Monday, August 13, 2007

Here's a document that I produced for the Church Council about work with children. I personally feel that it is essential that we get this right, but it is essential not just for the children and their families who come, it is not just essential that we get it right so that my wife and children continue to grow in faith, it is not just essential that we get it right so that those who find children in church are a distraction. It is essential that we get it right because Jesus welcomed children into his presence, therefore so must we - however uncomfortable that might make some of us feel and the inclusion and welcome of children and their families is part of God's vision here in Leverstock Green. More musings after the document...

Children’s Work at Holy Trinity

Jesus said, ‘let the children come to me. do not stop them. For it to such as these
that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs...’ What did Jesus mean?
Surely he meant that simplicity of faith and trust were crucial to the life of faith.
But surely he also meant what he said at face value - that God’s kingdom is open to
all - children included.

What does this mean for the life of faith?
It means that having faith in God is not about how much (or indeed little!)
complex theology we understand. Having faith in God is not about understanding
God - so as to obtain Him or rationalise Him. Faith is about having a living and life
giving relationship with God - trusting Him.

How does this affect what the church does with it’s children?
Faith is about a living relationship with God. Therefore children with faith are
disciples as much as any grown adult. As a result the church must enable them to
be disciples too.
* The church must nurture it’s children’s faith so that it grows.
* The church must care for it’s children and take their concerns
and worries seriously so that they are pastored and experience the love of
* The church must allow children to worship God together and with the
whole Body of Christ.
* The church must allow the gifts and talents of it’s children to be
used, in service and in worship for example, to the glory of God.

What does this mean for Holy Trinity?
* It means that the work we do with children needs to have same priority for
it’s leaders and the church as a whole, as the work we do with the adults. It
means that our leaders will have ongoing good quality training, use good
resources, be CRBed to ensure the highest quality is given.
* It also means though that a group of people are committed to this work. In
the same way with our work with adults not all of the church leaders carry out
this ministry all of the time, so it is with those who work with our children. There
needs to a group who perhaps operate on a rota basis allowing those who are not
being used one particular week to have their own faith nurtured through
worship, bible study and prayer.
* It means seriously considering the best time, day and place to offer this
work. In other words, just because this work is traditionally done on a Sunday,
does it have to be? Could we/should we use another (bigger) venue?
* It means providing clear structure to provide nurture and pastoral care
that also tie in with what the wider church is providing. In other words, it means
that the lectionary based teaching offered to the children mirrors what is
provided across the age range of the church so that there is consistency from
Toddlers, through BBC, school collective worship and so on. It also means that a
safe way of dealing with children's concerns and worries is provided and is those
are appropriately shared with the wider church leadership.
* It means continuing to encourage children to help lead the whole church
in worship.
* It means challenging the children to act on their faith through acts of
service, and giving their time and talent to the church and others.
* It means taking seriously the link with school - is there more we can do
* It means continuing to review what we do to meet the needs of the children
involved. In other words, we need to take what contemporary models of
secular teaching can offer. Namely are we teaching using verbal, nonverbal
and pictorial methods.
* It means developing the spirituality of our children using silence,
movement, posture, prayer, art, music and so on, but in such a way that connects
with them and their real life experience.

Concluding remarks.
All in all, whilst for now we do not offer any youth work as such, we need to
constantly be reshaping and re-imagining what we do with children to allow
them to come to Jesus in the first place, but then having come, to allow him to
speak to them in ways that they understand. For if we are treating our children
as disciples, the need for youthwork will become greater and will need to be
addressed in some creative and life-giving ways in time, but the foundations will
have been laid already in their lives. Rev’d. Simon Cutmore 25th June 2007

At the end of the day, I can find Jesus clearly talking about children in the gospels. One is the section quoted at the beginning of the document above. The other is where Jesus reminds his adult hearers that anyone who puts a stumbling block in the way of a child exploring matters of faith, it would be better for that adult to find a millstone, to tie it round their necks and to jump in the sea. Stark words indeed.

Children do make noise. They will disrupt sanctity of worship sometimes. But, the only way they will learn how to behave in a church is by being there, and there is much to distract them with - periods of silence, prayer, music, colour, processions and so on. Instead of being frustrated by their pressence, as adults we should turn our quiet 'I wish they would shut up or be taken out' to 'Thank God that they are here and experiencing the love of God for them with the rest of the community in worship.'

Our 10am services will never be places of liturgical silence - if that is what is needed we do offer it weekly at 8am on a Sunday and 10am on a Wednesday and are soon to launch a new 'quiet space' in the late Autumn, all of which might meet need for silence and reflection in worship.

One of the things that was made clear at the interviews for Team Vicar here back in 2003, was that the church wanted to change and grow, and after the fall out from events in the church's past, the desire to see a young family in the Rectory and to see children in church were high on the agenda.

God has answered that desire - with some 20+ adults and children at Toddler Church each Thursday, at least 5 families from that group regularly attending on a Sunday, and Junior Church continuing to thrive. Children must not be pushed out though to occaisions away from the main gatherings for worship on a Sunday - as some sort of specialism. When that happens we cease to be a church, a family of faith, brothers and sisters with Christ. Instead we become a religious society where the only person that matters is me, not God, and that I get my worship fix for that week.

I am being deliberately inflamatory because we do need to get this right, for the DCC believe that it is God's vision for Holy Trinity, and this is why the DCC will be spending a large amount of time over the next 12 months ensuring that we do let the children come to Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great to hear that children are a blessing not just for the future but here and now. The more involved they are in the life of the church better the options of staying and not seeing church as a things for adults !As Jesus blessed them - so should we follow in His foot steps