Will YOU make a difference? (WYMAD)
A few weeks ago I popped into see a Headteacher for a chat / coffee (before seeing another teacher who was coming on our team this summer). As we passed the time this Headteacher said some very interesting things - totally out of the blue - totally unexpected and really blew me away (can unpack this further if needed). Since then it's been a very interesting few weeks which continues. Here are some thoughts with acknowledgement to obvious gapsâ€¦and the like.
The two areas that have been on my mind (and do overlap?) have been:
1.) The work amongst primary children in our schools (before they move to Middle or Secondary)
2.) The work amongst primary children in our churches (hence the overlap between the two) â€“ not forgetting the KEY role of work with children outside of church at homeâ€¦.
Since that time I have been to see some people - chatted with some others - read some bits and pieces and observed certain things. When all into the mix a series of questions have arisen and one possible answer / suggestion / action point? Here are ...(some of) the questions:
If you have any thoughts...suggestions...views...opinions - I'd be very interested to hear from you. Thanks for your time.
Some key questionsâ€¦
* Why in the last 15-20 years has there been a mini explosion in the amount of churches appointing Youth Workers / Pastors / Ministers?
* Why hasn't this been matched by these same churches appointing Children's Workers / Pastor's / Ministers?
* Where churches have employed one person to cover both children & youth - why has the priority - time - resources been skewed towards the youth?
* Is one (the main?) reason simply that a typical 5 year old isn't out on a typical evening from 7.00-10.00pm? where as a typical 15 year old might be / certainly more likely and more available?
* Have we missed something here in the light of most young people who leave church do so around the ages of 11-14..and this may continue?....however this decision to leave church is probably made as a child - before the age of 10?
* What might this suggest in time - resources - personnel - support - investment of churches in the primary age?
* Might this? Should this? be The 'Primary' Concern?
* With no guarantees - if the energy - creativity - resources - personnel - oversight and 'enablement' that is given into current youth ministry was put into children's ministry - what might the result in children's ministry be?
* What effect would we see? What impact might this have on current youthwork?
* Is most support, encouragement, co-ordination, training etc of volunteers in churches working with youth done by fullâ€“ time / part time staff (if they exist?) â€“ Who does the similar role for those serving our children?
* In general churches that have children and young peopleâ€¦are there more children than young people? Are there more volunteers working with children than young people?
* If children's ministry investment was matched with what already happens in youth ministry investment what might that mean?
* If a choice was made of 'either / or' which should it be and why?
* Are youth more important than children? Are Children more important than youth? Aren't both of equal importance? (bearing in mind that all 11-18's were once 0-11's and most 0-11's do become 11-18's)
* Have we missed something over the last few years?
* What drove the mini explosion of youth workers / pastors / ministers as compared to the 'trickle' of children's workers / pastors / ministers?
* If the work with youth in schools means we are having to go back a lot further and to assume less and less - would it be better starting with primary? (Meaning we might make progress more quickly - set in some greater / deeper foundations that maybe were already there 'many x' years ago with primary children then?) So now, not having to go as far back or maybe the background work is less because there are less years to go over??? I'm struggling with the wording on this one.
* As a generalisation aren't children more open / welcoming / receptive to input than teenagers? â€“ less barriers to overcome??
* What might happen in the next few months, few years, couple of decades?
...and finally if Hayley's story is anything to go by...might there be a few more Hayley's earlier? if this ministry was started in the primary schools? (Hayley became a christian whilst a studentâ€¦whilst she was at secondary school she had a warm vibe about Christians because of one Christian teacher, Elizabeth, and a local church team that came into her school as visitorsâ€¦when she left school and came across other Christians â€“she wasn't already switched off â€“ she was open. She is now on fire BIG time for God has been part of the church that came into her school and much more - a truly great story)
* any more questions
There have been some very interesting recent articles in www.childrenmatter.net
Thanks for your time
CHILDREN'S MINISTRY MATTERS
by John Buckeridge
The number of children attending church continues to drop. John Buckeridge asks two leading children's ministry experts about the key trends in children's ministry.
A very wise man once wrote, 'Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it' (Proverbs 22:6). More recently another wise man, the American trendspotter George Barna, writing in 'Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions' (Regal), identified the spiritual upbringing of children as the most critical factor in the church's survival.
So what is the shape of children's ministry like in the UK? What do the latest statistics say, and what resources are available to help us to teach children about the Christian faith?
