When you hear “Detroit,” many words come to mind—corruption, unemployment, neglected, crime, fear, and abandoned. But over 540 churches in and around the Motor City are uniting to change that. These churches, from different cities, backgrounds and denominations, are part of a region-wide movement called EACH—Everyone a Chance to Hear. Their purpose is to spread the Good News of Jesus through words and good deeds to a city in need. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about Detroit and whether it can rise from the ashes. As the eyes of the nation are on this city, EACH is working to show that God has not forgotten Detroit and its people, but has plans to use this region as a city on a hill.
On Easter Sunday 2011, these 540 churches launched a 40-day campaign, called 2WordStory. While EACH is the movement, 2WordStory is the vehicle to get the message heard. Each 2WordStory shares a Christian’s story of who they were before knowing God, and how they have changed through a relationship with Him. This is done using simple terms such as: Loved? Loved. Secure? Secure. Forgiven? Forgiven. Empowered? Empowered. During the 40 days, these words were displayed on billboards, buses, bumper stickers, radio ads, lawn signs, and coffee sleeves. The city was blanketed with words of hope and a future.
While planning for EACH, a task force of children’s ministry leaders from different churches in and around Detroit met to develop and plan how children could share their 2WordStory. Val Herriman, Director of Children’s and Family Ministries at Oak Pointe Church in Novi, facilitated these meetings. She explains the challenge in children’s ministry was finding a 2WordStory that relates to children. The target for the 2WordStory was how a person was changed by God. Kids who receive Christ at a young age don’t have a past story to share. Effective evangelism means putting the terms in a language people understand, so the committee had to look at what language kids understand.
Many times, people make salvation about the end result—heaven. For a child, the thought of death can be fearful and a long way off. Friendship with God is a concept children can understand, and is something that is in the present. The committee developed the 2WordStory “Friend? Friend!”
While the concept of “Forever Friends” is not new to children’s ministry, the 2WordStory was a fresh approach. It was important for the children’s story to not sound too “churchy” by using words kids don’t understand. If kids were going to be sharing their stories, it had to be sincere and not full of “church words.” Instead of saying, “I wasn’t always friends with God because of my sin,” children were encouraged to say “because of the wrong things I do.” Herriman explained that training children is more than teaching “the right words,” but for them to understand the concepts. “Once a child understands the concept, they’ll go places with it.”
The majority of the children’s ministries spent the four to six weeks before Easter training their kids in evangelism and their 2WordStory. Along with the two words (Friend? Friend!), the children learned three symbols (a heart, a cross, and the number four) to remember their story. The final 2WordStory looked like this.
Friend?: I wasn’t always God’s friend, because the wrong things I did kept me from being friends with a super good God.
Heart: But God loved me so much.
Cross: That He sent His son Jesus to die on a cross and come back to life.
4: For me … to take the punishment for all the wrong things I’ve done, so God could forgive me and be my friend.
Friend!: Do you know how I became friends with God? I just asked! I prayed and asked God to be my friend and to forgive me for the wrong things I’ve done, because I believe Jesus died for me. And it’s awesome to have God as my friend!
Kids were also encouraged to share why it is so awesome being friends with Jesus. It was important for the children to share “why” they should be friends with God, and not just the “how.”
During the weeks of training, there were reports from many churches of their own kids being saved … and the campaign hadn’t even launched! As the message of salvation was laid out to them in such an easy manner, hundreds of churched kids were asking God to be their friend. These were children who attend church weekly, but were making this commitment for the first time. It revealed how effective the 2WordStory could be for children. Now that they understood the concepts, what were they going to do with it?
The children learned the verse: “But make sure in your hearts that Christ is Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope that you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIRV). The task force purposely used the NIRV translation, so the words would be understood by all children. Using this verse, the children learned the importance of being ready to share their story with others. But they needed a tool to empower them.
The adult 2WordStories were being printed primarily on t-shirts. There were problems though with using t-shirts in children’s ministry. It was the desire of the task force that all churches would be able to give Share Wear to all of their kids. It needed to be an item that was affordable for all participating churches and both inner city and suburban kids would want to wear. Herriman said, “We didn’t want the thing meant to unify to disunite the churches.”
In 2010, Val and her team at Oak Pointe did a similar program in their children’s ministry called “Get Loud.” Each child was given dog tags with the salvation message on it. Knowing the tool had worked in previous years, Share Wear was developed for EACH kids. Churches could choose to purchase dog tags or chunky wristbands for their students. Each dog tag and wristband contained the 2WordStory and three symbols.
On Easter Sunday, 2WordStory launched across the Metro Detroit region and children were given their Share Wear. This made a huge impact in the schools that Monday, when thousands of kids showed up wearing their 2WordStory message. There were many reports of kids seeing fellow classmates from other churches wearing Share Wear. Kids were excited to identify other Christians at school. There is strength in numbers, and this revelation gave students the extra energy and boldness to share their message with others.
“Every week we saw their faith building through the EACH curriculum as they learned how to share their faith,” shared Pastor Heather Nissley of New Hope Assembly of God in Taylor. “As a result of the faith and new boldness God has given these children, some are taking their Bibles to school now and reading it with their friends at recess.”
Reaching the Community
As part of the 40-day campaign, EACH churches are donating a million hours of community service in and around the city. While there have been campaign-wide opportunities, such as building homes, mobile medical care, and job resource fairs, the hope is for individual churches to do what they feel is good for their own community. Unity isn’t coming from all 500 churches following one major plan, but each church following God’s specific plan for them and their community, all while showing the love of Jesus.
Children are helping serve through a variety of projects, such as reverse garage sales, planting community gardens, garbage pick-up, and delivering food to those in need. Two brothers, one in elementary and one in middle school, had wristbands made and raised over $4000 for tsunami victims in Japan.
Josie, a fourth grader from Roseville, has been bringing bag lunches to the homeless in the inner city projects with her mom and younger brother. “People live without any food or water and we waste so much of it. Seeing this made me not want to eat or turn my water on for a while. You hear about people living like this but you don’t see it, so when you do it’s like, oh my gosh!” She went on to explain, “This experience has taught me about the power of God. He’s at work behind everything. It’s not just about the sandwich; it’s about the relationships you’re building.”
The official end of the 40 days was June 3, and it leaves some asking if EACH has been a success. “Have we seen thousands saved?” asked Herriman. She went on to answer herself, “Not yet. But we have seen hundreds of Christians across the region change. They now feel empowered and have the freedom to share their story. In many ways, the movement is just starting.”
For more information on EACH and 2WordStory, visit www.eachtoday.com and 2wordstory.com.