The members of the United Methodist Church in Sturgis, South Dakota wanted to increase afterschool opportunities for elementary students in the community and create another opportunity for the children to hear the word of Jesus. “We want children to become committed followers of Jesus,” says Jessica Kusser, who is a member of Sturgis UMC and coordinator of Treehouse Tuesday.
Treehouse Tuesday is an afterschool program that is held each week at the church in Sturgis, South Dakota. It is a safe and structured environment for children. Children walk down from Sturgis Elementary School each Tuesday. Upon arriving at the Sturgis United Methodist Church, a snack is served to the 22 children who are participating.
After snack, the participants are placed in two groups —Kindergarten (there are 11 students here) and elementary grades 1-4, (there are 11 students here also). One group does Bible study using the Deep Blue curriculum, while the other group does a craft tied to the Bible story, plays board games, and other activities such as homework.
Kusser describes that after 30-40 minutes, depending on how deep the conversation about the Bible lesson gets, everyone heads outside to play. Once the weather changes, the plan is to stay inside and have more crafts, games, and other indoor activities such as cooking, for the students to do. Volunteers from the congregation make it all possible.
“I plan to do some cooking and a community service project before Christmas time,” says Kusser.“The members of the congregation have been fantastic. Different members of the congregation have signed up to volunteer. Each Tuesday, we usually have 2-3 volunteers plus me. The children are thrilled and love having these adults with them.”
Volunteers also provide a snack each week and are developing connections with the children by donating their time and items for the program.
The Treehouse Tuesday program takes place in the open area in the fellowship hall. The name is derived from the artwork of Ashley Alsup and Pastor Jenene Earl. They built a tree out of poster board material. The curriculum and articles for the program are all connected to the congregation.
“We have a few items to make it homey, and we continue to add to it. Members of the congregation have donated the games, books, and other items,” Jessica says. “We looked at the curriculum and discussed Deep because it is used for Sunday School.”
Planning for the afterschool program has been underway for several months. In the spring, the congregation sent home flyers at the elementary school, five children pre-registered. This fall, Kusser spoke with the principal and was able to set up a booth at the school’s open house, and registration grew from there.
The children are very excited to come every week. Parents report that their children keep asking if it is Tuesday yet.“I have had children who don’t want to leave some nights," says Kusser. “When I am at the elementary school, to pick up my son on other days of the week, the Tuesday Treehouse children ask if they get to come with me.”
Sturgis UMC is bringing the word of Jesus to the children as well as an opportunity for the children to socialize and develop some lifelong skills.
A funding source for the Treehouse Tuesday program was a Breakthrough Ministry grant. Breakthrough Ministry grants fund outreach ministries, culture of call opportunities, youth-adult and campus ministries, church and school partnership, and technology that enhances ministry. Grants are available to congregations each quarter. The next application deadline is October 31. Learn more here.