March 29-31, 2022

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* Be Renewed

* Be Refreshed

Children’s Ministry and Church Leadership Training Retreat 2022
Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center
March 29-31, 2022

Covenant Connections:

Building the Church Today and Tomorrow

“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.”

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:
  • Cultural Engagement for Families
  • Engaging Disability
  • Child Protection
  • Children’s Ministry Basics
  • Integrating Missions into Children’s Ministry
  • Resources
  • …and much more!

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

Cost: $350/person (includes lodging and food); $475 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.

Register Now!

Conference Details

Registration deadline is 2/22/22.

Cost: $350/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.


Ashley Belknap serves as the Executive Director of Engaging Disability (the Disability 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 children with unique needs, Ashley has a personal passion to see families touched by disability discipled and enfolded into their church. Ashley and her husband, John, have three children and reside in Brandon, MS.

Bethany Belue is on staff with CDM serving in various roles within Children’s Ministry. Before coming on staff at CDM, she served as the Children’s Director at Redeemer PCA in New York City and Oak Mountain PCA in Birmingham, AL. She currently lives in Mobile, AL with her husband, Dustin, who is in full-time ministry at Grace Community Church PCA. Bethany and Dustin love investing in the next generation from small children to young adults. Life is full with their son Patterson and a baby girl on the way!

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 Pastor of Family Ministry. In 2017, he added church planting to his children’s ministry portfolio and now serves as pastor of Resurrection Community Church in Virginia Beach, VA.

Mary Elizabeth Burton grew up in Alabama and graduated from Auburn University in 2013 (WAR EAGLE!) After graduating, she served on staff with RUF at TCU before moving to Chattanooga in the summer of 2016. Mary Elizabeth and her husband, Davis, love to travel, love tacos, love good stories and love any and all Tom Hanks films. They just welcomed their first pup to the family. His name is Hanks and he’s perfect.

Steve Collins is the Founder and Executive Director of Adults Protecting Children, which trains adults in how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Steve has comprehensive experience training adults and working with organizations in how to prevent the sexual abuse of children. His experience includes developing and implementing child protection policies. He has expertise in how communities can create child protection initiatives that can train enough adults in that community that the culture of the community is changed and becomes a safer place to raise children.

Mariah Cunningham works with MTW Midwest Hub as the Next Generation Mobilizer, focusing on the integration of missions into children and youth ministries. She also assists students with gap year internships and college internships. Mariah served on her local mission committee for nine years and was the director for four of those years. During that time, she assisted in integrating missions into the church’s children and youth ministry through children’s conferences, youth nights, and service projects. Mariah also has background in working with elementary students in an academic capacity. She taught elementary education for twelve years in the areas of general education, special education, and English as a second language.

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.

Tammy Hall serves as the Director of Nursery Family Ministries at Valley Presbyterian Church in Madison, AL. The Lord has given her heart a desire to partner with parents and provide a safe and fun place for our little ones to be discipled and loved. Tammy and her husband, Tim, have been married for 22 years and blessed with two sons, Gavin (12) and Porter (9).

Sherry Kendrick serves as the Family Ministry Director of Covenant Church of Naples, Florida. She directs both the children and student ministry staff with the goal of discipling children from birth through high school with trained passionate teachers. In addition, she leads the staff to partner with parents to come alongside them as they disciple their children. Sherry has been on staff at Covenant for 12 years. She loves children’s curriculums and tends to collect them. She is the widow of a PCA pastor, Mike, and has three grown children and two grandchildren.

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.

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, where he serves as the Next Gen Discipleship Pastor. After close to 30 years of ministry, he is committed to the equipping of adults to diligently disciple the next generation 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 Church in Cambridge, MA for 25 years and has volunteered in the children’s ministry since its beginnings when the first children were born into the congregation. Her early years of service were spent on the nursery committee and teaching Sunday School at multiple grade levels. Dana has served as the Children’s Ministry Director since 2013 and is passionate about equipping teachers and parents in guiding and growing children in faith. She and her husband, Greg, an elder at CTK, are currently navigating raising three teenaged girls.

Becky Sinclair serves as the nursery coordinator for Oconee Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and serves on the Children’s Ministry Team for the PCA. She has a passion for teaching children God’s Word and training those involved in children’s ministry. Becky loves spending time with her husband, David, their children, and 5 grandchildren. Her hobbies include knitting, crocheting, and making cards.

