February 22, 2023
“Peer Ministry helps me have more friends. If someone falls down, instead of walking by them, I help them,” explains 3rd grader Alexandria Guisenger. The girls sitting with her at the table in the elementary library agree.
They are all there at 7:30 am on a Friday morning, before school starts. They are part of a program called Peer Ministry at the PCS elementary campus. The program is open to third to fifth graders through an application and interview process. It calls for a commitment from the student and also for parents to bring their students to school earlier than the regular school start time. This year, the Friday group is comprised of students (about 38) who are new to Peer Ministry – mostly 3rd and 4th graders.
On Thursday mornings, the veteran peer ministers (typically 4th and 5th graders), gather and begin their group discussions – choosing a real life situation, analyzing their feelings about the assigned scenario, exploring reaction options and praying for God’s guidance in the situation. Groups also have the opportunity to role play the scenario. Role playing helps them feel what someone else feels – learning about empathy and a different point of view. An important element in their scenarios include discussions of when to get adults involved.
One of the first weeks session is the “Hello” lesson – “Making a Friend … Why Should I Say Hello???” It’s a good introduction to the program’s premise that a peer minister should “Lead, Serve, Support.”
Peer Ministry is a leadership program that Mrs. Rhonda Rogers, Elementary Principal and PCS Superintendent, adapted from a high school leadership program about a decade ago. This school year 2022-2023, 75 peer minister students meet every Thursday and Friday mornings with Mrs. Rogers. Students hear what God has to say about relationships around them, to practice interacting with others, to serve others in new ways, and to listen quietly to God. As part of the Peer Ministry program at the PCS elementary campus, students learn what it means to be an every day Samaritan.
These young people learn to live I Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in faith and in purity.”
Their many responsibilities as peer ministers includes participation in special events like the Pastor Appreciation Day - greeting visitors, showing them around, and serving food.
Every year in May, peer ministers have the opportunity to put into practice their friendship building skills (striking and maintaining a conversation and making eye contact) by inviting a school mate (someone they don’t know) to have lunch with them at the Wheat Café. The little white house on campus is transformed into a café-like setting complete with dining areas. Each peer minister has a role, from hosting a schoolmate, making drinks or serving drinks, and cleaning up.
What we as adults often take for granted in our daily lives often needs to be taught, modeled and practiced. As 5th grader Debora Cirstean explains, “it’s awesome, I learn how to help others and how to communicate.”
By Grace Dugger