Assembly: We are all special to God

You are special

We did this assembly in one of our local Infant schools this afternoon:

 

Start by looking through the binoculars as if bird-watching, with a bird book at hand. Pretend to follow a bird’s flight path. Every now and then say, ‘Wow, did you see that?’ Take out the bird book and pretend to search for the bird.

 

Notice the children and tell them that you are a keen bird-watcher and you have heard that there are some rare birds about. They have been blown off course in a recent storm. Suggest that the children help you. When you spot a bird you will try to describe it to them. If they think they have identified the bird they may put up their hand. 

‘Here comes one now.’ Pretend to follow its path. ‘Now this one is quite big. It is all white and has big wings. I think it is looking for fish.’ Take the first reasonable answer you hear and thank the children.

 

‘Look, here we go again.’ This one is making for the school bird table. It is quite small. I see a bit of blue on it. Oh, it is eating the nuts.’ Again accept an answer from the children.

 

Then choose an unusual bird, maybe an osprey, a kingfisher, or a bird from another continent if any class has been studying such a topic. Be very excited about this one. Lots of exclamation! ‘Imagine us seeing an osprey! Do you know how rare that is?’

At that moment another bird flies quickly past and you immediately stop talking to the children to follow its imaginary flight as before. ‘What is this one? Do you see it go? It’s brown and it’s small. Oh, quick, it’s landed on that gate.’ Keep looking. ‘I think it’s a … Oh, it’s a sparrow!’ Put the binoculars down.

 

Explain to the children that sparrows were once very ordinary in this country, one of the most common birds around, in fact. They are not very colourful. They don’t do anything very spectacular. But God speaks about them in the Bible. There is no mention of a seagull in the Bible. There is no mention of a blue tit in the Bible. Nor is an osprey even mentioned. But an ordinary, little sparrow. Yes, in fact it was Jesus who had something to say about sparrows. In Matthew 10.29, Jesus says that his Father knows when a sparrow anywhere falls to the ground. He cares about each common little sparrow. Christians believe that this means that God cares for everyone, not just the ‘special’ or unusual people.

 

Point out that recently the number of sparrows in the UK has dropped off so that in some areas they are not very common at all – they’ve become special and unusual!

 

Ask: how many of us feel very ordinary like the sparrows? Maybe we are very ordinary to look at. Maybe the things we are able to do seem very ordinary. Maybe we don’t think we particularly shine at anything. But just like the sparrow, the only bird that Jesus talked about, we are special. Each one of us is unique. Ask if anyone knows what unique means: we are the only one just like us.

 

Lewis Carroll

Ask the children if any have heard of someone called Lewis Carroll. Hopefully an older child will have read Alice in Wonderland and know that he was the author of the book. Spend a few minutes allowing the children to share what they know of the story.

Say that Lewis Carroll lived during the reign of Queen Victoria and is well known as an author. But probably not many people know that he was also a lecturer in mathematics. He invented something called the Carroll Diagram. We are going to find out what this is and maybe we will discover that the older children have been using these diagrams already as they have gathered and sorted information in mathematics.

 

Put the large pieces of white paper on the floor. To the left side of the squares place the labels Brown and Blond. At the foot of the squares place the labels Boy and Girl.

 

Choose a class or group with the smallest number of children in it, or the reception class. Explain that you are going to sort this class by their sex and by their hair colour. Bring each child out one at a time and see if they can work out in which square they should stand.

Ask the older children questions from the information on display. For example, how many boys have blond hair? How many more girls have brown hair than boys?

 

Explain that as we start the new school year many children have moved into a new class with a new teacher. In some classes there are new pupils. Some classes may even have been joined in with another class. There is a lot to learn about one another!

It is easy to be able to say what colour of hair we each have, whether we are tall or small, whether we are quiet or noisy. But there is so much we have yet to find out about one another, so many interests and talents that are developing in each of us. 

Very few people, including your teachers, perhaps knew that Lewis Carroll was not only a famous author but a famous mathematician.

Time for reflection

 

Reflection

Lewis Carroll was good at writing stories and at mathematics. Choose two things that you are good at. Maybe you could share these with your teacher when you go back to class.

 

Prayer

Invite the children quietly to look around at one another as you say this prayer:

 

Dear Father God,
Thank you that I am me!

Thank you that I am special, that there is no one else quite like me.