B.A. Snider has more than 20 years’ experience as a children’s director in churches ranging in size from 200 to 4,000 but finds her passion is the same no matter how many children she’s serving. Show the children Jesus. Teach the kids all of the Bible so they see that the stories from the Old Testament point to Jesus and that the New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled God’s promises—yesterday, today, and forever. B.A. began her formal ministry as a children’s director and consultant in 1993, but she has taught and led music for children since she was in junior high school. 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 three. 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.

Lisa Updike has been on staff since at Covenant Presbyterian in Harrisonburg, VA since 2013. Her extensive ministry experience includes homeschooling, teaching at Grace Christian School, consulting with teachers at Blue Ridge Christian School, and working as a learning disabilities therapist. She also has spearheaded children’s programs in several churches. She has also authored curriculum for Vacation Bible School, and for Sunday School, and several children’s books. Lisa and her husband, Kevin, have been married since 1989 and are blessed with 4 adult children and two grandsons.



Session 1

Child Protection: The Relentless Duty (Steve Collins) 

There is growing intolerance in the court of law and in the court of public opinion for organizations that are not intentional and proactive in creating safe places for the children they serve. This is especially true for churches. It is not enough to just have a child protection policy. In fact, if you have a policy that is not current, thorough, and being enforced, you increase your liability and leave children vulnerable. And how does a children’s ministry director find the time to continually address this duty with vigilance? In this workshop, we will look at what goes into creating and maintaining thorough and current child protection policies and procedures. Attendees will receive valuable information they can use to evaluate their current documents or create new ones.

Children’s Ministry Basics, Part 1 (Sherry Kendrick)

Are you a new children’s director or volunteer wondering how to begin a children’s ministry? Wondering how to start and what things are most important? This workshop is designed to look at the basics of children’s ministry and to give you practical tips in establishing a healthy children’s ministry in your church. This session will cover partnering with parents, vision and mission, recruiting volunteers and choosing curriculum.

Prioritizing Personal Growth (Bethany Belue)

Before you can pour into others, you must first be filled up, but often times the grind of ministry can leave us running on empty. How do you make your own walk with Christ a priority? Let’s take some time together to talk about the importance of prioritizing our own walk with the Lord, as well as practical ideas that will help us be in regular communion with Him and the body of Christ.

3 year-olds turn into 30 year-olds (Mary Elizabeth Burton)

One day, our 3 year-olds are going to be 13 year-olds who then turn into 30 year-olds. Will they still love Jesus and His church? Research shows that over 65% of young people will walk away from the church and their faith by the age of 25. But what is it that marks the roughly 35% that are remaining connected to the church, flourishing in their faith? During our time together, we’ll answer these questions and look at ways to minister to the children in our church with the long view in mind.

Vacation Bible School – Reaching and Enfolding EVERY Child (Ashley Belknap)

Vacation Bible School is a wonderful opportunity for children to hear the gospel and experience the love of the church in tangible ways. In this workshop, we will discuss enfolding children with unique learning and behavioral needs into VBS. The goal is not to change what you are planning for VBS. Instead, we want to give you tools and skills for adapting VBS to welcome and accommodate unique learners so that everyone can grow in Christ and thrive together! We will cover several practical topics, including developing a plan that works for your church and your children; strategies for enfolding kids with special needs who arrive without notice; training and equipping teachers and volunteers to support limited language, wiggly children, and maladaptive behaviors; and more!

Where’s Jesus in THAT Book? Teaching from ALL of the Books of the Bible (Stephen Estock)

Our goal as disciple-makers is to show Jesus to the next generation. When teaching from the gospels, the task seems easy, but the gospels are only 4 of the 66 books God gave us. How can we teach from ALL of Scripture, without losing a focus on Jesus? This workshop considers 4 questions teachers can bring to any text of Scripture to discover how God is pointing us to Christ, even when He is not mentioned in the text.

Session 2

Children’s Ministry Basics, Part 2 (Sherry Kendrick)

Are you a new children’s director or volunteer wondering how to begin a children’s ministry? Wondering how to start and what are things are most important? This workshop is designed to look at the basics of children’s ministry and to give you practical tips in establishing a healthy children’s ministry in your church. This session will cover training teachers, policies and procedures, worship training and working with your church staff.

Cultural Engagement for Families 1: Gender and Sexuality (John C. Kwasny)

How do families engage the culture on all the issues surrounding gender and sexuality? Things keep changing so fast! This workshop will help Children’s Ministry leaders to help their parents and children.

Developing a Communicants Course (Dana Russell) 

What is Communicants? What age is appropriate and why? What are some resources we can use? This workshop will help you communicate our distinctive beliefs as a worshiping body of Christ, guiding our children in their newfound faith to understanding what it means to be a Communing member of the local church.

