Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

Children’s and Young People writing

Key findings about children and young people writing in 2015 from the Literacy Trust, based on a survey of 32,569 children and young people aged 8 to 18, include:

  • Fewer children and young people enjoyed writing in 2015 compared with the previous year, with enjoyment levels dropping from 49.3% in 2014 to 44.8% in 2015.
  • Fewer children and young people wrote something daily outside class in 2015 than in 2014, with daily writing levels decreasing from 27.2% in 2014 to 20.7% in 2015. Daily writing levels also continue to be in stark contrast to daily reading levels, which have increased dramatically over the past couple of years.
  • When asked whether they ever write something that they don’t share with anyone else, nearly half (46.8%) of children and young people said they did.
  • Technology-based formats, such as text messages (68.6%), messages on social networking sites (44.3%) and instant messages (46.2%) continue to dominate the writing that children and young people engaged in outside class in 2015. Notes (3%), letters (25.8%) and lyrics (24.6%) are the most frequently written non-technology formats. With the exception of poems, most formats of writing have again decreased in 2015.
  • Attitudes towards writing have remained unchanged in 2015.

Read the full findings here.

It leaves me reflecting on how we encourage journaling with teenagers in the church.

It’s encouraging to see that 46.8% of children and young people write things that they don’t share with anyone else, but with daily writing outside the classroom dropping substantially from 27.2% in 2014 to 20.7% in 2015 I think we need to look at how we recommend technology-based formats of journaling.

Vacancy – Above Bar Church

Above Bar Church in Southampton is looking to appoint a Post-Graduate Student Children’s Minister:

STEP TRAINEE (CHILDREN)

Are you passionate about children’s ministry? Are you experienced in working with children and eager to develop your skills? Are you a servant-hearted, creative and flexible team player who is able to work alongside others in leading children’s ministry? Would you like to combine training within a large city-centre evangelical church with studying for a post-graduate degree in children’s ministry?

If so, we would love to support you in loving God, following Jesus, and sharing hope within the context of children’s ministry.

Above Bar Church is looking for a Children’s Ministry Trainee to start in September 2017. This is a two or three-year position, which comprises of approximately 21 hrs/wk serving in the church and 14 hrs/wk studying (typically) an MA in Children’s and Family work.
Bursaries, hosting, and funding to cover fees are available if needed and will be discussed with the successful applicant.

For more information or to apply, please email office@abovebarchurch.org.uk

Deadline for applications is 31st Jan 2017.

Children’s and youth work links

Here are some links from around the world of children’s and youth ministry:

Five Myths that Perpetuate Burnout Across Nonprofits: There is a pervasive fear in the nonprofit field that focusing inwardly—on our staff, our leadership, even our own salaries—will take away from achieving our organizational missions. That needs to change.

5 New Years resolutions for discipling young people: James writes on the buzz theme of discipleship and suggests five resolutions that would enable discipleship that might be authentic, life and world transforming.

We’ve all been the new kid: When we teach young people to value each person as God does, their perspective changes.  How much better would it be for our first time visitors if we took away some of the guesswork at a first session and ensured experienced young people helped them.

Creating student leaders in youth ministry: Nick Steinloski writes on the purpose of the Young Leaders and the annual rhythm for their group.

What does discipleship look like on a council estate?  Living a life of faith can look quite different outside the bastion of middle-class Christianity.

Christmas All-Age Prayers

Yesterday we adapted a prayer idea from Flame Creative Kids Ministry which works brilliant for children with SEND.  Here’s our adaptation for PowerPoint for the prayers to use on the big screen.

We’re going to take a few moments to pray using the characters from the nativity.  For each character there is a picture and a topic that I will read out.  I will then give you a moment to either silently or quietly in your families pray for that topic.

Mary

Thank you for parents and people who look after us

Joseph

Please help people who have to make difficult decisions

Animals

Thank you for animals and all of the world you made

Shepherds

Help us to tell people about who Jesus is

Star

Please show us the right way to go when we are confused

Wise Men

Please help all people who are searching to find what they are looking for

Jesus

Thank you for sending Jesus to be with us and help us

Christmas All-Age Talk: What shape is Christmas?

This is the script from my all-age talk yesterday:

What shape is Christmas for you?

 

Perhaps the outline of the manger, or the outline of a stable, or a star in the sky (normally a four-pointed star), or an angel.

 

Or it could be the shape of a Christmas tree, or a Christmas tree bauble. Or perhaps a cracker.

 

When Christmas comes to an end whatever shapes we have are put back in the boxes (nativity sets, Christmas tree baubles, leftover crackers) to be used next year. They make only a brief appearance before going into the loft.

 

If we’ve got a real Christmas tree perhaps we take all the decorations off it and cut it up for recycling.  [Start taking the secateurs to the tree – leaving just the trunk and two cross branches.]

 

That’s the real shape of Christmas for me: Jesus comes to be our Saviour, Jesus comes to die for us on the cross.

 

Throughout the first Christmas we hear this message.  The angel who appears to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 said: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

 

As the angels announced to the shepherds in Luke 2:11: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

 

So apart from a nice cosy feeling what does this leave us to do?  As the shepherds shared the message so we’re to share with others around us.  1 John 4:14: And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

 

 

Christmas Eve All-Age Talk 2014: Christmas Selfies

Towards the end of November each year the Oxford Dictionaries announce their word of the year.  In 2013 they chose “selfie” as the word for 2013.  Its formal definition is:

“a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”

 

Apparently, the word was first used on an Australian online form in 2002, but its recorded uses from 2012 to 2013 increased by 17,000% from the previous year.

