Mission work isn’t always about building houses and feeding the hungry. Sometimes, there are outreaches that look completely different than the more publicized work trips that occur following natural disasters in the United States and in places like Central American and Africa.
One of those non-typical ministries will take place Saturday, Aug. 20, at First Presbyterian Church of Franklin. The northwestern PA congregation will offer its first Back To School Cuts For Kids Day from noon to 4 p.m. in the church’s Fellowship Hall. Free haircuts will be given to any student in kindergarten through 12th grade, and school supplies and snacks will also be available at no cost.
“One of the greatest questions we can ask is, ‘Lord, how can I serve?’” said Tina Kaye, the youth director at First Franklin. “When we are able to go to him with a willingness to serve whole-heartedly, I really think that doors open up for us to be able to serve others in all kinds of unique ministries. And it’s fun and it’s really exciting.
“I think it’s wonderful how the Spirit really just moves in each of us, urging us to try new things. It’s amazing. I praise God for giving us gifts that we can use to help others. It’s so important for the church to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.”
Tina, a Commissioned Ruling Elder, has been preaching at nearby Utica Presbyterian Church for nine years and is involved in that congregation’s youth group as well. Her interaction with these two youth groups allowed her to realize that there is a desire for this type of outreach in Venango County.
“I recognized this need in the community, especially for the children,” Tina said. “There are times in the year that are more difficult for families, especially financially. It’s usually around the holidays. Back-to-school time is also another time of the year that is very difficult for families who are struggling financially to get the basics – haircuts, school supplies, school clothing that can get very expensive.
“With my youth program at the Utica Church and with the youth program here at the Franklin Church, I’m in contact with a lot of kids. I can see the need. Unfortunately, for some families, it (a haircut) is more of a luxury. I volunteer with an after-school program that meets at our church and not every child who goes back to school has brand-new clothes and brand-new school supplies and a brand-new haircut.”
Tina approached the session at First Franklin with the idea of offering free haircuts and other school necessities to the community. It met with favorable response, and the first Back To School Cuts For Kids Day was set in motion. She contacted a couple of friends who cut hair and they quickly agreed to volunteer their services. Two more beauticians have since come on board, making four people available to cut hair for four hours on Aug. 20.
“This is another way the church tries to be out in the community to let people see Christ in the community,” said Rev. Barry Jenkins. “One of our mottos here is that we don’t want people to hear us talk about Jesus, we want them to see Jesus. We try to be in the community as much as possible.”
With a week to go until the Cuts For Kids Day, all 48 slots on a website that has been set up to schedule the appointments have been filled. Due to the response and the desire to not turn anyone away, Tina is hoping to bring in one or two more hairdressers who would only be responsible for the walk-ups on that Saturday.
“We didn’t know what kind of response we were going to get from the community,” Tina said. “Just using Facebook and word-of-mouth, we are booked already. That shows me there’s a great need in the community for something like this.”
Even if you can’t or don’t need a haircut, students are urged to turn out for school supplies that will also be available, along with games and snacks that will be part of the day’s events as well. First Franklin’s Mission Committee is supplying the funds to purchase the notebooks, pencils and things that will be handed out.
“I’m overwhelmed by the response we’ve received,” Tina continued. “Something else that’s beautiful: We’ve gotten a response from the community wanting to know what they can do to help. This is truly a great community event.”
Because of the response, Tina is hoping to hold another Cuts For Kids Day closer to the holidays. It just shows how the Spirit is at work everywhere.
“There’s a scripture in the Bible,” Tina said, quoting Colossians 3:23, “and it’s kind of my motto. It says, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord.’ God is always nudging us to think outside the box. I think he’s also asking us to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in our communities and in this world. I think this is just something great that he has put on our hearts. He’s given us a unique ministry to be able to reach out into the community and let them know, ‘Hey, we’re here and we care about you. We understand there are some families going through some tough times but God loves you and he’s working through us to help you.’”
Tina understands that being a young person continues to have its challenges these days and wants to make sure they have a place to go if they need to talk to someone or simply hang out with others their age who are also coping with the same struggles.
“There is a hat the children in my congregation wear during worship,” Tina explained. “I chose a party hat as a reminder that we should always celebrate the children, for they are truly ‘the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ Children are so unique, beautifully and wonderfully made, with a special gift and a purpose specifically designed by God for them to use in this world. I pray that every child who attends our event feels welcomed and loved and that they are able to Connect2Christ in an exciting new way.
“I’m really hoping that through this there will be some connections, people connecting to the church and to Jesus Christ. I think it’s very important to reach out and show people that we really do care.”