How the Church can reach out to beat the bullies

 Last week, an article on How the Church can reach out to beat the bullies was published by Ruth Gledhill in The Times, reflecting on the great week we’d had doing Monsters Stink Holiday Club, do check it out:

The Times holiday club

How the Church can reach out to beat the bullies

Ruth Gledhill August 20 2013 15:08PM

The Times holiday club 1

Bullying – the sad reality for many

This September hundreds of thousands of children will be returning to school. Sadly, for many of these, bullying is an ongoing reality.

The charity Beatbullying believes that bullying affects one in three young people. Despite the best intentions and many positive interventions put in place by schools up and down the country, bullying is still a real issue facing our children and young people.

And it is not only bullying that can be a problem for today’s children. Children and young people can be scared of lots of different things. These range from a fear of the dark or getting lost, to what the future holds, worry during a time of family instability and more.

Teachers and parents, faced with a myriad of other tasks, are not always able to get alongside the children they work with and care for to help them deal with these different issues. This can leave many children feeling isolated and alone as they struggle to work through their fears.

This summer, our church on the edge of the New Forest has made an attempt to reach out to some of these children. As head of youth ministries, I believed that there was a clear need for a summer activity programme for children that went beyond the usual struggle for a parent to occupy their children during the long summer holidays. In our church community we saw that the church has an opportunity to speak into the difficult situations facing young people. This is because, even with the wealth of resources available, and as hard as schools work at preventing bullying, there sadly will still be times when children are bullied.

As a result, last week, more than 190 children aged between two and eleven years old took part in a week long holiday club at the church.

Using the theme “Monster’s Stink!’”, this holiday club was designed to help children deal with “monsters” they encounter such as bullying, fear and getting lost. Using clips from Monsters Inc. and stories from the Bible, they have been helped to find ways of dealing with and sharing their different emotions and fears.

Each morning ran at a fast pace with many of the usual holiday club ingredients – stories, games, messy challenges, singing, teaching and “flanning” of leaders. Eighty-five trained volunteer adults and young people facilitated workshops such as cake baking, dance, drama and music, video and photography, arts and crafts, and sports all of which gave the young people a sense of pride and “can do”, giving many some much needed self-confidence.

Due to the kind support of St. Andrew’s and all the volunteer staff, the church has been able to run this at a suggested donation of £5 per child meaning many families who haven’t been able to access other holiday projects have had an opportunity here. We at St Andrew’s Church sees this as a way of living out our mission of being “at the heart of the community”.

In the current economic climate we’ve seen council run children’s and youth play schemes decimated by round after round of funding cuts. This leaves more pressure on statutory groups such as schools, health care and others to pick up the pieces, but with each of them also undergoing their own major re-structuring we find that the statutory services do not have the capacity, the resources, or the time to help children and young people deal with the wide range of challenges they face as they grow up in 2013.

This leaves a gap, groups of families, children and young people who are not being supported by the government, education, the NHS and others in the way that a generation ago would have been. This is a gap that the church and other voluntary sector groups are increasingly filling. There are challenges for those organisations as to how they resource their work, but for us as we leads the children’s and youth work at our church, this isn’t an optional add-on but is at the core of what Jesus asks his followers to do.

Too often, the church in the UK has focused on teaching the children and young people it already knows key bible stories, without providing helpful application that helps them understand what difference they can make in their lives. While there is a contextual and historical benefit to knowing the Bible, it comes alive when we understand how we relate to it, and what truth and principles we can learn from it. I would love to see more churches and other groups doing what they can to reach out to children and young people, helping them as they encounter various difficult issues or “monsters” in their lives rather than just sharing another Bible story for the sake of knowledge

Chris Kidd is director of children’s and youth ministries at St Andrew’s, Dibden Purlieu, Southampton. Follow him on twitter @chriskidd.

Monsters Stink Holiday Club on BBC Radio Solent

Holiday Club landscape image copy

Yesterday the Monsters Stink Holiday Club was visited by the lovely Jen Nicholson from BBC Radio Solent.  They made a 4 minute feature of what we’ve been doing this week which was played on the Breakfast Show this morning at 7.28am and will be played again this afternoon in the Drive Time Show.

If you missed it, check it out by clicking here: 

Nike send a poor message to youngsters

After Tiger Woods reclaimed his title as the No. 1 golfer in the world, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, his sponsor Nike (@NikeGolf) tweeted an important message out to all of his young fans along with this image.

Winning takes care of everything


Marketing isn’t just about selling a product, but selling a world-view that fits the brand.  This is why the image is of such concern.

To try and tell young influential people that there is literally nothing that winning and being good at sports won’t take care of is such a poor world-view to market.  I imagine that those hurt in the process of Woods’ affair and poor behaviour probably don’t feel like his return to number 1 in the world has “taken care of everything”.  Let alone issues such as cancer, poverty and injustice, natural disasters etc., which just doesn’t seem to be taken care of by Tiger Woods returning to world number 1.