 

It’s even gained some derivatives, such as welfie, which is a selfie taken while doing a workout, and shelfie, which is a photo of your own bookshelf.

 

Some prominent leaders got in trouble for taking a selfies at the memorial event for Nelson Mandela.  We’ve got selfies from space, alongside selfies from the diving board.  Even cats are getting in on the act!

 

This year royalty have joined in the fun, here’s a selfies of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from their trip to Australia, and the Queen looking a little nervous as a young lad snaps one of her and him.

 

The children’s and youth team here love a good selfie, encouraged by the young people who took this one just before the paint party at Soul Survivor in the summer.

 

Santa and his elves even enjoy a cheeky selfies when they have a moment.

 

Not that there’s anything new about selfies – they’ve been around since the camera was invented. And even before that, Vincent Van Gogh perfected the self portrait. Although, of course, he didn’t upload it to a social media website, because there were no such things as social media websites. The nearest thing to such a website would be a wall in an art gallery, perhaps.

 

But God was ahead of the selfie game long before the post-impressionists set paint to canvas: as the opening chapter of Genesis reminds us, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” And he, if you like, uploaded his selfies to his creation, to this planet earth, so that the rest of his creation could see them.

 

Unfortunately, that selfie often comes out a little blurred, and leaves God hard to recognize.  So God had another go, he decided that he would call a people to be his own people, who would show the people of the world what God was like, so that other people could see him in them. But that didn’t seem to work either – again the image of God, the selfie that God tried to create was blurred.

 

So God had yet another go: this selfie needed to be a whole person, a whole life, devoted to showing what God is really like. And so God sent his son into the world.  Jesus is God’s ultimate ‘selfie’ – as the letter to the Hebrews puts it ”he is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being,”

 

But in God’s selfie, which we are celebrating this Christmas time, we don’t see presidents and prime ministers, but rather peasants and shepherds; we don’t see stunning surroundings, but an animal feeding trough, in a borrowed stable, in a country under military occupation by a foreign power.

 

God didn’t take a selfie to associate with famous people, or to be seen in exotic places – it was purely to make absolutely sure that we’re in no doubt about what God is like; to give us the best possible image, free from the distortion of human brokenness and sinfulness.

 

If we want to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus – not because Jesus is like God, but because Jesus is God – God’s selfie.

 

So God is the one who says “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”; God says “Let the children come to me”; God says “No-one will snatch you out of my hand”; God says, over and over again “Do not be afraid”.

 

Jesus told his disciples, at the end of his earthly life, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”

 

From God’s selfie, we know that God is loving, sacrificial and forgiving, willing to go to any length to reach us in our need – and I think that’s a selfie worth sharing!

 

But think for just a bit more. What does that then say about us, those of us who are followers of Jesus. You see, most of the selfies that I look at on the internet are of people I’ve never met, people I’ve never seen in real life. At the other end of his life, after his death and resurrection, Jesus left this world to return to his heavenly father. But he left behind selfies, so that people would discover him and come to know him. And those selfies were his followers, those selfies are his followers today.

 

Do you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus – because Jesus is God. Do you want to know what Jesus looks like, look at us, look at you and me – because the church is Jesus, the church is the body of Christ here on earth. Isn’t that amazing?

 

Christingles

Today we celebrate the good news by lighting Christingles.  Christingle literally means “Christ light” and celebrates the light of Jesus coming into the world.  In John’s gospel, his account of Jesus’ life, Jesus is described as the “light of men”: “The Light shines in darkness but the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

 

The Orange stands for the world, with all its sin and suffering.  We have seen a lot of that on television recently – with the bin lorry accident in Glasgow, shootings in Australia and the USA, wars around the world.   It’s such a shame because this world could be a really nice place to live in.  But evil people do evil things.

 

The Candle stands for Jesus coming into this world, as the light of the world.  As we heard earlier, Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).  Jesus’ birth, which we celebrate at Christmas is the like the lighting of the candle.

 

LIGHT THE CANDLE

 

The red ribbon stands for the blood of Jesus.  Jesus, the little baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas – was killed on a cross when he was only 33 years old.

 

He died so that we could become part of God’s family.  Jesus blood was spilled to take away the evil of the world – to wash us and makes us whiter than snow.

 

The red ribbon is placed around the orange to show that – when Jesus died – it was for the whole world.  When evil men killed Jesus – an act, which we remember on Good Friday – they thought that they had put out the light of the world for good.

 

BLOW OUT THE CANDLE ON THE CHRISTINGLE

 

And it seemed for three days that the Light of the world had been put out.

 

RELIGHT THE CHRISTINGLE CANDLE

 

However God relit it, when he raised Jesus from the dead and every Christmas we are reminded that Jesus continues to shine in the darkness.

 

The four cocktail sticks stand for the four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter.  On the sticks there are fruit, nuts and sweets to show the good fruits in the earth.

 

The fruit also reminds us if we are to follow Jesus, we too should produce good fruit. As St. Paul reminds us the fruit of God’s spirit in our lives is: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 6:22)

 

I’d like to leave you with a final thought.  When people killed Jesus, they thought that they had put out the light of the world for good. However God relit it, when he raised Jesus from the dead.  And so I’d like to encourage you to think about this every time you see a candle on a Christingle or on an advent wreath.

 

Jesus’ birth is the like the lighting of the candle.  And although it was blown out later by bad men, God re-lit the candle and it continues to shine in the darkness.  And we should live our lives so that people see that we shine too, as the Candle – just like Jesus.  For we too need to bring love, help and support to others who need our love and God’s love.