“Jerome says, ‘Hi’”… This is what Tina added as I ushered her into the STARS closet to get a Zion sweatshirt. She had not gotten one at Christmas, she said, and her mom wanted one, too. Her mom was short and kind of small so maybe a medium would do...
Thirty two Wednesday nights each year kids from more than a dozen nations gather under one roof to play, eat, learn and grow to understand each other and God’s plan for their lives. The affect of children singing and playing together from every tribe and nation is so profound that it can’t really be adequately described, it must be experienced. So we invite you and/or your group to come and see and perhaps consider joining this dynamic community.
The event is called STARS. Every kid is a STARS kid. STARS is an acronym which stands for our five goals in the program:
S - Serve. We seek to serve each child, many of whom come from poverty. So we try to supply needed clothes, shoes, school supplies, food, etc. With each child, regardless of back- ground, the idea is “to see the need and meet the need.”
T - Teach. For those who are struggling with reading in English we provide tutoring help. For
those trying to adapt to a new culture we teach life skills. For each child we try to help them find out what God created them to do and to do that thing. Homework help is available for all.
A - Advocate. Some of the kids need help outside of Wednesday nights. They need an advocate to go to the school with them and talk to teachers. Or an advocate to go with them to the doctor’s office. Or perhaps their parents need some help. Whatever the needs of the child, we believe we need to advocate for them.
R - Reach. We present the gospel of Jesus to the kids by words but also by providing a safe, loving environment where they might experience the kingdom of God and His great love.
S - Send. In order to complete the circuit we believe each child must be sent off into the world to be a righteous person and live the life God intended for them to live. It’s the completion of having been served; become a servant yourself.
STARS kids are grouped into six different “Academies.”
- STARS Prep Academy - 7-12 graders who receive both a gospel message and life skills training.
- STARS Builders Academy - 9-12 graders who receive a gospel message and time for discussion and fellowship.
- STARS Believers Academy - 7-8 graders who receive a gospel message and time for discussion and fellowship.
- STARS Training Academy - K-6 graders who receive special help with English.
- STARS Seekers Academy - K- 3 graders who receive a gospel centered message each week.
- STARS Followers Academy - 4-6 graders who receive both life skills and a gospel messages.
STARS is sometimes described as beautifully chaotic, like a rushing river. We believe this is because it is a move of God. STARS didn’t start as a program beautifully detailed and designed. God brought us the kids first and from those early days we’ve been playing catch-up, trying to get the programming to fit the needs of the kids whom we are serving.
We believe that a multi-ethnic, multi-religious environment is the best in which to teach the good news of Jesus Christ. Many of the STARS kids are not Christians, but they come to church regularly anyway. They are Muslim, Buddhist, Animist or have no defined beliefs at all. There are no forced conversions. We are called by Jesus simply to love and serve each child. We don’t hold back on sharing our faith. We simply put it into practice and live it out.
STARS is an outgrowth of Zion’s first apartment outreach in June, 2010. (Please read our story http://ziondsm.org/our-story/) STARS began as the first offsite location for Whiz Kids, a ministry of Freedom for Youth (https://www.freedomforyouth.org) But we weren’t able to maintain the prescribed mentor/student ratios and had to develop our own version.
Each Christmas we raise money and collect donated toys to give every STARS kid the opportunity to choose two gifts from the Christmas store. Each child also receives a hoodie or sweatshirt. In 2014, 600 kids received gifts.
Here’s the plan for a typical STARS evening:
A typical evening begins with arrival and playing outside (weather permitting) or a movie inside.
Announcements, meal, opening programs (by grade level) with singing and games.
Message (age appropriate)
Small group time or activities (stations for the younger kids, conversation for the older).
Want to help? Here are some ideas…
- Please pray for the STARS kids, volunteers and helpers. This ministry depends on the miraculous provision and protection of God.
- Volunteer to be a tutor or small group leader (background check required).
- Volunteer to drive a bus (cdl required) or a 15 passenger van (no cdl required).
- Volunteer to help lead music or play an instrument.
- Volunteer to help with administration - maintain data base and kids badges
- Volunteer to help with security (you get to wear a cool vest).
- Donate money or sports equipment (like soccer balls, volley balls, tether balls, four square balls, etc.)
- Donate money or toys for the Christmas store
- Get together with some friends and fund a STARS youth outreach worker
- Volunteer to serve food
- Volunteer to prepare meals on Tuesday nights
- Volunteer to help clean up after the meal
- Donate money for meals ($1.10/plate - we average 400 meals a week)
- Donate food stuffs for the meal
- Got ideas? We’d love to hear them.