Children, Youth and Families Round Table – October 2018
THE CYF Round Table met in early October at the International Mission Centre in Birmingham. This national group aims to reflect, inform, inspire and raise the profile of CYF ministry across Baptists Together. Representatives from our Regional Associations attended along with Martin Sweet from Spinnaker (representing the Baptist Education Group) and Mike Lowe from the Faith and Society Specialist Team.
Since our last gathering
The Round Table last met in March and it has been a busy summer. This included delivering well attended seminars at the Baptist Assembly in May and Momentum – Baptist Assembly in Wales in June. Positive conversations have started with the Baptist colleges on how CYF training can be integral to ministerial formation. Two resources have also been produced – the CYF Toolkit and the CYF Employment Guide.
The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him
Our gathering was a rhythm of worship, reflection and discernment. Amie Buhari (from the Hebe Foundation and representing our London Baptist Association) lead opening worship and gave the group Lamentations 3:21-27 as a Biblical starting point for our time together. That need to wait on God was important to recognise and it ensured we gave sufficient time before discerning what was being said. The main aim of the gathering was to listen to what has been happening across the country and use that to inform a proposal we will be taking to Baptist Union Council in November.
Know that God is very much with you
Our reflection began by asking ourselves where we are personally in our ministry, calling and practice in a session led by Clare Hooper (CYF Regional Minister for the Southern Counties Baptist Association). The group focused on a river scene and we were asked where are you amidst the ‘river’? Would you like to be somewhere else?
Be it ice, water, dry land, stepping stones or waterfall. God is in it all. This was explored further when Sian Hancock (Associate Tutor at Bristol Baptist College, Oasis College and a Trainer for Godly Play UK) led A Godly Play prayer time on the Good Shepherd.
Mike Lowe (Communications Enabler for the Faith and Society Specialist Team) set the current context of Baptists Together. Opening with Acts 2.42-7, Mike reflected on this wonderful image of the early church which is still experienced today when Christian communities are at their best. Whatever we know of Baptists Together it is probable that we don’t feel Acts 2.42-7 about it. Our Baptists Together family does not exist to be an institutional club that churches belong to but a Kingdom building union that creates stories of God’s grace at work. The vision of growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission is set alongside our culture and priorities.
Mike shared popular stories from the past year that our vision has generated, aiming to show that we’ve every reason to feel Acts 2.42-7 about the union we are part of.
What’s flourishing? God’s Spirit at work, What’s in decline? Practice, Trends, Opportunities
A key time of sharing and listening was when the group shared their association experiences of what’s in decline, opportunities and God’s Spirit at work.
Out of the many stories that were shared, consistent observations were that the traditional Youth Club is in decline and a shift towards digital communication as a primary form of contact. There were multiple examples of schools being very open to allowing Christian groups in to lead assemblies, Prayer Spaces, after school clubs amongst others, but that is juxtaposed by the increased Safeguarding measures and GDPR limitations.
We recognise the future will be very different to the past, we need to have the courage to go to a new place and release people in new ways. This informed our discernment over the remaining time as we shaped a commitment we wish the Baptist Together family to embrace.
A quote bringing all that we had done together and beckons us onward in our shared journey is this from Vincent Donovan’s book ‘Christianity Rediscovered’:
“In working with young people, do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place may seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before”.
Please share this update with your church.
Children, Young People and Families Round Table – March 2018
THE CYF Round Table met in early March at the International Mission Centre in Birmingham. This national group aims to reflect, inform, inspire and raise the profile of CYF ministry across Baptists Together. Representatives from our Regional Associations attended along with Sian Hancock from Bristol Baptist College, Martin Sweet from Spinnaker, Mike Lowe from the Faith and Society Specialist Team and Jenni Entrican, President of the European Baptist Federation. Phil Knox from Youth for Christ was guest speaker.
The group spent time in theological reflection looking at an extract from ‘Faith Generation’ by Nick Shepherd. It considered the movement from faith development to faith generation amongst young people. How can we enable a self-sustaining discipleship? The main response the group discerned were these two points
Allowing the telling of personal stories. A culture of testimony needs to exist in our communities
Allowing young people to theologically reflect, in group settings we must allow and explore the question ‘where is God in all this’?
The group heard from Phil Knox, Evangelism and Leadership Director for Youth for Christ. Phil passionately shared the stories that they are hearing and the reflections they have made on research they commissioned with 1000 young people, ‘Gen Z: Rethinking Culture’ (https://yfc.co.uk/gen-z-rethinking-culture-report-released/). There were some remarkable findings. It shows where we will find young people spending their time:
Youth for Christ – We’re about seeing young people’s lives changed by Jesus
It revealed a love/hate relationship with social media.
A high proportion (59%) called themselves followers of Jesus and yet only 32% believed in God.
We are definitely ministering to a ‘screenager’ generation and we must help them understand the implications of technology. Phil reflected on this with a humorous poem he has written based on Psalm 23:
My phone is my shepherd, I shall not disconnect
It makes me lie down in fields of distraction
It leads me beside noisy, colourful waterfalls of pixels
It clutters my soul
It guides me along paths of likes and shares
For my ego’s sake
Even though I walk through the darkest valley of no wifi
I will fear no signal
For your 4G and offline features
They comfort me
You prepare a notification for me
In the presence of my followers
You anoint my thumbs with apps
My cloud storage overflows
Surely your updates and new features will follow me all the days of my life
And you will dwell in the palm of my hand forever.
Copyright Phil Knox 2018
Phil concluded by offering a Word God had shared with him for our engagement with young people. Empowerment and encouragement is key – we have a new generation of leaders to build up and released.
YFC resources for youth groups and children’s work – www.yfcresources.co.uk
Sync: a Youtube channel and group resources to help young people share their faith:
All other aspects of Youth for Christ – www.yfc.co.uk
Where next for CYF in Baptists Together?
