* Be Encouraged

* Be Equipped

* Be A Part of Our Community

* Be Renewed

* Be Refreshed

Children’s Ministry and Church Leadership Training Retreat 2021
Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center
APRIL 20-22, 2021


Keynote Speakers: Scott Barber, Michael Craddock, Sue Jakes

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 Each registration includes a copy of RESILIENT, by Valerie Bell. This book will be shipped to you once you register.

Please read the book before coming to LTR so that you will be excited, equipped and encouraged about contributing to the SSIM* conversations. These discussion and training times will be led by CDM Team members and ordained pastors after each of the three plenary teaching segments. Our plan is to connect your church to resources and people, assisting you in the task of producing ‘resilient’ disciples.

You will be assigned to an SSIM* group according to the information given in your registration survey. *Similar Size and Internal Ministry

Share the book and this site with a teaching or ruling elder in your church. Come together and begin a new dialogue about making resilient disciples in your church’s children’s ministry.

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!

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:
  • Ministering to kids with struggles resulting from trauma
  • Engaging Disability
  • Children’s Ministry 101
  • Coming alongside parents
  • Resources
  • …and much more!

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

Cost: $325/person (includes lodging and food); $450 for a private room

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.


Conference Details

Registration closes April 4. We are almost at capacity! No private rooms available.

Cost: $325/person

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

If you need a private room, the additional cost is $125; there are a limited number so register early!

Things to know 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. 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 $125 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.


Chris Ammen is the founder of Kaleidoscope Kids Bibles and has been a Children’s Pastor in Tuscaloosa, AL for the past 10 years. He has a BA and M.Ed. in Elementary Education as well as an M.Div. from Covenant Seminary. Chris loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, and their four awesome kiddos!

Ashley Belknap is the Director of Engaging Disability With The Gospel, a ministry of the PCA’s Mission to North America. Ashley obtained her undergraduate degrees in Christian Education and Business Administration from Erskine College and her Master’s in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Ashley helps congregations realize their calling to love, commit to, disciple, and enfold individuals and families impacted by disability. As director, Ashley continually works to see disability ministry expand across the PCA, and accomplishes this through creative planning, teaching online and in-person trainings, conducting ministry consultations, writing timely resources, speaking at churches and conferences, managing a staff, and raising funds for the ministry.

Scott Barber and his wife, Leesa, are both from the beautiful town of Carrollton, Georgia. After practicing law for more than 10 years, Scott was called by God into full-time ministry, a call which led him to Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from seminary in 2008 and moved with his family to Florence to serve as Pastor of Redeemer Church. Because he spent much of his life as a church member and not a pastor, Scott knows first hand what it is like to sit in a service and listen to a pastor. He also knows what it is like to live your life as a Christian in a secular workplace. Scott is a gifted teacher, a faithful shepherd, and a loving husband and father.

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, and their son, Patterson.

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.

Michael Craddock is a PCA Teaching Elder, who is passionate about the multi-generational mission of making disciples in the local church. Since 2009, Michael has served in a number of roles at North Cincinnati Community Church, including most recently as Lead Pastor. He currently serves as an Associate Staff member of Life-On-Life Ministries (, where he equips local churches to develop sustainable disciple-making movements. Michael also serves as an active board member of the CDM. Most notably, Michael is married to author and speaker, Rachel Craddock. Together, they have four children: Ezra, Asher, Caleb, and Lydia.

Rachel Craddock is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and a first-grade teacher at heart. She currently serves on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM) National Women’s Ministry team as a Regional Advisor. She is the author of Slowly Unraveled (CDM, January 2019) and a contributor to Hinged: Vitally Connected to Christ and His Church (CDM, January 2020). Rachel enjoys speaking and teaching—her heart is to encourage and equip leaders while weaving in the importance of the gospel in everyday life. Rachel is married to Michael (PCA Teaching Elder) and together they have four fun children: Ezra, Asher, Caleb, and Lydia Jane.

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 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.

Dr. John C. Kwasny is the Director of Discipleship Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He is 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 (children and youth). John has written several books, including Established in the Faith, Suffering in 3-D, and Pursuing a Heart of Wisdom: Counseling Teenagers Biblically. He also does a weekly podcast called Biblical Counseling Today, dealing with individual, marriage, and parenting problems. John and his wife, Martie, have eight children, three sons-in-law, and one grandson.

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.

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, Deacon, and Campbell Elizabeth. In fear that 3 kids wouldn’t keep her busy enough, Joanna 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 and doesn’t remember a day when she didn’t love Jesus. 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 adult children, 3 of whom joined their family through adoption. Lisa and Kevin stay busy with church activities, creating art,  and best of all, doting on their two grandsons.

Whitney White has been the International Education Counselor for Lifeline Children’s Services since July 2011. In this role, she has developed training and curriculum for families in both the pre and post adoption phases, counseled adoptive parents of children of all ages who are struggling or find themselves in crisis, and trained caregivers around the world in international children’s home settings. Whitney studied psychology and leadership in college and then went on to obtain a Master of Education degree in Community Counseling. She is interested in everything international, has a deep love for people from around the world, has a heart for adoption, and is passionate about counseling. Whitney is honored to play a small role in what God is doing to equip His people to care for His children.


