Crosstown Adopt a Family Initiative connects families for care during COVID

Children and family ministry leaders regularly get together to share ideas and pray together. At a recent gathering, one ministry leader shared about how her church was starting a mentoring program for kids since COVID-19 has upended ministry as we used to know it.

As the group ruminated on that idea, Polly Inestroza of Crosstown Covenant in Minneapolis wondered about having families “adopt” one another to make sure each family had someone else in the congregation that is caring for them, and checking in with them regularly in this season when we can’t all be together.

Below are Polly’s reflections on Crosstown’s Adopt a Family initiative, two months in:

Polly Inestroza, Children’s Pastor at Crosstown Covenant in Minneapolis (pictured here with her family) helped create the Adopt a Family program to make sure each family had someone else in the congregation that is caring for them during the COVID pandemic.

I feel the need to begin this faith story with the disclaimer that this was all God. Down to every detail, God orchestrated this celebration for His glory! I had a prompting of the Holy Spirit one day in late July to go to people’s homes and visit. More specifically, to pray for families. To pray over kids and their parents as they embarked on the school year ahead. To claim joy and victory for people even though they didn’t feel it was theirs to claim.

After months of feeling mildly effective in my role as Children’s Pastor, I knew all I could really contribute for my families was prayer through the Holy Spirit.

I began setting up home visits with all the families at our church—many of whom I hadn’t seen for months. After the first three visits, I was completely amazed with a tension I had never experienced before. I left feeling extremely excited, high, overjoyed and completely full! Which makes sense, right?

I need kids and parents to energize the ministry call that is imprinted on my heart. But, I was also incredibly burdened. The first two home visits, the moms cried when I prayed for them. I could sense the pressure, anxiety and passion in families. I was also amazed that the families I was visiting were willing to enter a holy space on their front steps, with me.

I sat with this tension for a few days before realizing that this burden that I was carrying is not mine alone, but the Church’s. I could visit all 25 families’ homes, take all their prayer requests before the Lord daily and carry this with Him and me. Or, I can delegate this gift to the congregation, and we can all carry each other together. With that, I tweaked an idea that I had heard and created the Adopt a Family ministry, which launched September 2020.

Adopt a Family exists for two purposes: 1) covering each Crosstown family in prayer, and 2) encouraging one another during this difficult time. Each of our families were “up for adoption” and adopted by someone else in our congregation. The adopters vary in age and life stage. One couple recently underwent surgery, and I was able to place them with a COVID-cautious family who is uncomfortable with visitors!

In the welcome packets, adopters were given a list of ideas to encourage—fun little things that would bring joy to a home. Ages of kids and “get-to-know-you questions” were also included, along with a picture of the family.

It’s funny, I heard from a teen household that it has “been interesting receiving cards in the mail from a woman I do not even know.” And, while yes, that may seem weird, isn’t it cool to know you are a part of a bigger movement that cares for each other!

We belong to one another. Praying for and encouraging each other at Crosstown belongs to our whole congregation. Our Adopt a Family ministry not only shares in that work, but I would say it relishes in the glory too. As I left homes feeling energized and purpose-charged, I couldn’t hoard that all to myself.

Praying for one another and encouraging one another can energize all of us, and fuel us through this pandemic!

“They don’t respond to emails, phone calls or texts. Exactly how are we supposed to reach young adults?” For those frustrated by ministry with digital natives, especially during this pandemic, there’s hope.

Mark Matlock and co-author David Kinnaman (President of Barna) spent three years researching what discipleship looks like in this age of screens. Their findings have been published in this recent book.

Matlock joined NWC staff for a webinar to unpack best practices for reaching Millennials and Gen Z, plus bonus content at the end on moving beyond “sit and stream” as a level of engagement with virtual audiences.

Matlock is the principal of WisdomWorks, a consulting firm that helps Christian leaders leverage the transforming power of wisdom to accomplish their mission. He is the former executive director of Youth Specialties.


In these uncharted times, our desire as leaders is that our congregations stay connected with God, each other and the mission of God. This webinar explores a vehicle for helping our communities stay connected called “Digital Neighborhoods.”

These are geographically based groups that connect online with a format that allows for rich discussion, prayer and commitment to God’s mission. Rev. Stephanie O’Brien, better known as “Pastor Steph,” co-leads Mill City Church in Minneapolis. She discusses how these groups have led their church to stay connected in this time, as well as led to a deepening of relationships organically. The tools and resources linked below the video are referenced throughout her presentation. They can be changed and shaped for your context.

