For 20 weeks each school year, Wednesday night Kids Klub at Lagro United Methodist Church is the place to be for a hundred neighborhood children—an outsized impact for this rural church.
Lagro UMC, located just outside of Wabash, is a modestly–sized congregation, averaging around 80 people each Sunday in worship. Most of the people in attendance come from families that have worshiped there for generations.
Though some may look at Lagro and see a town working to rebuild after losing manufacturing industries, the worship and discipleship at Lagro is vibrant. There are people of all ages actively involved in Sunday School; they are a community of people dedicated to making disciples.
Lagro UMC serves with an open heart to the community. “It’s the kind of place that if anyone in the community needs anything, regardless of if they come to the church, it gets taken care of,” says Pastor Andrea Lantz.
This dedication is what propelled them nearly three decades ago to start Kids Club. A member attended a Conference event where kids programs were mentioned. She came back to the church and said, “We need to do this.” Heeding that sense of God’s leading, a group of moms led the charge. Today, those moms are seeing their grandchildren come through Kids Klub.
Kids Klub is held from 6:00-7:30 p.m. and truly is church for these children. Many of the families do not attend worship, and some have had complex relationships with faith in their past. “For a long time the conversation was, ‘Why can’t we get these families to Sunday worship?’” said Tammy Kaeffaber, the Kids Klub lead coordinator. “Pastor Andrea has helped us see that Wednesday is worship already.”
During Kids Klub, children are grouped by age. “It’s supposed to be Kindergarten through 6th grade,” said Tammy, “But we started to get some pre-school age, then the middle schoolers didn’t want to stop coming. So we’ve expanded a bit. We don’t turn them away or make them stop coming.” The groups of children rotate between recreation, worship, lesson, and a meal.
Kids Klub is championed by a host of volunteers and God’s grace. Each week, congregants sign up to supply, prepare, serve, and enjoy the meal with the 75-100 children. “Frankly, I don’t understand how the meal keeps happening,” said Tammy with a laugh. God seems to be blessing the donations and multiplying them, week after week.
Kids Klub requires approximately 25 volunteers to lead and build relationships. These relationships give the children a caring adult who can encourage and support them as they grow.
Pastor Andrea said, “We try to have one familiar adult with each class to get to know kids’ names and stories.” It’s not uncommon for Tammy, Pastor Andrea, and other volunteers to run into Kids Klub children when they are out in the community. Parents are often surprised by their child’s enthusiastic greeting. When their child introduces them to the Kids Klub volunteer, the parents get to see how their child is known and loved by Lagro UMC.
Kids Klub had to take a year off due to COVID-19, then they questioned if it should restart. “Thank God we continued,” said Tammy. “[2021-2022] was the biggest year we had.”
Reflecting on the commitment of the Lagro UMC congregation to their community, Tammy said, ”We have one paid position at Lagro. That’s Pastor Andrea, who is part–time. Kids Klub happens beause people jump in, see what needs to be done, realize the importance of children, and make sure it happens. It’s a group effort.”
Most recently, the impact of Kids Klub looked like children being baptized, including one attendee in March. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Andrea was approached by another girl who started a conversation with her parents about being baptized.
“The Lord is moving in so many ways. A lot of the seeds and the fruit are being seen.”