  • Equipped to Love – Ministering to kids with struggles resulting from trauma. Children who have experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma have challenges and unique differences that can cause them to find difficulty in traditional church programs and settings. This workshop is designed to help individuals learn how to meet the needs of children who have experienced trauma, including children who have been adopted or have been in foster care. Topics include: interacting appropriately with children with compromised beginnings of life, understanding the unique needs of children from hard places, managing challenging behaviors, and how to help children experience lasting healing and trust. (Whitney White)
  • ENGAGING DISABILITY: 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 who God is and what He has done for us through the gospel. How can teachers simultaneously and effectively address a wide range of learning needs in the classroom? And without spending hours prepping? This workshop will focus on strategies for the whole classroom: how to teach and effectively reinforce the Bible story, methods for breaking down content, and ways to stretch attention spans. You will walk away with the tools you need to figure out how your children learn and how to teach the Bible to students of all levels of ability in the same classroom without “dumbing down” content and compromising what our children need most, God’s Word.
  • CM 101: Whether you were yanked out of the pew and don’t know what to do or have been in children’s ministry for a while and in need of a refresher course, CM 101 will give an overview of theological and structural components of children’s ministry. (Becky Sinclair)
  • ONE STORY MINISTRIES: Teaching ALL of God’s Word at Church and at Home. (John Kwasny)
  • THE COVENANT, THE KINGDOM, HIS DESIGN—How Theology, Teaching, and Vision Work Together to Produce Servant Leadership in the Next GenerationThe covenant is generational. Throughout Scripture, the covenant of redemption is revealed to a single person but is promised to a people. Adam’s offspring, the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—when God spoke through Moses—the promise of God’s presence was revealed to be passed on from generation to generation. Covenant theology influences how we, as kingdom leaders, make eternal investments in the next generation.Eternal kingdom investments happen every time a family walks into a local church. With every diaper change, fist bump, and goldfish cracker lies an opportunity to design curriculum to disciple every covenant family member—from nursery to preschool, elementary to college, and young marrieds to widowers. God’s design for discipleship is both word-based and relationally driven. This workshop will teach you the why of covenantal discipleship and show you how to fashion curriculum to meet the need for word-based and relationally driven ministry.  (Rachel Craddock)
  • INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS–A NON-NEGOTIABLE AIM: Intergenerational relationships must become one of our non-negotiable aims. Why? We are a family. The family of God is made up of all generations. Our children need to experience the body of Christ as a family, rather than an institution. The research is clear, few things make a bigger difference in the life of a child than a relationship with a caring adult. In this seminar we will explore how the Pray for Me Campaign can help you build the intergenerational relationships necessary for creating resilient disciples. (Mary Elizabeth Burton)


  • GCP: Curriculum designed to train your teachers. (B.A. Snider)
  • ENGAGING DISABILITY: Special Needs – Learning to Serve the Whole Family (Ashley Belknap) Every church has or knows families touched by disability. And every church, regardless of size can intentionally take steps to better love, enfold, disciple, and meet the needs of children impacted by disability and their families. This seminar focuses on starting where you are in ministry and growing in organic, sustainable, gospel-centered ways to meet the needs of all of your children. Being intentional to meet unique needs will make your children’s ministry stronger! We will cover the following topics: Assessing needs and building relationships with your families; determining what first and next steps your children’s ministry should take; and ways to better enfold and disciple your families starting next Sunday.
  • KALEIDOSCOPE: A “new” Bible all children will enjoy reading and a fun “Team” ministry to encourage them. (Chris Ammen)
  • LEARNING TOGETHER SERIES: Take a look at books that parents should read with their children about gender identity, loving the church and loving the Word. (Lisa Updike)
  • RECRUITING: Building a new “Post-Covid” Team of Volunteers–Help! (Joanna Thompson)
  • CM 101 – Parents: Coming alongside, resourcing, and training (Sherry Kendrick)


Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center

215 Ridge Haven Road
Brevard, NC 28712


Conference Schedule:

Tuesday, APRIL 20, 2021

2:00 pm: Check–In

3:00 pm: Opening Session: The Who, What, When and Where of LTR

3:30 pm: Unit Prayer Launch


6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00 pm: Plenary Session 1: BELONGING – Let the Little Children Come! Matthew 19:13-15

9:00 pm: Dessert Social

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00 am: SSIM Conversation 1: BELONGING – How do we embrace tomorrow’s church today?

10:15 am: Plenary Session 2: BELIEVING – Indoctrination is not always a bad word – Deuteronomy 6

11:30 am: SSIM Conversation 2: BELIEVING – What are the truths our children are hearing in word and deed?

12:30 pm: Lunch


1:30-4:30 – 2021 Certification Class meets

Free Time Activities in the Afternoon

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00 pm: Worship Service

8:15 pm: 2020 Certification Class Awards and Recognition

9:00 pm: Celebration Dessert

Thursday, April 22, 2021

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:30 am: Plenary Session 3: BECOMING – Going “off the grid” forever – Luke 2:41-52, Romans 12:1-2

10:45 am: SSIM Conversation 3: BECOMING – How do we lead them from childhood into a life of disciple-making?

12:00 pm:  Closing Conversation and 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.

Medical Release: With registration, the attendee agrees and acknowledges they are participating in the conference on their own free will. While CDM and the venue work to provide the safest possible environment for the events, the attendee acknowledges freely and knowingly that as a result of their registration and participation, they hereby assume responsibility for their own well-being and safety, releasing CDM and the venue of any harm. Furthermore, CDM and the venue assume no liability for an injury or death of an individual participating in an event if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. The participant assumes all risk when attending the event.