Originally created 08/28/99

Group provides meals, services to children



Daniel LaDow has a heart for young people.

Years in youth ministry convinced him that churches are in a great position to reach children and teen-agers, but many don't or can't. Rural and inner-city congregations often lack the time and training to secure grants or other resources for those they serve, he said.

Mr. LaDow, 37, wanted to help, so last year he started Church Empowerment. The nonprofit, no-denominational organization connects churches with existing resource ministries such as First Book, Young Life and Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Church Empowerment will offer training to youth leaders at GAP Ministries offices at Greene Street Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m. Monday and every other Monday throughout the year, said Mr. LaDow, an Augustan and member of Lakemont Presbyterian Church.

Leaders will take the gospel stories, games, crafts and tutoring methods they learn back to their churches and return two weeks later for more lessons. Church Empowerment will also help them take advantage of available outreaches for children and teen-agers, such as Young Life camps.

Rural leaders will be able to plug into Church Empowerment through distance learning via the Internet in about six months. Classes will be available in Spanish as well as English, said Mr. LaDow.

For churches which don't have full-time youth directors or pastors, Mr. LaDow has hit a nerve, said the Rev. Dean Conkel, associate pastor/youth at Lakemont. "He is excellent in developing volunteer leaders."

Some 20 churches, such as Bible Deliverance Temple, were able to distribute about 3,000 new children's books after Church Empowerment contacted a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit distributor, First Book.

First Book, dedicated to giving at-risk children books of their own, gave 2.4 million books to 218 communities in 1998. The books are publishers' overstock.

Through Church Empowerment efforts, some 1,000 Augusta-area children also participated in Child Evangelism Fellowship's five-day clubs this summer. And they received hot meals through Golden Harvest Food Bank, where Mr. LaDow is agency relations manager.

Children had a hot meal after a Bible story and craft. "The third part, we read with the kids for about 15 or 20 minutes and then they received a free book" from First Book, said Debbie Williams, Child Evangelism coordinator.

Dr. Linda Tucciarone, a teacher at Westminster Day School, will train tutors, including high school students, during Monday workshops.

Service "is one of the missing links" for many Christians but Church Empowerment will increase service options for students who want to grow, said the Rev. Conkel. "They will really have an opportunity to grow, to do even better."

A Community and Schools Inc. of Augusta grant provided two computers for assisting tutors at the GAP office.

Community and Schools will also provide test scores for students receiving tutoring. If a student is behind, tutors will know what to do to help, the Rev. Conkel said. "We will be able to provide structured and articulate tutoring. We couldn't do it on our own."

Mr. LaDow's organization also pairs urban and rural churches as a means to increase evangelistic and service ministries for both, he said.

Church Empowerment's first Urban/Rural Youth Leaders Conference drew about 50 people from 20 churches to seven workshops this spring. Conferences as well as other training seminars for leaders will be continued during the year.

For information, call 832-3883.

Training

Who: Church Empowerment

What: Youth leader training

Where: GAP Ministries, 1235 Greene St.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.