Ok I know Otley might be a bit of a trek- but if you haven’t heard Bob Hartman speak, you need to! I promise you will come away inspired and refreshed.
This week I’m attending a conference run by the Methodist Church for its Lay Workers (ie. those of us whose name doesn’t begin with Rev.) One of our keynote speakers is Dr. Rebecca Nye, an expert in the field of Childhood Spirituality. She’s given us a lot of great things to think about, and one question that has really got me mulling over our own practices in our churches—
Dr. Nye outlined six key things to reflect on as we evaluate our ministry with children and young people and how we communicate spiritual concepts to them.
What influence does the space we’re in have?. What is the language of our space? Does it tell children to run and shout? Or does it remind them of being in school (and for some, the feeling of being clever or dumb?) Does it invite children to play with toys- or, for some in the same space, ‘I’m too old for this.’? Does it communicate that God is here? Or that this is a holy and safe space to be yourself?
Not product. Spiritual life is an ongoing work, not something which is completed. Prayer and worship are ways in which we grow, not things we achieve. Do we need to shift the focus of our time spent with children from learning outcomes to reflecting on the feelings and thoughts that a bible story bring? And how do we avoid turning prizes into a game of ‘guess what the teacher wants us to say. ‘. Do we give uninterrupted, unrushed time to creative response like arts and crafts? And do we acknowledge the children whose work reflects their journey with the story- or just those who complete the best ‘product.’?
Children- particularly older ones- have to be given permission to use their imagination. Too often they get the impression that spiritual knowledge is a lot like maths, with clear and correct answers. And when I tell a Bible story, is it about my imagination- or about enabling the children to use theirs?
Are we attending to the quality of relationships we have with one another? Are we evaluating how to make children feel like equals in the group, when we as leaders are a lot bigger and may have a lot more ‘answers’? Also (and here’s a concept that got my imagination whirling)- relationship is not just about affecting one another, but about the quality of space between us as well. How was the space between us this week- Was it holy? Friendly? Imaginative? Questioning and learning?
Dr. Nye didn’t get time to go into detail about the final two…
…but perhaps that gives us space to explore and work out our own values on these things. Are the ways we communicate with our children and young people fostering in them a sense of intimacy and trust- with ourselves? With God? With their church family? With the world around them?
She finished the seminar with a thought which, I felt, empowers and encourages us as Sunday school leaders, local preachers, and volunteers:
Spirituality in childhood is not an ‘extra luxury’- it is an essential! Without it our kids won’t have real nourishment.
What do you think?? Share your comments below!
Have you checked out Inspire lately?
It’s an annual conference organised by the Lancashire Methodist District, and is truly a day packed with heart-felt worship and practical teaching. Plus, creche and day programmes are available for children under 18. I highly recommend it!
This year’s workshops include:
• Rest (and stillness) in ‘God’s economy’
• Faith at Work
• Church & Retirement
• Why the Church Struggles to Celebrate
Rest & Leisure
• The Church Celebrating the Family
• Street Pastors
• Ambassadors in Sport
• Action for Children (the children’s charity of
the Methodist Church)
The world we experience
• All Things Bright & Beautiful
Creating urban gardens
• Children Unite
Giving child domestic workers a voice
• Wake Up and Smell the Coffee…
• Adoption: God’s plan & you
• Celebrating & Affirming Wisdom
A global perspective
• The Last Taboo: Death & Dying Well
• Have you heard the one about the Vicar,
the Hairdresser and the Chiropodist?
Addressing the spiritual needs of frail older
people in care homes.
• Being a Christian in my family is tough!
• Talk about Jesus at work, you’re kidding!
• Talk about Jesus at the gym you’re kidding!
• Too old to talk about Jesus – you’re kidding!
Lat year there were lots of folks from our Circuit in attendance, so if you want to come along but don’t want to go on your own, get in touch and we’ll link you up with someone from your church. Hope to see you there!
Safeguarding is one of the subjects I look forward to talking about.
No, seriously, I do. Why? Because as a parent it’s vitally important to me. I’ve seen the films and thought ‘Yeah it’s possible, but it doesn’t actually happen in the real world.’ And I’ve read the papers and realised it really does.
For over 10 years I’ve been working with children and young people, and more than once I’ve walked with an individual through the healing process as they deal with the consequences of their own poor decisions- or someone else’s. And the truth is, it never really heals. It’s heart-breaking. And we can’t fix the past, but we can try and build a better future.
That’s why I’m grateful for Child Protection Policy. I’m proud of our Methodist Church and its bold approach to safeguarding. I will happily give ten minutes to fill out a form, and a few hours each year to attend a course, so that we can joyfully say to parents, ‘Your children are safe with us. We will look after them to the very best of our ability. We are here with no other motive than to tell them of God’s perfect love.’
As a parent, nothing less is good enough for my child- how about yours?
Safeguarding training session for presbyters, workers with children & young people, stewards, pastoral visitors, choir/music group/drama leaders, local preachers and worship leaders.
Monday 28th January – 6.15pm for 6.30pm start, finish by 9pm – held at Whalley Methodist Church.
This is the very last local training opportunity for those in the Circuit who hold the above roles. If you have not attended this training before, please ensure you book a space on this course, or you will not be able to continue in your role, until you have attended the training.
To book a place, please contact: Christine Moss – 01254 240413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Circuit Messy Morning was a big success!
Volunteers from every church in the Circuit gathered on Saturday morning for some training led by Sylvia Lee, our District Children’s Worker. She even gave us some time to ‘get messy’ and try some prayer and worship stations ourselves. We finished the morning with a bring & share lunch and some good conversation.
Such a lovely time was had that many of us felt we should do it again sometime! So…. here’s your chance to have a say:
If we offered training and fellowship mornings through the year for our children & youth volunteers, what topics would you like to learn more about?
Post your thoughts below!