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Children’s Ministry Leadership Training Retreat 2020
Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center
November 3-5, 2020 (Please note new dates)

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! Susan Hunt will join CDM’s Children’s Ministry Team to encourage and equip you with a biblical and theological understanding of Children’s Ministry.

“Susan Hunt laid the foundation of Children’s Ministry in the PCA. She has affected generations, and God has multiplied her impact.” ~Sue Jakes, CDM’s Children’s Ministry Coordinator

Susan is the widow of Gene Hunt, a retired PCA pastor, and they have 3 adult children and 12 grandchildren. She is the former PCA Coordinator for Women’s Ministry and served as a consultant to CDM. Susan is the author and co-author of several books, including Heirs of the Covenant, as well as TRUE, the CDM discipleship curriculum series on biblical womanhood for teen girls, and Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver and Life-giving Leadership. She has also authored several books for children, including Sammy and His Shepherd and My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms.

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
  • Kids and Technology
  • Engaging Disability
  • Theology and Catechism
  • Recruiting,Training, & Celebrating Volunteers…..and much more!

On Tuesday, you’ll have an opportunity to sign up for individual appointments with exhibitors.

Cost: $315/person (includes lodging and food)

Covid Precautions: Please see Ridge Haven’s website with updated Covid guidelines. We will have a pre-screening arrival form to be completed (as well as Ridge Haven’s standard waiver that everyone will sign). Ridge Haven follows the mandates from the State of North Carolina. They are currently in Phase 2.5, which means that masks are required when you can’t be socially distanced.


Conference Details


Cost: $315/person

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

If you need a private room, the additional cost is $135; there are a limited number so register early!

Things to know when registering:

  • You will need to choose your 3 workshops. Affinity Group, and you may choose an optional Wednesday afternoon Lab.
  • 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. Your roommate choice MUST register within the week you register and include your name in order to be assigned to the same room.
  • If you would prefer a private room, there is an additional $135 cost. (There are limited single rooms available.)
  • 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 Kathy Wargo for a Request for Scholarship form.

Keynote Speaker:

Susan Hunt is the widow of Gene Hunt, a retired PCA pastor, and they have 3 adult children and 12 grandchildren. She is the former PCA Coordinator for Women’s Ministry and served as a consultant to CDM. Susan is the author and co-author of several books, including Heirs of the Covenant, as well as TRUE, the CDM discipleship curriculum series on biblical womanhood for teen girls, and Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver and Life-giving Leadership. She has also authored several books for children, including Sammy and His Shepherd and My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms.

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. 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 Mobile, AL 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 Resurrection Community Church in Virginia Beach, VA.

Mary Elizabeth Burton is over all operations at One Hundred Years. She grew up in Alabama and graduated from Auburn University in 2013 (WAR EAGLE!). After graduating, she served on staff with Reformed University Fellowship at TCU before moving to Chattanooga in the summer of 2016. Mary Elizabeth and her husband, Davis, love travel, tacos, good stories, and any and all Tom Hanks films. 

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.

Debbie Harrell serves at the Overseas Educational Advisor for Serge and the author or What’s Up? Elementary, and co-author of What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus and Who you REALLY are, and the Gospel-Centered Parent. Debbie has been a teacher and missionary for over 30 years. She and her husband, Jason live in North Carolina. They have one daughter, Sarah and two puppy dogs, Juno and Murphy.

Karen Hodge serves as the Coordinator for PCA Women’s Ministry, where she seeks to connect women and churches to one another and to sound resources. She is also having the time of her life serving alongside her husband, pastor and best friend Chris, as they plant King’s Cross Church in Fort Mill, SC. Chris and Karen have two adult children, Anna Grace Botka and Haddon Hodge. She is the host of the enCourage podcast and along with Susan Hunt, authored Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver and Life-giving Leadership.

Sue Jakes is mother of four, grandmother of 11, 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.

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.

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. 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.

Becky Sinclair is the former 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 encourage those involved in children’s ministry as well as parents in the discipleship of children. Her hobbies include spending time with her husband, David, and their adult children and grandchildren, reading, 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.