Thank you that you have made me in your image, which means that I am able to think and do and make and create and learn and enjoy.

Help me as I grow and change this school year, to become all that you made me to be.

Amen.

What is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life

On Thursday as part of the Arrow Course, my peer cell did a street survey asking people on the streets of Woking what they thought about Christianity, the church and more.  One of the questions that seemed to make people pause was:

If you were asked by a teenager ‘What is life all about?’ What would you respond?

The concept of what is life all about is what the Alpha course bases all its advertising around, and yet most people were flummoxed by being asked that question.  It got me thinking about how do we get people to consider the Christian faith.  Asking the question doesn’t seem to be the right place to start, and yet that is where so many churches in the UK seem to start their evangelism efforts.

I was struck by one of my friends on the course who shared about a church she knew that had done away with any evangelistic programmes, as people in the church just didn’t commit or invest in them, but instead as part of their church membership, each person was challenged to eat and drink once a week with a non-Christian – to live life with them.  Over the course of a couple of years the church had seen much more growth through this relational approach then it had ever had with any evangelistic programme.

I think there are two reasons why this has happened:

  • People don’t have a confidence in the gospel – they don’t know their bible or theology to be able to give good responses to their friends questions about Christianity
  • They’re worried they might fail – and yet the Bible is full of tails of failure and success – we don’t need to worry about this.

So the challenge I’m wrestling with is how do we encourage people to live life together, to help them discover together what is the meaning of life. Any thoughts?

What is child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse and it is illegal.

It’s when a child or young person (anyone under the age of 18), engages in sexual activity as a result of receiving something such as food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, accommodation, drugs, money, or affection.

It’s a process of grooming where the abuser targets a child’s vulnerability, makes them feel loved or wanted as though the relationship is normal when in fact the child is being controlled through intimidation, fear or violence.

It can happen to boys as well as girls, from rich and poor backgrounds, of any ethnicity and anywhere in the world, including where I work here in Hampshire.

It can happen through direct contact and through technology such as mobile phones and the internet.

‘He makes me feel amazing… you do not meet guys like Jay at school.’

Did you get confirmed in the last 12 months in the Winchester diocese?

If so, then you should have received an invitation to the Diocese of Winchester Confirmation Celebration! Saturday 27 September, 10.15am for worship and activities, finishing with a BBQ, Ice Cream van and Bouncy Castle.

It’s an event for all ages, so bring family and friends for a brilliant opportunity to celebrate being confirmed, to chat to the Bishops (and others) and to have a whole lot of fun!

For catering purposes they really need to know attendance, so please make sure you email helen.gunner@winchester.anglican.org to let them know you’re coming.

Confirmation Celebration

What to pack for university

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If you’re starting university this autumn, it may well be your first time away from home.  As you’ll have plenty of things on your mind already – and packing probably isn’t one of them – here’s a simple guide to what you’ll need for your first few weeks. They’re only guidelines – this isn’t a Scouting expedition, after all. If in doubt, check with the university’s accommodation office about what might be provided in halls, or with the landlord if you’re going into private housing. Oh, and don’t go crazy buying everything brand new – beg, borrow and buy second-hand. And learn to love Poundstretcher.

 

Self-catered essentials

A lot of self-catered halls come with a small kitchen, so students can rustle up food out of canteen hours (never underestimate the midnight munchies). These kitchens are often minimally equipped, however – think hob, microwave, toaster and kettle – so it’s worth bringing some essentials.

  • Mugs and glasses (plastic ones are best to avoid breakages)
  • Cutlery – fork, knife, spoon and tea spoon
  • Crockery – plates, bowls
  • Kettle
  • Plastic boxes/tupperware (for freezing, microwaving, storage)
  • Cooking implements – wooden spoon, spatula, tongs, saucepan and frying pan, sharp knives, chopping board
  • Tin opener
  • Bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Tea towel
  • Kitchen roll
  • Washing up liquid plus sponges/cloths

Other useful kitchen items

If you’re likely to venture beyond beans on toast, some of these items may come in handy.

  • Wok (cooks everything)
  • Oven tray
  • Sieve/colander
  • Grill/toastie maker
  • Peeler
  • Cheese grater
  • Measuring jug
  • Mixing bowl
  • Oven gloves
  • Tin foil/cling film and sandwich/freezer bags
  • (Cheap) wine and shot glasses (packs of plastic coloured ones are great)
Some things such as saucepans are often worth waiting until you get there, it might be supplied by the halls of residence, or other flatmates might have bought them.