Developing a Vision and Plan for Special Events & Outreach  (Joseph Parker)

Does the idea of creating events, let alone outreach, ever overwhelm you? Come learn how to develop a vision and plan to not only create amazing events, but to do so in such a way it puts your church as a beacon on a hill, drawing your community in so they desire to see what the fuss is all about – why do these people love each other so well?

Nursery — Where It All Begins (B.A. Snider and Tammy Hall)

Yes, we need to establish great policies and procedures for the nursery, but it is also our littlest ones’ first chance to be introduced to Jesus in the covenant family/church setting. We want them to know Jesus and we want to encourage the Mom’s and Dad’s.

Who Will Serve? Volunteer Recruitment (Lisa Updike)

You know it. I know it. It doesn’t get any better than serving in Children’s Ministry! Why then do we always have those open spaces? In this workshop we will explore how to “recruit, support, and keep” a volunteer base who loves to serve the children in the covenant community.

Session 3

Building a Sustainable Children’s Ministry (Dana Russell & Lisa Updike)

Are you working frantically to do it all yourself? We all have times when we feel overwhelmed or flounder in ministry, but if left unchecked this can lead to burnout. This workshop will focus on how to build a thriving, yet sustainable, Children’s Ministry in your church. We’ll explore planning that goes beyond the needs of the coming Sunday to developing strategies for essentials like setting goals, creating a ministry calendar, communication, and delegating tasks. We’ll also discuss how you can build and utilize a Children’s Ministry Team that suits your leadership style and setting.

Covenant Connections Expressed in Worship (Becky Sinclair)

We enjoy and express our covenant relationship with God in our worship of God. The Christian has three avenues of worship: personal, family or small group, and corporate. This workshop will give an overview of what it means to worship God in each of these avenues as well as providing resources to aid in worship in personal, family worship, and corporate worship.

Cultural Engagement for Families 2: Fear and Anxiety (John C. Kwasny)

The culture has become one bent towards fear and anxiety over the past several years. How do we help parents develop a Biblical response that will produce Christ-centered peace and rest? This workshop will help Children’s Ministry leaders to help their families.

Integrating Missions into Children’s Ministry (Mariah Cunningham)

This workshop will focus on easy ideas and tips of integrating missions into Sunday School, VBS, organizing a children’s missions conference, church global conference activities, and family mission trips. Participants will be able to walk out of the workshop confident of their ability to integrate missions into their children’s ministry.

Leading and Being Led: Relating Well to Pastors, Elders, Volunteers, and Parents (Jimmy Brock)

One of the challenges of children’s ministry is dealing with lots of different people with lots of different opinions about the ministry. Come and learn how to lead effectively as one under the authority of others.

Rebuilding & Reconnecting (Laney Stayton)

The pandemic left us scrambling finding new ways to carry on our ministries. Now that things are more or less back to normal, we have a unique opportunity to reevaluate our ministries as we seek ways to rebuild by reconnecting. But how do we do this? Where do we start? Join us as we work through these questions together and brainstorm through both old and new ideas.


Ridge Haven Conference & Retreat Center

215 Ridge Haven Road
Brevard, NC 28712


Conference Schedule:

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

2:00 pm: Check–In

3:00 pm: Opening Session

3:30 pm: GROW Groups Prayer Launch

4:45 pm: Workshops Session 1

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00 pm: Plenary Session 1

8:00 pm: Graduation for Certification 2021 Class

9:00 pm: Dessert Social

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00 am: Workshops Session 2

10:15 am: Plenary Session 2

11:30 am: GROW Groups

12:30 pm: Lunch

1:00-4:30 pm: Free Time Activities

4:30 pm: Workshops Session 3

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00 pm: Worship Service – Dr. Stephen Estock

8:30 pm: Celebration for Sue Jakes

9:00 pm: Celebration Dessert

Thursday, March 31, 2022

8:00 am: Breakfast

9:00 am: Plenary Session 3

10:30 am: GROW Groups

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.

COVID-19 CONSIDERATIONS: I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused potential dangers incidental to my participation in this Program, and that I may unknowingly be exposed to an individual who is carrying the virus. In light of this pandemic, I knowingly, willingly, and voluntarily agree to assume the risk of contracting the virus, and to hold CDM and the facility harmless from any exposure I may have to the virus while participating in the Program. I further agree that, if I am diagnosed with the virus or exhibit any symptoms associated with the virus within the 14-day period prior to the Program, I voluntarily will not participate in the Program.

Register Now!