Here’s a copy of the report I wrote for the church AGM on Monday and the AGM PowerPoint Presentation:
As I sit writing this report in the reception of a local school waiting to do another Easter assembly I’m struck by the changes that we are in the middle of. A lot has changed in the last year – both for the Children’s and Youth Ministry here at the church and for me personally. Our volunteers have worked exceptionally hard during the time without a Children’s and Youth Worker to continue the high quality of work that has gone on here. As I joined the church I have been impressed with their continuing concern and effort for the children and young people of our community.
Why do we do what we do?
We read in the Bible: ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel’ (Judges 2:10). That is the problem we have with this generation of children and young people – they are growing up knowing nothing of God. How do we change this? ‘We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did … so the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born … that they in turn might teach their children. So each generation can set its hope a new on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands’ (Psalm 78:4, 6, 7). That is what we are called to do – this is our responsibility.
Hopes and Dreams
Over the last few months the key children’s and youth leaders have been doing some Godly dreaming – imagining what our children’s and youth ministry could look like if there were no limiting factors such as finances, premises or volunteers. Reflecting on these ideas we’ve developed a vision for our children’s and youth ministry based around children and young people having life changing encounters with Jesus.
We want to run a ministry that is inspiring, relevant, integrated, inclusive, holistic and supportive. The vision has been structured around the concept that most young people are on a spectrum of faith, or a journey of faith: they are engaged, they develop faith, they are discipled and grow in that faith, they are released to ministry themselves. The benefit of this way of thinking is that we create steps in our programmes and activities for young people to follow in their journey of faith. It should hopefully make it clearer to us, and a non-Christian young person, how they develop and grow their faith.
- Serve: Our church is at the heart of our local community. Using census statistics, we know that there are approximately 1,076 children aged under 11 and 685 young people aged 11-18 across our Parish. They are our primary mission field. At times though, we are called just to serve and bless the community, expecting nothing in return.
- Engage: We want to engage, to connect with as many of those young people, to enable them to meet Christians, the church and Jesus in positive light.
- Transform: In quite bold terms we want to see conversion, we want to see young people declaring their faith having experienced a life changing encounter with Jesus.
- Grow: We want to pastor young people, to help them grow in their faith; to put them on solid foundations.
- Release: We are not building a kingdom for ourselves or for St. Andrew’s and All Saints, but for God, in Dibden and Dibden Purlieu. We want to release young people to serve both in our church and in the local community, but also in this country, and across the world. We want young people so strong in faith that they are becoming staff in churches, becoming missionaries across the world, seeing their job – be it in London as a city high flier or the school cleaner to see it as their mission field.
To do all this we need to develop strong relationships with leaders, parents, the wider church and statutory organisations. During the summer term we will be sharing more detail on this with parents and the wider church.
In the autumn of 2012 we divided the children’s and youth ministry into three clear segments:
- Dibden Minis – our work with babies and toddlers
- Dibden Kids – our work with those in infant and junior schools
- Dibden Youth – our work with those in secondary schools and sixth form colleges
This has been done for two reasons: to highlight the specific areas that we minister to and to enable us to ensure a development across all three areas, rather than focusing on one specific area; and for clear branding to engage with others from around the community.
Another big change in the last year has been the appointment of Steph Gray as a Ministry Apprentice. She has been invaluable in helping us in our work with the children and young people of our community. Steph has formed fantastic relationships with the children and young people, and used her creativity to really enhance our ministry to children and young people.
The church has developed weekly groups for toddlers which initially took over the slots of the Rainbow Toddlers groups which had stopped running on Monday and Thursday mornings. On Mondays Steph runs Crafty Mondays – designed for toddlers to come and make, paint and create. Playtime Thursdays meets on a Thursday 10.00-11.30am in the Main Hall giving plenty of space for ride-ons, puzzles, car mat, train track, baby zone and more. We saw such an uptake to Playtime Thursdays that at the end of February we set up a second session with Playtime Tuesdays!
We also set up Dads and Minis which is a group especially designed for dads/granddads/male carers and their children. This takes place on the fourth Saturday of the month, 9.30-11.00am, for all under 5s, starting with a drink and snack for the little ones, and a warm bacon butty for Dad! Dads have a great time playing with their children, doing dad friendly craft together and more!