Laney Stayton – In one way or another, children’s ministry has been a part of Laney’s life – starting as the child of a pastor and missionary, then through volunteering at her local church as a young adult, and now as a mom of two with another one on the way. After taking a quick detour as a certified shorthand reporter in Texas, the Lord called her to serve as the children’s ministry director of North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN. She has always had a love for children and desire to help them grow in their understanding of God through His Word, and she loves the opportunity her current role gives to welcome multi-generations to do the same.

Joanna Thompson has been in Children’s Ministry over the last 15+ years. From being on staff at her local church, to serving on mission in Albany, Georgia all the way to Uganda, Africa Joanna has learned that all children need to be taught the same thing: God made you, takes care of you, and works out all things for your good and His Glory. She is passionate about preparing children to one day walk with Jesus and “rejoice in suffering” and she believes that it should be the pleasure and responsibility of all believers in your congregation to proclaim the God of hope and love to the next generation (Romans 5:3-5). Joanna has been married to her husband, Brett for 12 years and together they have 4 children: William, who God called home in December, 2012, Magdalene who is 4, Deacon who is 1, and Campbell Elizabeth who was born November, 2019. In fear that 3 kids wouldn’t keep her busy enough, Joanna has recently started a ministry geared to the youngsters “in-between” children’s ministry and youth ministry. She is excited (and terrified) for the challenge to disciple a group of kids that will inevitably ask all the hard questions.

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.


Partnering with Parents – Communication Practices (Sherry Kendrick) – What are some communication processes and practices that help us partner with parents in sharing the gospel and teaching faith to children? Let’s explore some of these together!

Creating a Healthy Children’s Ministry Program! (BA Snider) – Planning the ministry calendar, setting goals, and trusting our covenant-keeping God for the results. Discussion of the balance between knowing that only a miracle of God changes the heart of a child and being called to teach our children the truth of Scripture. This workshop is for everyone new or old to children’s ministry.

Creating a Relational Constellation for Every Child (Mary Elizabeth Burton) – No one succeeds spiritually on their own whether an adult or a child. We need each other. How can we help every child in our churches experience the goodness of being connected to the family of God? Let’s explore how the Pray for Me Campaign creates a constellation of relationships to help them flourish in faith and life beginning with prayer.

Creating A Church Culture for an Exciting and Engaging Summer Ministry (Sue Jakes) – In a world where some may think VBS is a dinosaur approach to ministry, you can make it come alive, involving every member of your church in the best gospel teaching and outreach ever imagined. And, everyone will want to come back for more the next year and the next.

Serving While Suffering (Lisa Updike) – Even though you may be in a season of struggle…even suffering…recruiting still must happen, families still need your attention, and there is a Sunday every week!  How can you serve when you are at the end of your rope?

From Scratch: Curriculum That Fits Your Church (Laney Stayton) – Purchasing curriculum can be great, but sometimes it doesn’t quite fit what your church is studying. Join me as I walk through how we wrote our own VBS and family devotion curriculum, the challenges we faced, and what we learned in the process.


All God’s Children Gotta’ Worship: At Home (Becky Sinclair) – What daily steps could we be taking to train our children toward loving God and desiring to worship Him? Learn some practical guidelines that every parent can incorporate through family worship in the ongoing discipleship of true worshippers.

All Together: Teaching the Bible to all Abilities and Learning Styles (Ashley Belknap) – We want all our children to learn God’s Word and grow in their understanding of the gospel story. How can teachers simultaneously and effectively address a wide range of learning needs in the classroom? This workshop will focus on strategies and tools you need to figure out how your children learn and how to teach the Bible to students of all levels of ability.

Essential Elements of a Fruitful Nursery Ministry (Bethany Belue) – There are many essential pieces of a fruitful nursery ministry and this workshop will cover them all!  Join us for a time to discuss everything from setting up a safe and secure nursery, to recruiting volunteers, to disciplng our children from a very young age. We will discuss overall vision as well as the week specific strategies and practical ideas.

