Spring Harvest Week 1 - Skegness - been back for a week now, have read some team and parent testimonies for the week, and as my current employers release me for a week to work at SH, I think its always worth doing a little theological reflection on the children and their experience of God.
I have to say that this was probably the most challenging week at SH I have ever had from a leadership point of view; there seemed to be more children than I have ever remembered (in five years); either that or the venue is shrinking!! - we took up every available space for the 3 hours 15 minute programme. This means that children towards the back of the floorspace end up fiddling more, sitting on each other more, and risk stepping on more hands and feet as they exit to the toilets at various points in the programme.
Some of the individual pastoral groups were very full and the "rising 5s", the youngest children, 4 years 9 months onwards, seemed very little indeed and seemed to struggle to cope with the programme at times.
That all sounds negative. It isn't, but I think it showed that on a "bursting at the seams" SH week (which is what the even management want), space for the children's groups is tight. Littler children do need opportunities to run around and move about.
For me, yet again, the opportunity to care for some quite vulnerable children was an immense privilege. I was able to support to a family who had recently lost their father. All the children had opportunities to hear Father God speak to them and these two children heard God speak to them very simply and powerfully about his love and care for them. And when you hear children worshipping to the Father on their own without instruments and without adults singing - oh, you hear something of heaven.
I love how, on the first day, you have been unable to learn all of the children's names and by the end of the second day you know their names, about their pets and their brothers and sisters and some of their quirky character traits and family info. You know who will lose their coat every day and who is going to stay with granny at the weekend.
As a family, we managed to catch a little of the evening meetings, taking our youngest with us to the Big Top to hear Trent, who he is very fond of. The CD had been played fairly constantly on the way down to Skeggie. He's only 7, but we play music of various genres fairly constantly in house and car, so he's pretty up on his worship leaders. Ask him what Track 7 on Brian Johnson's "Undone" album is and he will probably be able to tell you. And he has sung himself to sleep with Matt Redman songs since he was about 2. He can also name Chris Tomlin songs from just one line from the lyrics!!
I have the utmost respect for SH in the whole realm of children and families. I have noticed what I would call an "intentionality about provision" with the Big Start and All Age services. I pray now for every child who attended SH - we know some came with quite significant hurts and from some very difficult situations but they met a God who really, really cares and asks people like you and me to do so as well.
It's not an easy to be a child in 2010. We're all needed to love on these little ones.