Playgrounds provide a place for children and families to come together. While kids build their physical and social skills, their adults forge relationships. With funding help from the Small Church Ministry, two congregations revitalized their church playgrounds, creating welcome spaces for the community to reconnect after the distance caused by COVID-19.
In late 2018, the session of Bott Memorial Church in Dinwiddie County began looking critically at their 15-year-old playground. Congregation members and neighbors value the space at the church since the next closest playground is five miles away at the elementary school.
At the same time, C.J. Gomez, a youth elder at Bott Memorial and a Boy Scout, approached Pastor Katherine Jackson about completing a service project at the church. An overhaul of the play area was a perfect fit, with Gomez leading the planning and fundraising for the initiative.
Forty miles north in Chesterfield County, Ampthill Church is tucked in a residential area. The backyard of the church property has for many years been dedicated to a neighborhood playground, beloved by members and non-members.
In early 2021, the Ampthill Presbyterian Women decided the aging play structure needed an update for safety. They solicited contributions from family and friends and a grant from Costco, raising $9,000.
As both churches have small congregations—Ampthill has about 75 members and Bott, 58—they were eligible to apply for grants from the presbytery’s Small Church Ministry to help with their projects’ costs. These grants are for $5,000 or less for projects addressing either building/equipment needs or outreach.
Over the past 18 months, both congregations worked to implement their projects.
At Bott Memorial, Gomez coordinated congregation members and Scouts in dismantling the old structure and building a new one, complete with landscaping. On August 8 in a ceremony held at the church, he was awarded Eagle rank, the highest a Scouts BSA member can achieve, for his leadership of the project.
Volunteers at Ampthill Church leveled the ground, installed borders, spread mulch, and built a new playset and geodome. Supporters, including Pleasant’s Hardware, donated a sign and benches to complete the space. On November 6, the congregation celebrated the opening and dedication of its renovated Let It Shine playground.
Sometimes ministry takes place when children in the neighborhood gather at the playground of the church and parents connect to share this time with each other and their children.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” The congregations of Ampthill and Bott Memorial have shared that invitation in a very tangible way.
Be Part of Small Church Ministry Across the Presbytery
The Small Church Ministry is looking for pastors and congregational leaders who are interested in helping the presbytery care for our smaller congregations. The group meets approximately every other month. In the coming year, this ministry will work with the to-be-hired presbyter for congregational life to identify and address needs of small membership congregations in our presbytery. In addition, this team reviews applications for small church grants and helps to oversee the small church intern program. To get involved, contact Kerra English.