Sign up for the UPDATE e-mail newsletter to learn about future NWC webinars and resources.


Looking for a practical way for your church members to serve? Have them make homemade COVID-19 face masks to donate to health care workers, hospitals, nursing homes, transitional programs, etc. Mary March, co-lead pastor of New City Covenant Church, mother of four, Covenant Asian Pastors Association President, and ECC Mosaic Commission chair, has a very busy life. She also has a love for pastors, having parents who are both retired Korean United Methodist clergy.

Being a busy mom, education encourager for her children, pastor and leader in this high-stress season led Mary to find a stress release: making COVID-19 masks. She’s made about 11 different kinds of masks and demonstrates how to make a highly efficient version that takes only three minutes to make.

In her YouTube debut, Mary shows you how to make this researched, effective face mask, using Scott Shoptowels, staples, masking tape, a pipe cleaner (or tin foil) and two rubber bands. And it only takes three minutes to make!


The hush of Holy Week has felt especially poignant this year as churches are figuring out what it means to create community and worship from afar. Across the Northwest Conference, churches are creatively designing services that fit their people and their context. Several our pastors shared what they’re doing this Holy Week:

At Catalyst Covenant in St. Paul, they are integrating art and worship. They are having an artist do three time-lapse videos in their Good Friday service of three paintings. Pastor Jeff Olson is creating three short talks to go with each painting.

Tim Coyer, pastor at Prairieview Covenant in New Richmond, said, “We will do Holy Week Services online; Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We are putting together Holy Week supply bags that people can either pick up tomorrow or have delivered to their house on Thursday. The bags have communion elements, a candle for our Good Friday service, coloring sheets for the kids, Blazing Center devotionals for our post-Easter series and some candy.”

Faith Covenant (Burnsville) is doing a Tenebrae service for Good Friday. Charlene Rotvold, Family Life Pastor, said, “Six members of our congregation taped a reading and written (by them) reflection on one of the seven last ‘words’ of Jesus. And our children’s and youth directors are taping special devotions for our kids and youth.” For Easter, they’re asking members to send in a video of their family saying, “Happy Easter!” to begin the service.

Living Waters Covenant (Worthington) is doing Holy Week services online: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, a Saturday prayer vigil and Easter. They sent out questions centered on the Easter story asking for responses which they’ll use during worship in a “talk show” format. They’ve also asked people to chalk “He is risen” on their sidewalk/driveway and submit pictures of their families around it.

Pastor Kris Stewart described the format of the Saturday prayer vigil. “We’ve been prerecording our services rather than going live. It will begin with welcome/explanation, people are invited to light a candle/dim the lights and then they’ll be guided through prayers/scripture readings. There will be pauses built in. However, since it is prerecorded, they will be invited to ‘pause’ for longer periods if they so choose. The service will be approximately 15-20 minutes long.”

T.C. Moore, pastor of Roots Covenant (St. Paul), held an online communion service for Maundy Thursday, using bread from a common loaf. He described it, “Osheta [Pastor of Community Life] and I will bake rolls from the same dough, individually wrap them and deliver them to each household on Wednesday.”

HOPE Covenant (Grand Forks) had people pick up communion elements, palm branches and kid packs last weekend for Palm Sunday. They also have daily devotions and a daily worship song. Pastor Paul Knight said that for Good Friday, they’ll have online drama monologues. The Easter service will be online, followed by an all-city (“We hope,” commented Knight) Easter car parade.

Moose Lake Covenant is using several different platforms to communicate with their people Pastor Craig Johnson said that they will be meeting for services via Zoom on Thursday night, a Friday night Tenebrae, and for Sunday school. Their Easter service will be via YouTube.

At Thief River Falls Covenant, Pastor Bert Foster said, “For Maundy Thursday we are doing a prayer and communion service via Zoom. We are doing recorded video services for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.”

At Monticello Covenant, Pastor Jane Spriggs led a Maundy Thursday service via Zoom. She described the service as, “fairly contemplative with music, Bible readings, prayers and communion.” She will be broadcasting Easter Sunday via Facebook Live from her house. She described it as, “Interactive with live prayer requests, greeting and communion in homes.”

This is a sample of all the creative ways our churches are seeking to meet the needs of their churches during this extraordinary Holy Week.

Many of these can be done in a low-key way, without speedy internet! 