Giving Kids the Gospel of Hope in a Broken World (Deborah Harrell) – Each day you are faced with the brokenness of this world. Let author, and Overseas Educational Advisor, Deborah Harrell show you how to develop a discipleship model within your existing curriculum. In this workshop you will be given practical tools and a Gospel-Centered framework that points to the Good News of Jesus.

Outreach that isn’t Extra (Jimmy Brock) – All of us want our churches and families to be reaching out and drawing more people into God’s Kingdom. But how can we do that in a way that doesn’t become just “one more thing” to do? Come and talk about how to incorporate an outward-facing mentality into your existing ministry structures and events.

Coming Alongside Families Who Foster and Adopt Children (Lisa Updike) – As much as we would like to think that love is enough to heal the hurts of a child who leaves their birth family and joins another family system through foster care and/or adoption, it simply is not. Learn about the unique challenges and joys that these families face in caring for their children and explore ways that you and your church might be able to support them.


Partnering with Parents – Discipleship (Sherry Kendrick) – Parents are the primary agent to disciple their children. How do we help equip them for this and what are some resources we can share with them to help in this discipleship?

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?

Classroom Management: A Gospel-Centered Understanding of Behavior (Ashley Belknap) – Managing challenging behaviors of some can take teaching time away from the entire class. Let’s challenge our views on how behavior is shaped and changed, examining what behaviors communicate and how to support all children so that they are better understood, better enfolded, and better equipped to grow in Christ.

Scripture Memory – Hiding God’s Word in Their Hearts (Lisa Updike) – Need some new ideas for encouraging kids to memorize scripture? Your ministry can come alongside parents in this Biblical charge to learn God’s Word as a defense against sin. Share your success in this area as we all gain new motivation for this task.

Recruiting and Training Volunteers (Joanna Thompson) – Struggle with recruiting volunteers for your ministries to families and children? You are not alone! In this session we will break down the challenges of recruiting and retaining volunteer teams and share creative solutions.

Working with (Difficult) People (Stephen Estock) – Children’s Ministry would be easy if we only had to work with children! Being a Children’s Ministry leader means working with parents, volunteers, church staff, and personalities of all types. Discover some strategies for working with various types of difficult people, some of whom can drain and distract us from our mission to care for children and families.


Music with Purpose (Burress McCombe and Lisa Updike) – Yes, music can be fun. Yes, music can help the kids get their wiggles out. But let’s make the most of our time with the children by using music to engage young bodies, hearts, and minds in worship, solid theology, and thinking on God’s Word. Join us for this lab where we will learn music, make up motions, and maybe even write a song or two together!

Gospel Illustrations: A Hands-On Lab (Becky Sinclair) – What do report cards, tea bags, baking soda and vinegar, dirty tea shirts, and paper planes have in common? They can all be used to teach the gospel! This lab will demonstrate several object lessons that you can take back to your church to present the gospel in creative ways to kids who all learn differently. We will discuss the goals of each object lesson and how to adapt a lesson to keep it biblically accurate.


Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center

215 Ridge Haven Road
Brevard, NC 28712


Conference Schedule:

Tuesday November 3, 2020

2:00-4:00 pm: Check–In

4:00 pm: Introductions and Instructions you don’t want to miss!

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

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:30-9:00 pm:  Plenary Session 1 – An introductory interview with Susan Hunt

9:00-10:00 pm: Dessert Social

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00-10:00 am: Plenary Session 2 – Heirs of the Covenant (Susan Hunt) – Why is defining and teaching God’s covenant essential in Children’s ministry? How does the entire Body of Christ participate in that teaching?

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)

1:30-3:00 pm: Two ELECTIVES/LABS offered

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00-9:00 pm: Worship Service and Celebration

9:00-10:00 pm: Celebration Dessert

Thursday, November 5, 2020

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:15-10:15 am: Workshop #3

10:30-12:00 pm: Plenary Session 3 – The Big Picture (Sue Jakes and your CDM Leadership Team) – Resources, events, partners in ministry–take all of this home with you as you encourage your local church to get a vision that will GROW!

12:00 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.