Key discernment and reflections included positively affecting CYF training in ministerial formation and developing links with Mission Forum. The CYF Round Table will be delivering a seminar at the Baptist Assembly in May and Momentum All Wales Baptist Assembly in June. They will also be offering thoughts to Baptist Union Council in November.
Please share this update with your church.
Children, Young People and Families Round Table – October 2017
THE CYF Round Table met early October at the International Mission Centre in Birmingham. This national group aims to reflect, inform, inspire and raise the profile of CYF ministry across Baptists Together. Representatives from 10 Regional Associations attended along with Sian Hancock from Bristol Baptist College, Ross Hendry and Sara Willcocks from Spurgeons Children’s Charity and Martin Sweet from Spinnaker.
Aim lower, think smaller, give up, Go have a cup of coffee
The group spent time in theological reflection with the following video and an extract from the book ‘Little Wins’ by Paul Lindley.
The video unpacks the provocative title ‘Aim lower, think smaller, give up, Go have a cup of coffee’ by exploring why we should be aiming at lower age groups, investing in younger leaders, giving up old and bad habits and talking with people outside our church. The book extract considered what ‘growing down’ might mean for adults. What if we adopted more childlike qualities in adult life, such as:
Dive right in
Never give up
Show your feelings
The group then considered what 'growing down' means for Baptists Together as we serve amongst children, young people and families. What might it mean for the Church? Here are some of the thoughts.
How do we get meetings to be creative spaces? Why do we sit round tables with pieces of paper?
How do we get people to engage? The teaching of Jesus focused around parables which prompted questions and no easy solutions. Give people the tools to be creative. It’s about helping to discover, not giving the answers, but good questions.
There can be ‘bad toddler’ behaviour by adults in church! What if we transform energy from negative to positive? The gossiper can become the networker, self-centredness can be a driver for getting things done.
Let’s not be afraid! Toddlers are characterised by falling over and getting back up before falling over and getting back up. It’s how they learn so quickly. What if we adopted that approach of not giving up in church?
Let’s being honest about our vulnerabilities.
How do we open-up the creative thinking? - Sunday morning being a very good starting point! What’s ‘proper church’ anyway? Pull apart Sunday morning and then reflect deeply about how worshipping people encounter Jesus. Make people talk.
Remember there’s a difference between childish and childlike. We must be inquisitive and have a hunger to learn.
When reading the Bible, look at the way certain characters reacted and what can we learn from that.
Ross Hendry, CEO of Spurgeons, shared that in their 150th year they have been thankful that God has protected and provided in that time. They have also been reflecting on where they go next. They are being intentional about reconnecting their values with the Gospel; a better present with a more hopeful future socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Spurgeons Children’s Charity
Three years ago they wanted to reimagine what a Christian children’s charity should look like and asked the question about what children they wanted to work with. They settled on:
Children in vulnerable families
Children with heavy burdens, such as those caring for parents
Children at risk of being exploited
They want to be salt and light in the public square, distinctive in being Christ-like. They want to help churches in their social mission and get them into the darker corners of their community.
They are exploring what partnership looks like in the places where they don’t currently have a presence.
To find out more visit our recent intereview with Ross Hendry http://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/500404/_God_s.aspx and our dedicated page http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/291551/Spurgeons.aspx
Martin Sweet has been working in schools for 30 years and heads up Spinnaker, a team of committed Christians with links to the mainstream churches within the Christian community. They operate in 14 hubs around South London, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, supporting primary schools in the delivery of Christian collective worship and religious education.
Martin reflected on the fact that churches must do schools work well or it can be damaging. Careful consideration must be given to the question ‘how do we unpack concepts at their level?’ This was given sharp focus when Martin was asked by a nine-year-old Muslim ‘What does it feel like to be a Christian?’
Spend a moment answering that question yourself and how you would respond to that young person.
Schools work is a fantastic opportunity to connect with the community. What we bring to the table must bless the schools and be effective. Martin provided these tips on how to measure the effectiveness of collective worship:
What was that about? Can everyone tell you afterwards?
Involve their imagination and engross them; imagination is the seed bed of faith.
Was their conscience touched?
Were 75% of children engaged 75% of the time?
Then get smart in the delivery. A good assembly considers:
The environment at the time (is it a cold, uncomfortable floor, for example?)
Resources – get the best.
Get your most engaging speaker to deliver it.
Make prayers a plenary prayer weaving in school values.
Martin has also been a Baptist voice for many years, representing us at the Free Church Education Committee. Their aim is to impact and influence the RE syllabus. He says there is significant opportunity for Baptist teachers and governors to get involved and have a voice.
Martin is a big believer that discipleship can happen away from church, and schools' work is where he has seen that happen. We must get involved.
To find out more about Spinnaker and download free resources to use in schools visit http://www.spinnaker.org.uk. Also read the articles he has contributed on behalf of the Baptist Education Group http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/281426/Baptist_Education_Group.aspx
Where next for CYF?
The group wants to help the regions connect and will be aiming to do this through resourcing days, attending ministers’ conferences, building a bigger presence on the Baptists Together website and in other ways we communicate, like the Baptists Together magazine. Individuals are also representing the group in many other forums like:
1277 Toddler Ministry
Children’s Ministries Network
Youth for Christ
The group will also be adopting the schools' work and representation that Martin Sweet has been leading. He will become a co-opted member of the group and provide clarity and guidance as they seek to be an effective voice on school-related ministries.
The time concluded with Communion and these words:
We believe in the Spirit of Life
Who animates us with the breath of God
Who assures us that we are God’s children
Who calls us to risk
To offer up the gifts we have been given
Please share this update with your church.