By: Christa Meland
Children throughout the United Methodist connection are learning about the history of the Methodist movement and practicing intentional discipleship with the help of drawings of John and Charles Wesley called “Flat Wesleys”—and Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato was one of the first churches in the country to receive a visit from them.
Flat Wesleys, which are based on the youth literature character Flat Stanley©, will travel to a different church in the connection every two weeks through September as part of a Discipleship Ministries project. So far, more than 700 churches have requested to participate.
Participating congregations receive a set of laminated Flat Wesleys after studying United Methodist heritage. The children then make their own Flat Wesleys and carry them to worship services. They also have the Wesleys with them in prayer and take them out for an act of service in the community, which provides an opportunity to help them look for ways of living out their faith.
At Centenary, a Flat John Wesley and a Flat Charles Wesley arrived in late February to teach children from ages 3-1/2 to 12 about discipleship.
“Focusing on the cornerstones of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, Flat Wesleys provided a fun way to teach kids these foundational concepts while also teaching them some important facts about the Wesleys,” said Erica Koser, director of children, youth, and family ministry at Centenary.
Centenary kept the Flat Wesleys busy during their two-week stay in Mankato. John and Charles helped package food bags for an emergency food bag program, joined a discussion on bullying, attended worship and were present for communion, and joined a Lenten study on prayer practices. They even had a chance to travel home with a couple of kids to see how families are living out their faith.
One little girl who took the Flat Wesleys home did her nighttime prayers with them and read them a Bible story. Two brothers who took the Flat Wesleys home brought them to shovel one neighbor’s driveway—and they baked cookies for another neighbor while the Flat Wesleys watched.
The Flat Wesleys were a big hit, Koser said. In addition to teaching kids about discipleship, they provided an opportunity for kids to learn about connectionalism and itineration. Toward the end of the Flat Wesleys’ stay in Minnesota, Centenary’s children wrote a letter about their experiences and, on March 9, they sent sent it and the laminated Flat Wesleys to the next church that will welcome them: Dorsey Emanuel United Methodist Church in Elkridge, Maryland.
There are about 50 sets of Flat Wesleys circulating throughout the United States. Advent United Methodist Church in Eagan has a set now.
Later this year, Discipleship Resources will release a resource for covenant discipleship with children, and the experiences of the children who participate in the Flat Wesleys project will become part of that resource.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church