Bedroom

It’s worth having a look at the set-up of the room on the university website/prospectus to get an idea of the kind of things they’ll need, and how much there’ll be room for. But you’ll definitely require bedding:

  • Duvet
  • Pillows
  • Bed sheet and pillow cases
  • Blanket/throw (especially for up north!)
  • Mattress protector

NOTE: make sure you know if the room has a single or double bed!

Clothes and laundry

Think about the local climate where they’re headed – if you’re relocating from Truro to Inverness, for example, you’d be well advised to stock up on the woolly jumpers and thick socks …

Other essentials
  • Hangers
  • Washing basket/laundry bin or large bag
  • Washing powder and fabric softener
  • Fold-away airer/drying rack

Bathroom 

Again, it’s worth knowing in advance whether or not you have an en-suite or you will be sharing a communal bathroom.

  • Towels
  • Bath mat
  • Toiletries – toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap etc
  • Wash bag/shower hanger (these are particularly handy if using a communal bathroom to carry shampoo, soap etc to the shower)
  • Flip flops – for the hygiene-concerned using communal bathrooms
  • Loo roll (sometimes provided, but better – far better – safe than sorry)
  • Toilet brush

 

Other handy/miscellaneous items

The bits and pieces which it may not occur to you to pack, but which are guaranteed to come in handy at some point.  Even if you don’t use all of them, they may be someone else’s saving grace.

  • Laptop/computer (as well as, hopefully, being used for work, this can double as a TV using On Demand apps – but be aware of TV licensing for watching live programming)
  • Chargers for all your electricals
  • Extension lead (old buildings; often too few sockets)
  • USB memory sticks
  • Stationery – pens, folders for work, paper etc
  • Alarm clock
  • Bedside/desk lamp
  • Small bin for room (sometimes provided)
  • Disposable anti-bac cleaning wipes (the easiest way to clean)
  • Febreeze spray/air freshener (covers a multitude of sins)
  • Decent-sized bag for taking things to lectures/library
  • Sewing kit, scissors and safety pins (handy for quick fixes and fancy dress)
  • Lighter (useful if using gas cooker and the ignition breaks)
  • First aid kit
  • Rape alarm
  • A few passport-sized photos (sometimes needed for student cards/signing up to societies)
  • Emergency pay-as-you-go phone (in case usual phone gets lost/broken)

Home comforts

  • Photos of friends/family and posters to decorate room (a lot of freshers’ fairs have a poster stall, so you can also buy these once you’re there)
  • Pins (if the room has a pin-board) or blue tack to put up photos, timetables etc
  • Extra cushions for bed
  • Hot water bottle (comforting and good to keep warm if you’re saving money on heating)
  • Door stop (good to have an open door policy in first few weeks – great way to make new friends)
  • Printer, paper and ink cartridges (not essential, as work can be saved on USB or sent to print off at library/print services, but handy for meeting deadlines at the last minute)
  • Speakers for music
  • Playing cards
  • Sleeping bag – handy for when friends come to visit

National Youth Agency launches vision for youth work in England

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The NYA have published their vision for youth work in England.  The publication sets out the charity’s aim that by 2020 every young person will have access to high quality youth work in their community.

The Agency lays out the steps needed to make its vision a reality, examining the role of local government, the business community, the youth work sector as well as providers and young people themselves.

Fiona Blacke, NYA CEO said

“Government must establish mechanisms to facilitate social investment. This will encourage investment of funds in youth services which can then be repaid when outcomes delivering cost savings to the state are achieved. Front loading services early on will cut costs in the long term.”

Read NYA’s vision for youth work.

How to partner in youth work with social services

partnership

With Youth Services having been decimated across the country, Social Services or Children’s Services are feeling an ever increasing strain.  The Church has an important opportunity to work together with these statutory agencies to provide better services for the local community.

Children’s Services are responsible for dealing with concerns for child welfare, fostering, adoption, children with special needs, and general child and education related enquiries.  Most social workers have between 35-50 cases at any one time, with a huge amount of visits, meetings with other professionals, and detailed reports that are linked to each case. This is only getting worse with lowering of staff morale and cuts to key services.