Since the beginning of January we’ve seen over 600 attendances from little children at the mid-week groups. We’re indebted to Mary Parker, Paul and Sandie Spanton and others who come along and help us to serve refreshments to the parents and carers.
In addition to the new mid-week groups we’ve continued to develop good links with the Orchard Pre-School taking them into the church on a number of occasions. We’re very grateful to Rachel Sheppard who has for several years overseen the Sunday crèche, she stepped down from leading this group at the end of 2012.
Our children’s Sunday groups have continued to develop well:
- Scramblers: for those aged 2 years 9 months to the end of their Reception year. It includes a mixture of play, craft activities, stories and singing. This group is led brilliantly by David Turner and Helen Fritter alongside a team of great volunteers.
- Climbers & Zone 66: an upbeat and lively group for 5-11 year olds. The children meet together enjoying live worship, drama, lively Bible teaching and big games! After that they break into age groups for small group discussions, crafts, and prayer. We are very grateful to the super Carole Ovenden, Fiona Western, Jo Fenton, and Jacqui Besley who run this group with the brilliant young people from Uncover.
Over the last year we’ve had a regular presence in Wildground Infants, Wildground Juniors and Orchard Infants Schools doing assemblies, RE lessons, church visits, and pastoral care. This means that we have shared the gospel with over 1,000 local children.
Pathfinders, running for 11-14 year olds meets on a Sunday morning in a magazine style with a blend of games, bible teaching, worship, and prayer time run brilliantly by Heidi Shaw and her fantastic team of volunteers. Our work with 14-18 year olds has developed two groups who together have taken on the sponsorship of Tuyishimire Yvette from Maranyundo, Rwanda:
- Uncover Sundays: A place for young people to meet together, explore their faith and dig deeper into what it means to be a Christian in today’s world – how it looks and feels to have a love for God, a love for each other and a love for the world. On the first Sunday of the month the group joins the adult congregation for the Contemporary Service.
- Uncover Tuesdays: The group spends time eating, laughing, playing games, and exploring what is faith in a relevant and credible way for teenagers ably facilitated by a great team of leaders. In the autumn of 2012 we ran an Alpha course which saw over 30 teenagers each week come and explore what the meaning of life is. All seven of the non-Christians in the group have made great steps of faith, and are still coming to Uncover!
Following on from the trip to Soul Survivor in the summer, the Youth Weekend Escape to Fairthorne Manor, near Botley, in the middle of February, was a great time. The young people really enjoyed the activities – aerial runway, crate challenge, Jacob’s ladder; and the Team Challenges were very competitive. We explored the story of the Prodigal Son – looking at how we can relate to the younger brother, the elder brother, and even the father. After a failed attempt on the Friday night, we managed to light the bonfire on Saturday – it was great to worship and praise God around the bonfire. Lots of people took steps of faith – 5 young people want to be confirmed and over 15 are looking to be mentored by someone like you – someone older, and possibly wiser, from the congregation.
Over the last seven months we’ve developed a great relationship with Oak Lodge School running a lunch club each week on a Monday, mentoring two pupils, and regularly doing assemblies and being involved as the school celebrates the church festivals such as Harvest and Christmas.
During the summer term we’re expecting to see continued opportunities to partner with local schools – plans are already in place to develop our work with Orchard Junior School and Noadswood School. We’re also hoping to start a church-based after-school club that will give us the opportunity to engage with children and young people from across the Parish so look out for further information in the coming months. In addition I’ve been asked to join the New Forest Local Children’s Partnership Board which has strategic oversight for the work with under 18s in our area.
The summer holidays will see two major events in our annual calendar. An exciting opportunity to encourage more young people and their families into the Church is the Holiday Club that we are going to be running Monday 12th to Friday 16th of August. Here is an opportunity to bring 100 or more children on to our premises for a week and explore the whole of the Bible message with them in a fun and relevant way. We hope to then encourage those who visit us for the holiday club to join our mid-week and Sunday groups. The week after we will be taking our teenagers to Soul Survivor – we’ve already got 25 young people signed up for what will be a great week of life changing encounters.
Thank you for all your support in the work that we are doing – please do continue to pray for our work, without these prayers the work would be so limited.
Director of Children’s & Youth Ministries