
    • Charlotte (CLT) – About 2-1/2 hours from Ridge Haven
    • Atlanta (ATL) – About 4 hours from Ridge Haven
  • There are no hotel shuttles and no Uber from airports to Ridge Haven.
  • Even though it may say 25 miles, it will take you a lot longer than you think because of the mountain roads.

Directions to Ridge Haven: Click on this link and print out directions ahead of time…you will want to have a hard copy of them in case you lose cell service in the mountains.

There will be free time on Wednesday afternoon, during which time you can make a 45-minute appointment with one of our Children’s Ministry Team members or one of the exhibitors. You can use this time to discuss specific needs of your church and have questions answered.

If you would like to sign up for an appointment with one of the following, you will do that when registering:

  • Sherry Kendrick
  • Lisa Updike
  • Joseph Parker

On Tuesday, you will have an opportunity to sign up for an appointment with our exhibitors on Wednesday. Some of the exhibitors accepting appointments include:

  • Great Commission Publications – B.A. Snider
  • Engaging Disability With The Gospel – Ashley Belknap
  • Adults Protecting Children – Steve Collins
  • Pray for Me Campaign – Tony Souder