Tomorrow I am spending some time thinking about how, as a church, we provide for those families who are on the edge of the church family. Thinking about how we can engage and support them more at their level. Hopefully it will be a fruitful time.
I am also in the middle of moving offices which is really exciting – the room has now all been painted and I managed to get a whole load of books moved and sorted on Friday afternoon and am doing the rest of it on Monday.
He started by showing a home video clip of his son on a rollercoaster. He went on to say that Ronan Keating was correct when he sang that Life is a Rollercoaster. Life is a rollercoaster for children.
How does society view children?
In one sense they have never had it so good: money, activities, technology etc. But on the other hand it is all wrong. He linked to ‘Toxic Childhood’ by Sue Palmer and how things are going downhill.
Is society a paranoid schizophrenic?
Children are vulnerable and need protection, e.g. CRB, risk assessments, which are good things but go to far in banning conker and snow fights etc., and a media that panics us in giving them no freedom of going down the park etc.
Luke 2:40 includes physically, spiritually, wisdom, emotionally, relationally
Luke 2:52 includes emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally.
Breaking down the barriers
We are called to take a stand and make a difference. But we must not view this as the social gospel – there is only 1 gospel and that covers everything. Christians have traditionally led social action, e.g. Sunday schools, the Children’s society, Barnados, etc. Will we have that same passion, commitment and courage. Showing the young people the gospel but also possibly helping them brush their teeth. Be changers.
The call hasn’t changed – the question is who will go. Pray that we will say “me Lord”.
What a great conclusion to a helpful conference – just need to make sure the stuff from it isn’t forgotten but gets registered, reviewed and discussed.
Why do we see them through?
Have to – there is nobody else who is prepared to work with the young people are they grow up.
Want to – we love them and want to see them progress in their relationship with God.
Ali argues that a ministry gifting isn’t specific to an age group, e.g. 7-10 year olds, but that we can do it with any age group, we may have a burden for a specific age group. If you’re gifted as a pastor or teacher you should be able to do it with all ages.
Activities v Attention
By age 8 or 9 young people really care who their leaders are – they want someone who they can own. They need detailed care which is more labour intensive.
Programs v Passion
Sometimes the programme is just there for a child to slot into. Young people often leave youth work because they are not stimulated – the focus moves off them as they become the youngest again.
Numbers v Health
Leaders, especially youth workers, can be obsessed with numbers. But health should be more important – things usch as faith nurturing and teaching biblical truth.
Relevance v Relationships
Some people won’t work with young people because they don’t think they are cool enough. But ironically young people always think that grand parents are cool. We must focus on being real, showing them our music etc., and not be a fake.
Attraction v Retention
We often spend a lot of time thinking about how we attract young people but not how we keep them. That needs to be a higher priority in the join with youth work.
Model of ministry v Mystery of God
We need to focus on God. There is a pressure to do the latest thing in youth work, but in children’s work things work because they do – they don’t seem to be as fad orientated.
Talking about God v Talking with God
A shared journey is crucial – we can all learn from it.
Ali then went on to look at some practical areas such as structures, having fuzzy age boundaries, peer leadership and mentoring to name a few. It was a helpful session as someone who is lucky enough to do both children’s and youth work. I am in the fortunate position of being able to completely link our children’s work with our youth work – and Ali certainly gave me a few things to think about and some areas to go back and re-evaluate.
Theologically it is a challenge. Biblically we are to meet together but it doesn’t have to be on a Sunday. Are we prepared ot take the time to discuss it and seeks God’s desire?
Interesting thoughts and questions included:
They are all God’s children – how is the church committed to reaching them.
The evangelistic imperative – where are the children who don’t come ot church (for example 88% of young people do some form of after school activity or club), who is doing the evangelism, time and place are important, and the methods must be appropriate.
Similar to Paul in Acts 17:16-34 we must take our time to find a hook to share the gospel with these young people.
Practical possibilities include:
– Schools work (including assemblies, RE lessons, lunch clubs)
– Church visits
– Gift books
– Uniformed organisations
– Christingle and carol services
– Drama and music
– Special interest clubs
– Holiday clubs
– Running activities on INSET days
He encouraged us to remember there has never been a revival that hasn’t started with children.
I drew some links from this session with themessy church session by Lucy Moore I attended earlier in the weekend. I was particularly interested in the possibility of using INSET days to provide something for parents. I am heavily involved in local schools and that is something that would be very interesting to explore further.