Ten-year-old Otto Eidsness has a lot of friends. What his friends don't know is that while they are his friends, they are also his disciples because he is a disciple who makes disciples. His friends are found in Camelot Intermediate School and at GracePoint Wesleyan Church in Brookings, South Dakota.
Rev. Jessey Mook leads the GracePoint children’s ministry for kindergarteners through fifth graders called KidsPoint. Mook describes Eidsness, an athletic and outdoorsy kid, as kind, enthusiastic and with charisma that surpasses his age. Eidsness, his parents and three siblings attend GracePoint.
Mook noticed that the kids at GracePoint, including youth older than Eidsness, naturally gravitated to the fourth grader. When Eidsness decided he “wanted to be part of something,” and joined the KidsPoint worship and dance team, boys older than he joined the team also, a fact Mook says demonstrates influence. Eidsness had decided the girls had led dance team long enough and it was time for boys to take part.
“Perhaps he can’t verbalize the discipleship now, but that is what he is doing,” said Mook. “He took it home, meaning what we’ve been teaching actually sunk in and changed his heart.
“Otto is authentic, and that authenticity is attractive to the other kids,” Mook said. “They are learning to love as Jesus does—all because of one kid engaging in practical discipleship.” The group is growing in numbers, leadership and faith development.
KidsPoint is ethnically diverse and a good reflection of Brookings’ 30,000 people. Home to South Dakota State University, blue and white-collar jobs make up the city’s economy. “The church reflects what the community looks like,” said Mook.
“They are learning to love as Jesus does—all because of one kid engaging in practical discipleship.”
Diversity doesn’t faze Eidsness one bit. He makes friends with all kids—no matter their race, economic status or social status.
When asked how Eidsness loves others so naturally, Mook said, “I think it’s a genuine interest and liking for everyone. Every single kid is friend potential to him.”
When asked what it means to be a leader, Eidsness said, “You treat others well and show others the way. If you’re being kind to someone, they’re probably going to be kind to someone.”
Kids are noticing Eidsness’ ability to love others well and are beginning to live the same way. Eidsness said being Jesus to others means, “being kind, sharing, not hurting people, not putting someone down, listening to my parents and playing easier in sports.”
Mook, in his fifth year at GracePoint, recalls how he heard a conference speaker say that kids never come up to you and say, “I remember that sermon.” No, they always recount how you treated them as kids years back.
He makes friends with all kids—no matter their race, economic status or social status.
“My youth pastor is the reason I’m in ministry today,” said Mook. “I can’t tell you one thing he ever said in a sermon, but I can tell you the way I saw him treat the kids in my school that I didn’t like. I can tell you how he treated every single teen like they were the most important kid on the planet. I want every kid to know that when they come into KidsPoint, I think they are the most special person in the entire world.
“When I’m around kids, I want them to see me trying my best to be like Jesus to others. I take seriously my responsibility to lead kids by example,” Mook said. “This is the driving force of why I’m in ministry. I don’t just want my kids to know about the Bible. I want them to live it.”
Eidsness’ friends are watching him and beginning to do the same thing—sitting with the marginalized kids at school and playing with the quiet kids at church who sometimes attend with smelly and dirty clothes.
Mook is discipling Eidsness and Eidsness is discipling his friends. Each is a disciple who is making a disciple who will make a disciple—in intermediate school and in children’s ministry settings and for years to come.