Wayne Hinshaw column: Dunn’s Mountain Baptist builds a city for kids

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2014

Descending down the steps into the basement at Dunn’s Mountain Baptist Church with Pastor Jody Almond, I had no idea what to expect in the newly-decorated children’s ministry area of the church. I was told to expect murals and other things.

The door opened and I viewed a children’s wonderland of icicle lights, a Christmas tree, a “Polar Express” train, a nativity scene, a zoo of stuffed animals, story books and toys,  all contained between the brightly colored walls of blue, yellow and red.

Oh, yes, there are wall murals also of bright, eye-popping colors.

Pastor Almond explained that the area was created for children from birth to 10 years of age. His wife, Shellie Almond, is in charge of the children’s ministry program. She wanted an area that was hospitable for children with a warm loving atmosphere.

“In the Old Testament, the tabernacle in the wilderness was an experience,” explained the pastor. “God intends for church to be an experience. In heaven, it will be an experience of streets of gold. This is an experience at church.”

The children come to the children’s ministry area and don’t want to go home; they want to stay, the pastor says. Proudly, he adds, “They learn about the Lord and the Bible every week on their level, but it is fun for them as well. For my wife and I, this is our vision for a children’s ministry at this church.”

The Almonds came to Dunn’s Mountain Baptist Church last March to start their ministry. With the help of many volunteers in the church, they transformed the basement from a general classroom space, in a week’s time, into the J.A.M. City (Jesus and Me City).

Quoting Proverbs 22:6, Jody Almond says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The purpose of the program is to grow children in the ways of the Lord making sure the kids are in a safe place.

There are 10-15 children at the church each Sunday. Looking to the future of the church, Almond feels that training children is a must if the church is to have a future.

Volunteers who work with Shellie Almond are Jennifer Davis, Trevor Dixon, Dixie Jones, Lori Boyer, and Amber Almond. They have a children’s program every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. while the adults are upstairs in worship. The idea is to offer young couples something for their children. If they can reach the unchurched with the program, so much the better.

Parents checking their children into the basement are given a number for the child. The child wears that number around his or her neck. The only person who can pick up the child is the parent with a matching number. This is for the safety of the child not being picked up by a stranger. The adults are not allowed into the basement during worship time. Almond says the parents have been very positive with the idea.

The former classrooms all have biblical names, such as Josiah’s Toy and Candy Store, Hebrews Boys #226 Fire Station, Paul’s Book Nook, God’s Rainbow Flower Shop, Peter’s Fresh Catch, Miriam’s Music Store, Five Loaves and Fish Cafe and the J.A.M. City Town Hall.

Each room is decorated accordingly to the name. “Josiah’s Toy Store” is loaded with toys and books that the children can select for themselves once a month based on the points they receive for coming to church, learning Bible verses, and their behavior.

Hebrews Fire Station has real firefighter gear for the children to wear as well as a firetruck mural and a mural of a firefighter spelling “Jesus” with the water from his fire hose.

God’s Rainbow Flower Shop is used for a diaper-changing room and a place for mothers who choose to go there to feed their infants. The Five Loaves and Fish Cafe is  serving hot chocolate this winter.

Peter’s Fresh Catch is a storage room and Miriam’s Music Store is the choir rehearsal room. The J.A.M. City Town Hall is Shellie Almond’s office, and of course she is the “mayor” of the city.

Student Peyton Sprinkle’s favorite room is the Toy Store. “It is cool,” she said.

Aspyn Carter’s favorite space is the Flower Shop because that is where the babies are located.

“We used to watch videos of thankful things to do at home,” Aspyn said. “Now our new theme is the birth of Jesus. We are reading about Mary telling Jesus of his birth.” They are studying the book, “Mary’s First Christmas.”

In the stuffed animal zoo, old cribs that were no longer safe for infants have been transformed into animal cages. The cribs are stacked like circus cages and hold a stuffed tiger, a monkey, a bear and a panda. The aquarium has a rubber snake and frog. The area is protected by the sign, “Animals Bite: Do Not Touch.”

Pastor Almond says they have a Facebook page for the children’s ministry at “226 Kids Ministry.”

Wayne Hinshaw is a photojournalist who lives in Rowan County.