Sometimes when we see lists we get overwhelmed. Instead, we hope this list gives you some ideas not to add one more thing to your plate—but to help your people connect with each other and their risen Lord, and experience a deep time of worship and renewal even in this moment. 

Remember, you can’t do everything. Give yourself grace. Rest well and seek to serve God and the people in your community strategically. Pick a few things or one thing and do them well. 

  1. Encourage your church to do a time where you all pray or read scripture at the same time of day. Even if your tech does not allow you to connect, this is a fantastically simple and ancient community activity. Some churches are even mailing out daily devotions to parishioners.
  2. Invite your church to each send a picture over text or e-mail to other members of your church along with a prayer or note of encouragement on Easter Sunday. Again this is highly relational and easy to do. Think of it like a digital calling tree. 
  3. Ask each member of your church to rent or stream a movie like the “The Passion of the Christ” or read the Easter account from scripture and invite your community to a moderated conversation online to discuss the text/movie. 
  4. Create an Easter playlist on Apple Music, Spotify or some other streaming service. Don’t have access? Invite people to suggest their favorite Easter music, make a list and mail that to people. Or photocopy pages of the hymnal and mail to people.
  5. Find another pastor or ministry leader, call them and swap “best ideas” for Easter. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! 
  6. Host a QR code (Geocache) Easter egg hunt in your neighborhoods. That way no one has to touch anything and if it’s outside you are social distancing. This works well for small town churches where most of the church lives within a 10 minute radius.
  7. If you are looking for a way to pray through Holy Week this year, Lilly Lewin (author of “Sacred Space”) designed a prayer experience based on a centerpiece and five candles that can be used on your dining or coffee table and prayed around with your family, housemates or on your own. It starts on Sunday and finishes on Easter Sunday morning, taking you through the last week of Jesus’ life: The website has other experiential Holy Week resources as well:
  8. Online Passover. Register for a time to experience the ancient Jewish feast of Passover and the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples. Meet Jewish staff from around the world, hear their life-changing stores and ask questions through an interactive Q&A:
  9. Chalk the Walk, print yard signs with service times, and other practical ideas for inviting your neighbors to online church from
  10. Low tech option: Movie theatre “drive-in church” or “drive-up prayer” stations. See these cool stories on doing this here:
  11. Create a “Zoom Easter Coffee Hour” for your church. There is a free version of this software that is easy to set up and a fun way to see faces on Easter Sunday. Have kids make “lego tombs” to show off during the coffee time ( More advanced Zoom options (for a pretty cheap purchase price) can even be an option to host services online. 
  12. Signs of Hope outreach idea. Good exercise, community connections and creative evangelism. 
  13. We are not the only ones trying to figure this “digital Easter” thing out! Here are a few other denominations or organizations putting out creative guides that are feasible and not overwhelming! and 
  14. If you want to “live stream” your services, Facebook and YouTube are the most user friendly. BEWARE however that you need good internet speed and Sunday a.m. on Facebook has been a bit iffy given how many churches are using this option … So what if you plan a “live digital” service on non-peak time? You can also upload services ahead of Sunday mornings to make them run smoother and not demand fast internet connections during the actual time the service is streamed by your people. Details here: Note: YouTube uploading and streaming is slightly less intuitive than Facebook and you need a YouTube account first to post or stream. Use Google to find out more. 
  15. Online giving is also something to consider if you currently don’t have a provider for this. Many options are available: Tithly or are two of the easiest to use. Obviously this is not the point of Easter but was added to the list given the nature of the moment.

Hello Dolly is First Covenant Church of Saint Paul’s most recent example of our commitment to build strong partnerships with our neighborhood public schools to invest in the lives of children and youth. What started in 2006 as a collaborative experiment with Farnsworth Aerospace School elementary students and First Covenant children has expanded to include students from both campuses of Farnsworth Aerospace School and Johnson High School who perform musicals each fall and spring.

Young people learn skills in voice, dance, acting, set design and building, lighting and sound arrangement. Confidence is built as students work as a team, set and meet goals and experience success in a major production. Academic performance is also impacted as young people discover new insights about their own abilities and dare to dream of future success.

Ultimately, these partnerships are about building relationships between peers and caring adults, with the hope that these relationships pave the way to a deeper connection with the church, and provide an in-road to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s inspiring to see our young people not just catch a glimpse for their academic future, but also dream about how Jesus is transforming their lives. Young people have gone on to attend Covenant Pines Bible Camp, VIVE and CHIC as a part of their connection with this church community.