What do you think – is it simple advertising or trying to publicise a word-view that we can’t sign up to?

Police Use Social Media to Take Down Brooklyn Gang


So often we hear negative stories of social media use, but here’s an example of a positive use of social media: the New York City Police Department and Kings County District Attorney announced last month that they took down 41 members of a Bushwick, Brooklyn, gang and social media helped them do it.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said:

“Once again we have young gang members using social media to boast about murder and mayhem, and once again we have New York City Police officers ‘friending’ them to help end the violence. When young men plot to take their battles from tweets to the streets, the NYPD wants to be there to stop the bloodshed. The attention is paying off.”

Detectives involved in the operation created fake profiles on Facebook and “friended” members of the TBO (True Bosses Only also known as Team Bang Out) Gang, then tracked their actions on the social networking site.  According to the District Attorney, gang members often bragged on Facebook about committing crimes.

The New York Post publishes photo of imminent death

A photographer for The New York Post just happened to be waiting for a train at the 49th Street station platform when 49-year-old Ki Suk Han, a married father of one, was pushed onto the tracks by a mystery assailant. The photographer managed to snap two pictures before the man was run over by the train, sustaining critical injuries before being pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital.

One of the photos was on the front page of Tuesday morning’s New York Post, and New Yorkers are wondering why pictures were taken in lieu of offering actual help to Han himself.  Abassi says he was using his camera’s flash to warn the conductor.  The Post is saying Abassi wasn’t strong enough to lift Han up anyway.  But the real question seems to be whether The Post had any business turning the photos into a cover story.

What do you think?

Page 3

I find it interesting that Page 3 – a national newspaper displaying topless women – still seems to be so acceptable in 2012.  Yes, it’s been around for a long time, but does that mean it’s existence can’t be challenged?  As Gareth Davies writes it’s not a ‘great British institution’ but simply a tool for luring men into viewing women as sex objects – pure and simple.  If you want to delve into the philosophy and the myths that link to this then read this article.

Carl Beech, my friend who leads CVM, has blogged on this in very straight-forward language:

I suppose I’m a fairly typical guy. I love Top Gear, sport and action movies. I love extreme(ish) endurance challenges, prog rock (can’t believe I just admitted that) and nothing more than a banter-filled evening with my mates. I’m also madly and deeply in love with my wife of 19 years and I totally adore and love to bits my two daughters Emily and Annie who are 12 and very nearly 14.

I also have a sex drive. I’m a red- blooded male, so what do you expect? The fact we don’t talk about it much in churches doesn’t mean that we don’t have one. However, there’s a problem. The world outside the Church is highly sexually driven but they do talk about it. In fact, they don’t just talk about it; they flaunt it and get in everyone’s faces. The Church by contrast seems powerless to respond, and the sexualised culture we have marches on.

There’s a lot I could say but in a few short words I’ll say it as it is: I’m pretty sick of the porn peddlers. It drives me mad (anger is a very underrated fruit of the spirit). I walk into a newsagent with my two girls and right in their faces are a bunch of lads’ mags with bare-breasted women and smutty headlines. So what’s that saying to my girls? It’s saying something like this:

“You are objects of sexual gratification for blokes. That’s all you’re good for.”

And what’s it saying to men? I guess it’s something like this:

“This is what drives you. We know what you’re really all about. We know what you really want. And it’s smut and sleaze.”

Time to take a stand I think fellas.

To make things easier, Lucy Holmes’ has developed a great campaign, encouraging people to petition Dominic Mohan the editor of the Sun to put an end to this practice of valuing women by their breast size (he’s had a busy week following the Sun’s role in the Hillsborough Disaster).  Standing up as a generation and saying we don’t think women should grow up in an objectified culture and we don’t think men should either.  If you agree then take a few moments to sign here.

What is Marks and Spencer thinking?

Marks and Spencer have selected the Walt Disney theme song for its big Christmas television commercial.

“When You Wish upon a Star” is a song written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio. The original version of the song was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, and is heard over the opening credits and again in the final scene of the film.

The song has since become the representative song of The Walt Disney Company. The American Film Institute ranked “When You Wish Upon A Star” seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, the highest ranked Disney animated film song, and also one of only four Disney animated film songs to appear on the list. This song also won the 1949 Academy Award.

This is a great song but when I hear it all I think about is Disney Movies, Disneyland and Walt Disney – not M&S!

M&S has very deep pockets so maybe they should have considered having someone write a great original song rather than ride on the coat tails of another legendary company.  Disney must be laughing that a major international company would pay to promote its theme song. Every time I see the advertisement I think of Disney.

