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:
How the Church can reach out to beat the bullies
Ruth Gledhill August 20 2013 15:08PM
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.