Exotic animals – a way to reach out to kids

Catalyst Covenant Church’s latest outreach to the community was a little wild. Fortunately nothing got out of hand.

The church sponsored “Get Wild!” a show that featured a couple who introduced birds, reptiles and mammals to children as a way to promote understanding and awareness of animals. The event was held Oct. 1 at Woodland Elementary School, where the church meets.

Through their show, Jim and Lori Quistorff, owners of “Little Bita Everything Ranch” at Sauk Centre, MN, also hope to quell fears and clear up misconceptions children might have about animals.

“They include audience participation, which allows for an exciting and memorable way of learning,” says Sue Luedtke, the church office manager.

Among the “ambassadors” for the animal world that the Quistorffs brought were a Celebes ape (actually a monkey despite its name), Burmese python, blue-tongued skink, coatimundi, otter, parrot, tarantula, and a sugar glider.

As many as 470 children and adults attended, says Luedtke. It was far more people than the church expected. Catalyst served several hundred free hotdogs afterwards and had to make three trips to a local store to purchase more than they originally bought.

The church arranged for the couple to do the program after Pastor Steve Eng saw them at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd. The show, which is done once a week during the summer, is the most popular family event at the resort, says Luedtke.

Catalyst is a new church plant. “We’re always looking for new and unique ways to reach out to Alexandria and our surrounding communities,” says Luedtke. “We especially like to do things that might appeal to families with young children. These community outreach events are great ways for us to meet new people and for them to get familiar with this new church.”

The church has developed a close relationship with the school and has shown their gratitude in multiple ways. In the past year, the church has twice supplied dinner for the Woodland parent/teacher conference nights, when the staff needs to be there through the supper hour.

Catalyst also sponsored “Get a New Back-to-School Outfit” for students at Woodland who qualify for free or reduced lunches. The event was held in the school gym a week before classes started.

The church provided the letter and postage for the mailing that explained the event, and the school provided the labels and the people to send out the letter. The church also donated the clothes, which families received free, including clothes for the first day of school, an idea developed by the school principal and the pastor.

“The principal said that when these particular kids come to school in the fall, they are labeled immediately because they aren’t wearing the nice, new clothes that other students were,” says Luedtke. “This was a way we could help these kids feel special.”

Article by Stan Friedman. Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.