Please join us at any of our three performances Dec. 5 (7 p.m.), Dec. 6 (6 p.m.) or Dec. 7 (10:30 a.m.) at Johnson High School. Admission is free, we do hope that you are able to attend this inspiring and fun event for all!

Download the Hello Dolly promotional poster

Submitted By Kate Makosky, Minister to Youth + Families, First Covenant Church of Saint Paul

NWC Gardens Pic-2 copyFirst Covenant Church in St. Paul offers a portion of their land to Urban Roots, formerly Community Design Center of Minnesota, a Saint Paul-based organization. Urban Roots employs 30 teen interns from East St. Paul to operate six neighborhood gardens and grow and sell a variety of vegetables and herbs to the community. One of these partners, Roots for the Home Team, makes this produce into salads to sell to Twins fans at Target Field.

Karmel Covenant in Princeton, MN, has operated a garden on their property for the last 5 years, a vision of former pastor Allan Johnson. All plants for this football-field sized garden are donated from Uproot Farms, a local organic nursery, then planted, cultivated and harvested by volunteers from the church. All produce is donated to the local food shelf in Isanti County.

Karmel Covenant’s garden ministry took a heartbreaking turn recently when lead volunteer and caretaker, Tom Krebs, lost his battle with cancer in June 2014. Volunteer new caretaker, Steve Anderson, said “Tom had everything laid out on paper where the plants should go. We followed that to a T and that made it pretty easy, actually.” Pastor Gary Tonn says that Krebs had a heart for feeding the hungry and the church is dedicated to carrying on this vision, naming the garden the “Tom Krebs Memorial Garden.”

Such creative use of space!

Photo caption: Donovan DeGaetano, Pastor to Children and Families from First Covenant Church in St. Paul, enjoys a salad from Roots for the Home Team at Target Field.

bandage-rolling-2Girls in the AWANA program at First Covenant Church in Red Wing, MN, had no idea they could save lives just by tearing up bed sheets.

That is one of the reasons they have been so enthusiastic to participate in the church’s bandage rolling ministry, which has been primarily the responsibility of senior adult women in the congregation.

Girls in third through fifth grades tear bed sheets every Wednesday night before the AWANA meetings start. High school girls also have assisted.

Women sew the bandages to correct lengths in their homes and then gather once a month to roll them. The strip bandages are desperately needed in hospitals and clinics operated by the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM).

Linda Anderson, who works with the ministry in Red Wing, notes how the ministry can involve a breadth of people in the congregation. One woman who struggles with Alzheimers loves to roll the bandages.

“She rolls them on her leg as she has for many, many years,” says Anderson. “They are rolled tight and even. Even when our bodies and our minds don’t work so well, we are still important and special in God’s eyes.”

Anderson adds, “We have found out that productive mission work doesn’t end at a certain age or even mental ability,” Anderson says. “The side benefit for the church is ‘many hands make light work.’ The older ladies do not have the physical strength to rip, and the kids love it.”

The girls have helped with the ministry since October 2010. So far this year, the group has rolled almost 3,000 bandages, Anderson says.

For more than 65 years, women of the Covenant have rolled bandages for Congolese hospitals. Click here to learn more about this historic ministry.

“One thing I’ve learned since I stepped into this position is that bandage rolling is alive and well in the Covenant,” says Meagan Gillan, executive minister of the Department of Women Ministries. “From Red Wing, Minnesota, to Congo, women and girls are partnering to provide items needed by our sisters and brothers of the CEUM.”

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

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.

RCC soccer web 1“A mission field in our own backyard” took on a literal meaning when Redeemer Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, turned its seldom-used softball diamond into a popular soccer field last summer.

Brooklyn Park, a second-ring suburb of Minneapolis, has an increasingly multicultural population of nearly 76,000. Soccer is a common denominator among the varied ethnicities represented in the area. A deep desire to reach outside church walls and meet their neighbors led the church to host its first soccer camp for local children and their families last summer (with an improved program offered again this season).

The origins of the camp actually go back a couple years. At that time, Redeemer’s pastor Steve Larson had already been praying for opportunities to reach out to the growing population of Latino families in the community. A new Spanish-speaking Covenant church plant, La Bendición, eventually started meeting at Redeemer, a location that was central to where many Latino families live and work. Both congregations have flourished through opportunities to share worship and fellowship, serve together in the community, and reach out in the name of Christ.

