I don’t remember much about life before elementary school. Since I’ve moved back to Louisville, I’ve met a few people who apparently taught me when I was in preschool at Southern Seminary, and connected with a few friends who must have been in my class, but unfortunately I have no memory of them.
If I go back into the deep recesses of my memory as a preschooler, a few pictures stick in my mind: playing in the sandbox with Bethani and Matthew, getting a lima bean stuck up my nose (talk about traumatic), and one of my little buddies (who shall remain nameless) running out of the classroom crying because a clown came to one of our classmate’s birthday parties.
If my church had a children’s minister at the time, I don’t remember who it was, aside from the (male) summer interns who played Pretty Pretty Princess with me in the church nursery. If you asked me how I learned about God, I guess I would say, “Osmosis.”
Or I might tell you about Mr. Mark. Mr. Mark came to visit my preschool class at least once a week to sing songs and tell us stories about God. Sometimes, he would bring his pal, Sydney, a wooden doll that sat on Mr. Mark’s knee and talked!
We anticipated Mr. Mark’s visits to our classroom like kids on Christmas Eve. His enthusiasm infected us with a love for Bible stories that is likely a large part of why I am a minister today. He engaged with us in a way that was so relatable, we often forgot he was an adult!
When I started elementary school, I was so disappointed, because I wouldn’t get to see Mr. Mark at school anymore. But, much to my surprise and excitement, I quickly learned that I would get to see him every day at the Crescent Hill Baptist Church After School Program.
Mark McClintock was the children’s minister at Crescent Hill, where he also ran the After School Program (please forgive me if my timeline isn’t 100% accurate – I’m relying on the memory of a 5-year-old). Many days, his was the first face I saw waiting as my friends and I piled off the bus to go to our After School classrooms.
As I grew older, Mr. Mark continued to be a constant presence in my life. In addition to After School Care, most Wednesday nights, I found myself at Crescent Hill for children’s activities, and during the summer, I attended children’s camp with Crescent Hill.
I was not a member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church. I was not a part of the children’s ministry every time activities were going on. Until children’s camp, I barely knew the names of the other kids in my Wednesday night class.
But Mr. Mark was my children’s minister. He was the first person outside my family who I remember introducing me to God and the stories of the Bible that I hold most dear. He was my first adult friend and mentor.
Most people in my circles today know Mark McClintock as the coordinator of PASSPORTkids!, a really wonderful summer camp for children from third through sixth grades. But I knew him before there was a PASSPORTkids! I went to camp that he planned and executed without a full-time staff to join him.
I knew him when he took a group of 60 campers to Camp Kirkwood for a week of Bible study, crafts, music, worship, and play led only by a handful of adults and youth cabin counselors. I knew him when he still made time to comfort a homesick “outsider” trying to navigate her first summer of camp.
He made me feel welcome, even when I didn’t feel like I belonged.
And that’s how I know Mark today. He is a minister who is capable of executing the most high quality activities for children and caring for them deeply as individuals. He spends as much time in the library, learning about new skills and resources as he does working directly with children and training people who work with children.
He is the first person I called when my parents got divorced and I didn’t know how to handle my college graduation. And he was one of the first people to e-mail me when I started my new job at Broadway Baptist.
To me, Mark is the example of children’s ministry that I look to when I’m working with the children at Broadway. His ministry inspires me to be the kind of person who infects children and adults alike with love for God. His commitment to the lives of those he serves encourages me to be the type of minister who values relationships above all things, seeking to make everyone who steps in the walls of our church feel welcomed and loved.
I am so grateful for the influence Mark McClintock has had, and continues to have, on my life. This Clergy Appreciation Month, I celebrate him!