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

RIDGE HAVEN Conference & Retreat Center • Brevard, NC • April 10-12, 2018

At this leadership training retreat, choose a track or make your own track by choosing the workshops that fit your needs:

  • Leadership
  • Teaching
  • Equipping Parents
  • Special Needs
  • Nursery
  • Outreach

Who should attend CDM’s Children’s Ministry Conference?

  • Children’s Ministry Directors and Staff
  • Church Leadership and Key Volunteers
  • Nursery Coordinators

Special Training from:

Cost: $250/person (includes lodging and food)

Why should you come to CDM’s
Children’s Ministry Leadership Retreat?

Hear from CDM’s Children’s Ministry Team


Conference Details


Cost: $250/person (includes registration, lodging, and 6 meals).

Registration deadline is 3/19/18.

Things to know when registering:

  • You will need to choose your 3 workshops and 2 large group sessions 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 $100 cost.
  • You will receive an email 1 month prior to the conference to see if you would like to set up an appointment to meet with one of our speakers or team members.
  • 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.

Scholarships are available. Please email Bethany Belue at for a Request for Scholarship form.


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.

Deborah has taught for more than 25 years in both public and private schools across the United States. In 2000 Deborah joined a short-term teaching team in Malaga, Spain, to work with Third Culture Kids with Serge. That two-week trip turned out to be a calling to full-time service for Serge.

Since 2001, Deborah has served as the Overseas Educational Advisor for Serge. She supports mission families by partnering with them as they explore the best educational atmosphere for their children. Deborah reviews and evaluates various curricula for home school or other educational environments. She provides educational seminars on Third Culture Kids, oversees the Serge child protection policy, and writes curriculum for both children and adults. 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 and had a part in editing the book Show Them Jesus.

Mary Flo Ridley began presenting a popular parenting seminar in the Dallas area in 1986, teaching parents how to talk to their children about sex. Armed with medical research, personal stories, and humor, Mary Flo walks parents through very specific ways to answer their children’s early questions with confidence. She gives parents a simple strategy that allows them to share their values along with basic biology and develop a positive plan for introducing the subject of sex in the preschool and early elementary years. Mary Flo grew up in El Paso, Texas, and graduated from SMU. She has been joyfully married to her husband Dave for 36 years and they have three married children and six grandchildren.

John Kwasny is Director of Christian Education and Children’s Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, Mississippi. John has received his M.A. in Counseling and his Ph.D. in Christian Education. He is also the Worldview Integration Specialist at Christ Covenant School, an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and Director of One Story Ministries, authoring Children’s curriculum for the church, school and home. John and Martie have eight children.

Martie Kwasny received a Bachelor of Science in Special Education-Severe to Profound from Louisiana State University in 1987. She later received a Master of Arts in Counseling from Regent University in 1991. Martie has taught various Special Education classes in Texas, Virginia, and Louisiana. Currently, she is Director of Sonbeams, the special needs ministry at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) where her husband, John, is Director of Christian Education and Children’s Ministry. Martie is Director of Joni and Friends Jackson, Ms. Martie and John are blessed with eight children.

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.

Sue Jakes is mother of four, grandmother of eight, 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 is also a teacher trainer and consultant for Great Commission Publications and the PCA’s Special Needs Ministry. 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.  Sue received a Masters Degree in Education from West Georgia College, taught in the public schools for seven years and home-schooled for twenty-two years.  She has been teaching children, youth, and women’s groups in the church for over thirty-five years.  Sue Jakes 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.



We will have 3 workshop sessions, and you will choose 1 workshop for each session. We have divided the workshops into 6 Tracks: Leadership, Parental Training, Nursery, Teaching, Special Needs, Outreach. Pick a track or make your own personalized track by choosing the workshops that best address your needs.


  •  THEOLOGY MATTERS IN MINISTRY TO CHILDREN – Understanding Reformed and Covenantal Theology should make a difference in the why, what, who, and how of your church’s ministry to children.  Let’s look at a practical analysis and see how you are doing.
  • COMING ALONGSIDE AND COMMUNICATING WELL WITH FAMILIES – What are the best methods of encouraging and equipping your families in their discipleship journeys?  How is communication working both ways, uniting home and church?
  • NURSERY, IN THE BEGINNING -Infants and toddlers must have care and nurture.  How do you find and fit all of the many pieces together so that the youngest child is loved and served by the body of Christ?
  • STARTING FROM SCRATCH – What does your church need to start and sustain a successful children’s ministry? Find resources, ideas, answers to pressing questions to help you start or start over building a healthy children’s ministry.
  • HIDING GOD’S WORD IN THEIR HEARTS – Scripture memory is not an option.  What works best to encourage children and families to make this a priority at home and church?
  • PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH – Children’s ministry is defined by discipling children, teachers of children, parents and volunteer staff.  But what about you?  Intentionally seeking to be fed and nurtured must be the place where you begin.