Here are three simple ways that you can work better with Social Services:

  1. Understand their thresholds: no one expects you to have the knowledge of a social worker – you’re a youth worker – but you can start developing your understanding of where you can work together with the statutory agencies by understanding what are the thresholds for access to their services.  For example, these are the thresholds that my local authority use.
  2. Visit their team meeting: speak to one of the area manager’s and ask if you and the other church youth workers from the area can present the services that you provide.  Often social workers are looking for positive activities to be able to refer young people and their families to.  You can help them to understand what voluntary or third sector services are available in your area.
  3. Play an active part in meetings: whenever you have the opportunity to attend a Child Protection or Looked After Child case meeting I thoroughly recommend you go.  The support you can show not just other professionals, but the young person and their family will earn you huge amounts of respect.  It is important that you play an active part in the meeting – one of the most effective ways is to ensure where appropriate you present a report on your links with the young person and family – this puts you on a level par with education, health and other professional areas.

Too often partnership fails to happen because we as the Church are scared by what is involved rather than social workers not wanting to partner with the church.  You have a chance to change that in your community.

What are the best ways you’ve found to link with social or children’s services in your area?

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Youth work bursary scheme opens for applications

A new £40,000 bursary scheme designed to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds gain youth work qualifications is open for applications. 

Youth Work

The Youth Work Foundation, an independent charity established by the board of the National Youth Agency (NYA), is offering 10 higher education scholarships of £2,000.

In addition, the charity, funded by NYA and the O2’s Think Big youth initiative, is offering 100 bursaries of £200 to those requiring extra support to pay for childcare, travel, books or resources.

To be eligible for an award from the Youth Work Foundation, applicants must be able to prove they are disadvantaged and that their financial or social circumstances prevent them from accessing a qualification independently.  In addition, applicants must have secured a place on a course recognised by the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for youth and community workers, which sets the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs, before applying.  They must also have started studying or be ready to start studying within three months of their application.

The chair of the Youth Work Foundation is Michael Bracey, assistant director of children’s services at Milton Keynes Council and a NYA trustee, he said:

“A considerable number of youth workers come from disadvantaged and challenging backgrounds – and many make some of the best practitioners as they themselves have direct experience of the challenges faced by the young people they work with.  Yet for many the increasing financial burden of study is putting them off getting professionally qualified. I hope these awards will go some way to addressing that, and the sector will be richer, more diverse and better equipped to deliver excellent youth work as a result.”

The deadline for applications is 30 September.

The launch of the fund follows a consultation on the JNC’s Youth Work Practice Level 2 and 3 qualifications.  The review, supported by NYA, highlighted the need for courses to include management units to support youth workers managing volunteers and for safeguarding units to be updated.

Charity chief urges Prime Minister to create CSE national inquiry

Charity 4Children is calling for a stand-alone national inquiry into the extent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

For Attila

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to make the case for why a national inquiry is needed following the publication last week of the Jay report that found 1,400 children and young people had been victims of systematic sexual abuse over 16 years in Rotherham

The government has vowed to incorporate the findings from Rotherham into its recently announced historical child abuse inquiry, but Longfield argues this gives a “false impression” the issue is in the past when many believe CSE is a growing and widespread problem.   4Children is also concerned that the full extent of systemic neglect and agency failings identified in the Jay report will not be fully scrutinised or addressed if it is part of a wider inquiry.

In her letter, Longfield says the extent and severity of the Rotherham abuse merits a “high-level, time-limited, Prime Ministerial-led inquiry” that should focus on what went wrong in Rotherham; the extent of CSE across the UK; what needs to be done to tackle the problem; and how agencies and communities need to change in order for allegations of CSE to be taken more seriously.  

Longfield said:

“We are calling on the Prime Minister to establish a stand-alone inquiry to reveal the true extent of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other areas and answer questions about how and why services continue to fail our children. Adding it to the remit of an historical abuse inquiry misses the point. This week alone a number of potential new victims have come forward.  

“Perpetrators of these horrific crimes were allowed to continue their abuse for decades because nothing was done to stop them. Yet the key findings from the report – agencies not working together and children not being listened to – are not new ones and government must act now to ensure that children’s voices are never ignored again when abuse of this kind is reported. 

“The full scale of this systemic failure may never be known, but government must act now to carry out an urgent and transparent investigation to listen to and protect children and make sure this never happens again in Rotherham or anywhere else in the UK.

