Raynon Schuessler, 5, beamed as he showed his mother the professional wrestling-themed backpack he picked out at Landmark Church's Back-to-School Block Party on Sunday morning.
His sister followed with her own selection, a pink-flowered backpack.
"I just love this church so much," their mother, Rebecca Schuessler, said. "More churches should really do things like this for the kids."
She wasn't talking about giving away backpacks. She was talking about engaging children, like the church did Sunday with a puppet show and other activities.
Churches, she said, often encourage youths to be still and stay quiet.
"They're growing up to be the next pastors and next leaders, so to get them involved early is so important," she said.
The second annual event was bigger than last year's, with a puppet show that got the children singing and dancing, while also offering a Christian message. The free event for the community also featured carnival games, a barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers, Popsicles and balloon animals.
And there were the backpacks filled with school supplies, which increased from 50 last year to 75 this year.
Lisa Breedlove, the church administrator and wife of the pastor, coordinated the event. She said the church hopes to expand the program every year.
"We have an amazing Sunday school program. We're hoping they'll get a taste of this and want to bring their children back," she said.
The purpose of the event, she said, is to serve the community. The church offers an addiction ministry, a youth ministry and helps with rent assistance, food — whatever needs people have.
While helping people, they also look to lead them toward God.
"A relationship with God, when you have that, every area of your life is better. We give hope to them through God," Breedlove said.
The Pentecostal-style church, located at 208 Metro Drive, formed in Jefferson City about 15 years ago and has about 130 members.
The public was welcome to attend the event, and there were no income or residency requirements. The church did ask people to bring their children with them to get the backpacks.
This article was edited at 12:49 p.m. Aug. 10, 2021, to include the church's address.