  • CURRICULUM HELP – What should you look for in curriculum for any program in your church?  How can you adapt what you purchase to fit your particular needs?  What are some of the best choices on the market?
  • RECRUITING AND TRAINING TO KEEP VOLUNTEERS – Most of our time is spent filling in the “wholes” of ministry where we need more adults to help out.  We must create a vision that, when communicated well, will draw and keep faithful servants in our ministry.  How to do that?
  • NURSERY AGE APPROPRIATE DISCIPLESHIP – Teaching in the nursery is sometimes the last thing on our mind.  However, at the age when our children are learning faster than at any other time in life, we should be introducing them to Jesus.
  • CHILD SAFETY/SEXUAL ABUSE – We must make our church building, our ministry staff and volunteers and all involved a safe environment for our children.  How do you set policies, background check and train your church so that child safety is a priority?
  • SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY START-UP – You may only identify one or two children with special needs, but creating and all-inclusive vision for your children’s ministry is a necessity, not an option.  Where to start?
  • KIDS AND SOCIAL MEDIA – WHAT’S A PARENT TO DO?  A pressing need in a media culture is continuing to grab the attention of our children at a younger and younger age.  How to we train our parents to be wise and watchful in this new world?


  •  PLANNING AND EVALUATING CHILDREN/FAMILY EVENTS – Should we have this event?  What do we want it to accomplish?  Where do we get the man-power?  How do we use it for gospel ministry to our church and our community?
  • TRAINING CHILDREN IN WORSHIP – Parents and the church are given the Biblical mandate to worship God.  How are we including our covenant children in that practice at home and at church?  Are they truly becoming worshippers in Spirit and in Truth?
  • SPECIAL NEEDS – MEETING EACH CHILD IN THEIR PLACE   Let’s look at some of the best methods for training children who do not learn like most others in the classroom.  What are the needs of the children in your church?  Let’s brainstorm how to bring the Gospel message to each of them.
  • MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD – MUSIC AND KIDS  – Meet and enjoy two worship and children’s ministry leaders who use music to teach and engage children at every turn!  Learn from them and take their ideas home.
  • HOW AND WHEN DO CHILDREN BECOME COMMUNING MEMBERS?  Ideas for processes used in many churches will be discussed along with biblical understanding of non-communing and communing membership.  When you leave, you should have an idea for a good plan for your local church.
  • CHURCH LEADERSHIP – DEVELOPING HEALTHY WORKING RELATIONSHIPS   Working alongside church leadership can be challenging.  How do you become a part of the solution to that challenge in your local church?

You may find the categories listed below helpful in tracking what best meets the needs of your personal ministry. Notice that there is something for everyone in all three sessions.

Workshop Session # Workshop Title Leadership  Parental Training Nursery  Teaching  Special Needs  Outreach
1 Theology Matters in Ministry to Children X X
1 Coming Alongside and Communicating Well with Families X X
1 Nursery, in the Beginning X
1 Starting from Scratch X X
1 Hiding God’s Word in Their Hearts X
1 Personal Spiritual Growth X X
2 Curriculum Help X X
2 Recruiting and Training to Keep Volunteers X
2 Nursery Age Appropriate Discipleship X X
2 Child Safety/Sexual Abuse X
2 Special Needs Ministry Start-Up X X
2 Kids and Social Media: What’s a Parent To Do? X
3 Planning and Evaluating Children/Family Events X X
3 Training Children in Worship X X
3 Special Needs: Meeting Each Child in their Place X
3 Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord: Music and Kids X
3 How and When Do Children Become Communing Members? X X
3 Church Leadership: Developing Healthy Working Relationships X X

Large Group Sessions:

Each participant will attend two of the following large group sessions.

Children’s Ministry Leadership – Helping our families deal with the 3-D’s of suffering

  • Suffering in 3-D: Connecting the Church to Disease, Disability, and Disorder – One of the often forgotten tasks of children’s ministry is to shepherd our families through the 3-D’s of suffering: disease, disability, and disorder.  The church is called to be a hospital, a family, and a discipleship culture–all which call upon us to care for all the suffering in our midst. Presented by: John and Martie Kwasny,

How to Give the Gospel to Children:   Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Birds and Bees  

  • What would it look like if we could change the way parents taught their children about sex? Just the idea of that is revolutionary. And we think necessary.  Instead of growing up with a blank page, or worse, a page filled with confusion based on media images or porn, what if children grew up knowing the value and purposes of sex? What if they understood the design of birth, conception, and reproduction? And better yet, what if they learned this from conversations with the people who love them the most. We believe parents can be prepared, encouraged, and equipped for these conversations. Presented by: Mary Flo Ridley


Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center

215 Ridge Haven Road
Brevard, NC 28712


Conference Schedule:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

1:30–3:30 pm: Check–In

3:30 pm: Meet & Greet

4:30–5:30 pm: Workshop #1

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:30 pm: Worship Service

8:30 pm:  CDM Children’s Ministry  Certification Overview

9:00 pm: Floor Socials

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00–10:00 am: Large Group Session #1

10:30–11:30 am: Workshop #2

12:00 pm: Lunch

1:00– 2:00 pm: Workshop #3

2:00–6:00 pm: FREE TIME

6:00 pm:  Dinner

7:30 pm: Worship Service

Thursday, April 12, 2018

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00–10:00 am: Large Group Session #2

10:30 am: Closing Session

12:00 pm: Lunch