 

Vacancy: Boys’ Brigade Development Worker

The Boys Brigade

DEVELOPMENT WORKER – WORKING WITH AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN CHURCHES

Following the growth of The Boys’ Brigade (BB) within African & Caribbean Churches and their communities the BB is seeking to appoint an innovative  Development Worker to help us to continue to grow and strengthen our Youth and Children’s Work within these communities.

Job focus:

  • Strengthening relationships with churches and communities from local to national (UK) level.
  • Working alongside our team of development workers as they support recently established groups within these communities.
  • Research and develop new youth and children’s work within agreed areas of England to widen access to BB programmes and activities

This is a full time position (35 hours per week) on an 18 month fixed term contract. Flexibility to work some evenings and weekends is a requirement for the role. The starting salary will be £23,517

If you have a background in Youth and Children’s work and the confidence and influencing skills to help us achieve our plans and vision, then we would be pleased to hear from you.

The successful applicant will have experience and knowledge of the African & Caribbean communities and will be in sympathy with the Christian ethos of the organisation.

Closing date for applications – 8th September 2014

Recruitment packs can be downloaded from our website:

www.boys-brigade.org.uk/jobs

  or by e mail to Graham Weston graham.weston@boys-brigade.org.uk

Archbishop invites young Christian adults to spend year praying at Lambeth Palace

Justin WelbyThe Archbishop of Canterbury has announced this new initiative today:

Archbishop Justin Welby is opening up Lambeth Palace to adults aged 20-35 to spend a year living, praying and studying together as a radical new Christian community 

In a unique experiment the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is to open up Lambeth Palace in London to Christians aged 20-35 – inviting them to spend a year living, studying and praying at a historic centre of the Anglican Communion.

Launching in September 2015, the Community of St Anselm will gather a group of adventurous young adults from all walks of life, hungry for a challenging and formative experience of life in a praying community.

The Community will initially consist of 16 people living at Lambeth Palace full-time, and up to 40 people, who live and work in London, joining part-time. The year-long programme will include prayer, study, practical service and community life.

Members of the Community will live in a way the ancient monastics would recognise: drawing closer to God through a daily rhythm of silence, study and prayer. But, through those disciplines, they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church.

Lambeth Palace is in the process of recruiting a Prior to pioneer this new venture and direct its worship and work. The Prior will work under the auspices of the Archbishop, who will be Abbot of the Community.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that the church should always be engaged in doing things that make no sense if God does not exist. The thing that would most make no sense at all if God does not exist is prayer. Living in a praying community is the ultimate wager on the existence of God, and is anything but comfortable or risk-free. Through it people subject themselves to discipline, to each other in community, and, above all, to God.

“I expect this venture to have radical impact – not just for the individuals who participate but for life at Lambeth, across the Church and in the world we seek to serve. This is what we expect in following Jesus. I urge young people to step up: here is an open invitation to be transformed and to transform.”

The Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, said: “Archbishop Justin is passionate about prayer and about community. The renewal of prayer and Religious Life is the first of his three priorities, and that is what the Community of St Anselm is all about.

“We are inviting people from all around the Anglican Communion – and beyond – to live a year in God’s time. There are no qualifications for joining the Community except a longing to pray, to learn, to study together the things of God, and so to be stretched in body, mind and spirit.”

“Archbishop Justin longs that Lambeth Palace be not so much a historic place of power and authority, but a place from which blessing and service reach to the ends of the earth.”

To find out more, visit: www.stanselm.org.uk

The Best Untapped Sticky Faith Resource in Your Church

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Fantastic article by Kara Powell on the untapped resources in church:

After I described Ruth and her amazing commitment to write one letter at the start of every fall to each high school graduate, an audience member raised his hand. I called on him, and he stood to explain, “I was here last night and saw Ruth talking to you. I know Ruth. We’re part of the same church. She doesn’t write those high school graduates once at the start of every fall. She writes them every week.” Maybe you’re thinking what I and many audience members said aloud that day: Wow. Ruth reminds us that there’s a group of people with untapped potential to don a jersey and join your family’s Sticky Faith team.

Kara goes on to talk about the role of grandparents.  It’s something we see really valuable at Dibden Churches – our aim is to have a grandparent figure in each of our children’s and youth groups.  We find they bring a different dynamic to our children’s and youth ministry?

How do you use older people in your ministry?