Members from the Bell Branch church passed out more than 60 sleeping bags on Jan. 9.
“We were busy while we were closed. We were busy doing this.”
“Wow! I can’t believe you did this!” That has been the typical response of kids and parents when they see the newly renovated children’s wing at the New Hope church in Fulton, Maryland for the first time.
“Kids Town” is a complete redesign of the children’s Sabbath school hallway (“circles” at New Hope) on the church’s second floor. The space has been reimagined to resemble an entire town featuring landmarks such as a café, pet store, arcade, pizzeria, ice cream truck, toy store, barber shop, farmer’s market, and more.
Kids Town features interactive elements for kids to enjoy. There’s a firetruck in the middle of the “street” that kids enter to use the water fountain. The renovated space also includes a repurposed ATM and plastic fruits and vegetables on the farmer’s market stand for kids to use for play.
“At New Hope, we really value families and children,” says Marilyn Scott, New Hope church family pastor. “Because of the value we place on them, we’re always trying to find ways to communicate that value. Kids Town is one of those ideas.”
Lead pastor, Mike Speegle, agrees. “We wanted to communicate to parents and kids—especially first-time guests—that kids are important to what we do. We want to exceed people’s expectations. We want people to say, ‘Wow! I didn’t expect this from a church!’”
The leadership team at New Hope has had the vision for Kids Town for several years but found it difficult to get started because building Kids Town necessitated closing the children’s wing for several weeks. But when the pandemic shut down services last year, the team saw an opportunity.
“When the pandemic hit and it became obvious that it was going to be longer than just a couple months we said, ‘OK. Let’s use this time to do this,’” says Speegle.
The church resumed indoor services in July and will start up children’s circles in the new Kids Town wing in September.
“We were busy while we were closed. We were busy doing this,” says Scott. “We wanted to give kids something special to come back to.”