The latest statistics on English church going from Christian Research show that the number of children attending Sunday School continues to drop. The number of under-11s in church on a given Sunday (including Sunday School) in 2005 was 421,300 - this compares with 482,900 in 1998. Year-on-year 10,000 less children attend church and/or Sunday School. This rate of decline has been steady for over 10 years now. While this is clearly bad news, it should be noted that it mirrors a similar overall decline in attendance among adults. Peter Brierley of Christian Research says this indicates that whole families are dropping out of church attendance.
Of those children and teens that do attend church, 57% are aged under 11, 22% are 11-14, and 21% are 15-19. The gender ratio is 54/46% in favour of girls. Only half of the churches in the UK have any form of children's or youth ministry! Churches with a regular children's or youth activity are much more likely to he led by a minister in their 30s or 40s, than a minister in their 60s or 70s. This trend is true across the UK. But barely a third of ministers (32%) are under the age of 50.
Alan Charter, Scripture Union's Head of Evangelism and a Director of Children Matter told Christianity magazine, â€œThere's lots of fantastic work being carried out by churches. Many are really grappling with how to engage with the world that children live in today and trying to reach those outside the church.
As with much of church life, there is a great spectrum of what takes place. The tragedy is that so many churches don't have any provision for children at all.â€ Where children's ministry does take place, on a Sunday it operates mostly on a rota basis. Typically children will be with the adults for a short time in the worship service before leaving for Sunday School groups. These are usually staffed by volunteers â€“ some children will have different leaders each week on a rolling six week rota.
Charter is pragmatic about this trend. â€œChildren are remarkably resilient and typically cope with change better than adults. They do benefit from structure, stability and continuity though. Just as a child in a school class might not do so well under a variety of supply teachers, as opposed to a single regular one, so we need to take care with how we appoint leaders to church groups.â€
Ali Campbell the Diocesan Youth Advisor for Chichester is less positive. â€œThe days of the rota are numbered â€“ kids want to build relationships and we need to be providing the possibility for intentional discipleship from an early age. With a different set of leaders every week, it is harder to generate enthusiasm and motivation from the children.â€ Campbell points to a cultural shift in the style of the mid-week Bible studies for children. â€œWhat used to be the format for 11-14s has become the norm for 8-11 year olds and is more akin to an open youth group with an epilogue talk. The dynamics of children's social engagement with others has changed and they have become more interested in who is leading their group and their relationships with them.â€
Campbell observes that in the Anglican church, statistics show that more children are attending mid-week activities than Sunday school. â€œThere has been a huge shift in how we work with children, says Campbell. â€œThe roothas been sociological factors â€“ as family breakdown has increased and children are split between their mothers and fathers at weekends, regular Church attendance is less consistent and is having an impact. The church is adapting though and realising that 'doing church' does not equal the Sunday services. â€œThe extended Schools and Every Child Matters government agenda need to be impacting the way churches view their work with children,â€ says Campbell. â€œBut if kids are at school until 5:30 doing after school clubs and then we take them from 6 until 8pm, is this a good model for kids to be away from their parents to such an extent?â€
At present according to Peter Brierley barely a quarter of all English churches (27%) have some sort of midweek activity. This suggests that Anglicans are forging ahead in this area. Brierley notes that these midweek activities attract proportionately more 11-14s than Sunday School. The number of churches that are employing specialized children's workers appears to continue to grow. However this has not even got close to the number of youth workers employed by the church, which is estimated to exceed 7,000.
Looking to the future Campbell predicts, an increasing move away from employing professional children's workers to family and community workers. â€œThe essential need for working with parents is being realised. There is a shift in the understanding of children's ministry to being part of a wider ministry to the whole family. We need to be equipping parents to be discipling their children. Parents still have the most influence over their children, far and above the media and their friends.â€ Both Campbell and Charter agree the role of supportive parents is key. Expecting your child to grow in their faith thanks to a couple of hours input at church each week, if their home life is a spiritual desert, is clearly unrealistic and an abrogation of parental responsibilities.
Charter predicts in the future there will be â€œan increase in the current trend of churches that have made no provision for children and will, therefore, be in decline with fewer leaders. But thankfully, there are also many churches currently striving to build strong faith foundations. In ten years, more young leaders will have been nurtured - people who have been encouraged from an early age, empowered with responsibility and growing through using their spiritual gifts.â€
John Buckeridge is the Senior Editor of Christianity magazine, he teaches Sunday School to 8-11s on a rota at his local church.