I think it shows a tremendous lack of imagination on the part of Marks & Spencer – dull and unimaginative.

Branding is so valuable to a company – every action, every advertisement, every brochure, and every promotion should re-enforce and promote the brand.

Ads that confuse and distract from the brand do real harm, diluting all of the past efforts. No matter how small your business it is important to passionately protect your brand, to avoid confusion and to make certain that every action leverages and strengthens the brand message and position.

Has St. Paul’s lost the plot?

I thought Simon Jenkins blog post on St Paul’s loses the plot was fantastic.  One of the best Christians views on the mess that St. Paul’s has got itself into:

St Paul’s has lost the plot. Their PR, which for Byzantine reasons is run from the obscure town of Brough in East Yorkshire by Rob Marshall’s 33rpm, was taken to the cleaners in PR Week a few days ago. Their fake concern about health and safety was exposed as a ploy to get the protesters out in the New Statesman. But worse than that, St Paul’s has lost the Christian plot, the whole reason it is there.

What happened two weeks ago on Ludgate Hill is that people came to church. The protesters turned up at St Paul’s by accident and decided they wanted to stay. There, on the cathedral’s doorstep, they set up camp. And in doing that, they gave the church a new congregation. Here was a fabulous opportunity for St Paul’s to shed a bit of pomp and hauteur, to bring the faith out of doors, to do some services outside, to be a bit spontaneous, to provide the protesters with some spiritual nourishment, to rediscover a connection with ordinary people, to have a conversation.

Lucy Mangan, the Guardian columnist, wrote about this fantasy version of the cathedral with real feeling last week in her piece, St Paul’s – embrace your new flock. ‘These are your people,’ she told the cathedral.

But instead of rising to the occasion, and to huge disappointment, the cathedral’s instinct was to shut up shop and get in the lawyers. It’s hard to think of anything more negative and dispiriting than St Paul’s actually shutting itself down. Christians around the country of all traditions have been left banging their heads against the wall in frustration at the sight of the church behaving so badly.

What makes it worse is that church leaders don’t seem to understand just how epically they are screwing up. (‘Screwing’ isn’t quite strong enough, but this is a family blog.) There was no word in this direction in Dean Knowles’ resignation statement, which was instead full of personal and institutional self-pity. And as Nick Baines knows, the silence of other C of E leaders is a huge let-down for Christians across the country. It’s actually a betrayal in the name of not rocking the boat. The bishops have lost the plot too.

It is hard to imagine Jesus in the Deanery, sherry in hand, consulting his lawyers. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine him in the camp, sitting in a tent, talking to the people who have no voice but who want to find it and be heard.

But beyond Jesus’ compassion and engagement with ignored people, there’s something else. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they filled their own pockets by ripping off the poor. He was angry with them and treated them like the dirt they were. The Occupy London protesters are making the same point about the bankers, but the church, the advertised followers of Jesus, are telling them to shut up, pack up and go home.

With the welcome departure of Dean Knowles, St Paul’s now has an opportunity to reconsider its position and find not merely ‘new leadership’ as the Dean put it, but a new direction. Is it too much to hope that a cathedral could start taking some creative risks for the gospel? If St Paul’s fails to seize the moment, then its mission is lost, and its inspiring building an empty icon.

I’ve always loved St Paul’s – ironically, the church of the tentmaker. I’ve found it a place of wonder and mystery ever since my first visit to London at the age of nine. I believe it can recover its mission, but only if it dramatically changes course. Whether the people now in charge of this glorious architectural Titanic have the imagination and strength to steer it through the icebergs remains to be seen. They deserve our prayers.


Vicars and the Media

The last few weeks seems to have had a number of stories in the press of slightly off the wall statements by vicars and ministers.  Whilst some of their comments have been controversial a lot of them have been taken out of context.

For example Bishop Stephen Venner,  who I knew as Bishop of Dover working together with Kent Children’s Trust, now Bishop to the Armed Forces.  He was quoted in The Telegraph as saying that the Taliban “can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and sense of loyalty to each other”.  His comments sparked great debate on what it is to admire something in your enemy.  But more importantly highlighted the issue of a comment being pulled out of context.  Supposedly his comments were from a profile interview done over 12 weeks ago, which wasn’t fully published, and the journalist then used one answer to spark an entire article in a very different context.

Secondly, Father Tim Jones from York, whom the BBC News and many others have reported that he said people should steal from big chains rather than small businesses.  He said society’s attitude to those in need “leaves some people little option but crime”.

I think he was on the line but was he out of order – difficult to say.  Read his full sermon here, don’t just let yourself be influenced by a media soundbite.

To me there are lessons for clergy to learn in how they work with the media, but there are also lessons for us to learn in what do we take as truth from our media.