Young Carer’s Day: the stress of juggling multiple responsibilities

A group of young carers have made a hard-hitting film showing how stressful it can be juggling responsibilities both at home and in school.

The film, which was made by Fixers, the charity which gives young people a voice, is being launched today on Young Carer’s Day.

You can watch it here:

Jade Dyer, 17, has been the primary carer for her mum for the past four years and takes the lead role in the film.  It shows her being reprimanded by a teacher for failing to get an essay in on time as she struggles to look after her mum who has Grave’s disease – an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the body.

Jade, from Bourne End, Bucks, says:

‘Her illness means her moods can be very up and down – when she’s down I need to be there to console her and give her support.  She might not be able to get out of bed if she’s feeling like that, so I’ll need to do household tasks like cooking dinner.  If she doesn’t take her medication or is particularly unwell she becomes quite immobile, so if she collapses I need to be there to help her up.’

There were times when the teenager struggled to cope with school.  She says:

‘My secondary school attendance was very low, and the teachers didn’t realise what I was going through so there was a huge lack of understanding.  My grades were affected and teachers could be quite harsh about it.’

Jade, who is now studying for her A-levels at Henley College, plans to show the film at teacher training events.  She says:

‘We hope the film will show teachers just how much we have to do – we have a lot more on our plates than the average student and getting some leniency when it comes to things like essay deadlines could really help us.

‘Anyone can be in a caring role and it’s important that teachers are patient and understanding so they can help them. There are a lot of intelligent people who could miss out otherwise.  Focus on what that child’s needs are and help them in any way you can.’

 

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.

Tackling Female Genital Mutilation – Best Practice

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised as a severe form of violence against women and girls and a human rights violation.   The Tackling FGM Initiative aimed to strengthen community-based prevention work to reduce the risk of girls and young women of undergoing FGM.

FGM prevalence in the UK is difficult to estimate due to the hidden nature of the practice. However, the latest data on prevalence in England and Wales (City University London and Equality Now, 2015) estimates that: approximately 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM; and approximately 127,000 women who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, approximately 10,000 girls (under the age of 15) who have migrated to England and Wales may have undergone FGM.

Ending FGM in the UK requires multi-agency working, including involving FGM-affected communities. Communities Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in the UK Best Practice Guide documents, develops and highlights best practice that Community Based Oragnisations have developed. This Guide complements the statutory FGM Multi-Agency Guidelines which professionals must have regard to, and is aimed at:

  • Community based organisations working on or planning to work on FGM
  • Local authorities to support the development of good quality partnerships and joint working with affected communities and the Community Based Oragnisations who work with them
  • Professionals charged with a legal duty to respond to FGM e.g. health professionals, maternity services, teachers
  • Commissioners and local safeguarding leads, to understand how to work with communities and recognise them as assets to end FGM

The Practical Guidance for FGM Engagement section is divided into three key parts: Prevention; Access to Mental Health Care and Support; and Working with Statutory Professionals and local authorities – including FGM case work. Each of the three chapters details the rationale for each target group, outlines activities conducted by Community Based Oragnisations to reach this group and then highlights best practice.

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.

Toothbrushing Resources

4Children conducted a Public Health England funded project looking into the feasibility of running a supervised toothbrushing programme for 2, 3 and 4 year olds in private and voluntary early years settings as well as with childminders. The report from this project can be found here.

The resources created during that project are now being made available. These include a presentation introducing the project to early years practitioners, story sack ideas and an information booklet designed for both practitioners and parents.

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.

Best children’s Christmas story book

Jesus' Christmas PartyOne of my favourite resources for the Christmas season is Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan.

Nicholas Allan writes and illustrates the nativity through the eyes of a grumpy inn keeper who is unexpectedly at the centre of Jesus’ birth.  The story follows him as he is woken up repeatedly by Mary and Joseph and guests visiting the newborn.

I first heard of the book when I was a child and it was used for a Sunday School drama to present the Christmas narrative to the whole church.  As a children’s and youth worker I’ve used it numerous times, be it with young pre-school children, older teenagers, or non-Christian adults.  The book is easy for people to follow and join in, and yet still allows for profounds truths to be taught.

It can be bought in a number of sizes – from A6 just to fit in the pocket and use to tell a large group of people, to a large A4 size which a class of children can crowd around and look at the pictures.

What children want for Christmas: a Dad

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survery of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

Kids Explain – the Universe, Death, & God

It is well-known that children have excellent opinions on mostly everything. So why not let them tackle the big subjects: the universe, death and God?

In the first episode of Cut Video’s “Kids Explain” series, children weigh in on what God looks like (Spiderman), who they may have been in a past life (not a bug) and what cool stuff is in heaven (doughnuts):

 

The danger of an electrical plug socket covers/insert

electrical-plug-socket-cover-insert

In June, the Department of Health published an estate and facilities alert on the dangers of socket safety covers, which states that 13A electrical socket inserts should not be used in health or social care premises, nor supplied for use in a home or residence.

Churches have a duty to keep children safe. Although it is not illegal to use electrical safety socket covers, providers should take into account the advice included in this alert when carrying out their own risk assessment.