La Bendición’s pastor, Juan Lopez, recognized the possibilities of creating a soccer program both as an outreach to the neighborhood children and as a way to involve families within his own congregation. Lopez knew that church attender Santos Gonzalez had been a professional soccer player in Ecuador, so he shared his idea with Gonzalez for inviting neighborhood children to come play soccer at Redeemer’s field. Gonzalez became excited by the idea and volunteered to be one of the coaches.

Conversation ensued regarding a joint summer soccer camp. Some members of the Redeemer congregation had been suggesting for a few years that the church purchase soccer goals and set them up on the unused softball field. The idea began to take hold among both congregations, and they prayed together for God’s blessing.

Creating a program

Plans for the program quickly fell into place. Kickin’ Kids Soccer Camp would be offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from mid-June through mid-August. It would be free and available to kids between the ages of 6 and 15.

Four coaches—two from each congregation—volunteered to lead the camp. From La Bendición came Gonzalez and Lopez, who had learned to play soccer in his native Colombia. And from Redeemer were Kenny Oyederu, a certified soccer coach who came to America from Nigeria 16 years ago, and Keith Weiman, a longtime member of the church who had played soccer as a child in the United States.

Support from the two congregations was strong. Within two Sundays, they gave enough money for the goals, nets and field-marking equipment.

The next step was to get the word out to the neighborhood. The churches created brochures in English and Spanish, which they passed out door-to-door and mailed to children who had previously attended church programs.

On the first evening of the camp, volunteers had taken care of all the details. The coaching staff set up goals, and the facilities staff marked the white game lines. Balls were inflated to the right pressure, and the water jug was filled and perched on the coach’s pickup tailgate with plastic cups ready for water breaks. Information sheets and registration forms were available in both English and Spanish, and the first aid kit was handy.

Everything was prepared. The field was ready. Would anyone come?

When 20 children showed up, the staff was thrilled. Through word of mouth, attendance more than doubled after that, with about 50 children on the field each successive session. By the end of the summer, the roster listed the names of 85 soccer players.

Each session of camp started with prayer and a short devotional. The kids were divided into two groups—6- to 10-year-olds in one group, and 11- to 15-year-olds in the other. They practiced soccer basics, concentrating on just a few skills at a time. Sometimes they divided into teams to scrimmage, but no score keeping was allowed.

Campers also learned to get along with each other. “After each clinic we would think of a word like love or respect and ask the kids what that word meant to them,” says Weiman. Such dialogue gave the coaching staff a chance to emphasize the character qualities of good sportsmanship.

Hosting on the Sidelines

Much more happened in the soccer camp than kicking, dribbling and passing the ball on the field. While the coaches and assistants concentrated on the players, hospitality team members connected with parents and family members on the sidelines. They warmly greeted everyone, registered new children, provided water, and directed individuals to a portable restroom that was wheelchair accessible.

The hospitality team passed out information about upcoming vacation Bible school, AWANA, and children’s events offered by Redeemer and La Bendición throughout the rest of the year. Most of the material was published in both English and Spanish.

Enhancing the future

This summer the church has expanded the camp to include 3- to 5-year-olds for a half-hour at the beginning of each evening of camp. Age-group levels meet consecutively rather than all at once to relieve the congestion on the field. A regular 15-minute devotional tailored for each age group is incorporated into the evening’s schedule.

For this summer’s session, rosters filled up completely in the two younger age groups after one week of registration, and soon there was a waiting list for the 10- to 15-year-olds as well. Most exciting was the fact that two-thirds of the 100 participants this summer do not attend either Redeemer or La Bendición.

This year a small fee for the camp was required ($10 per child or $25 per family). The church recognized that players are more committed to consistent attendance if the family has invested something in the program. With the registration fee, each player received a team t-shirt.

“Redeemer Covenant Church is striving to be a community learning compassion and worship that is centered on Christ,” said Pastor Larson. “The joint soccer program with La Bendición created an appreciation between the congregations as we began to learn more about each other. Through the strength of our work together, we compassionately engaged the community that is so close to our door.”

Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” With that in mind, Redeemer and La Bendición seek to be places of light and warmth in a difficult world, providing fun along the way through ministries like Kickin’ Kids Soccer Camp.

Adapted from the article that appeared in the August 2011 issue of the Covenant Companion.