Thursday, May 27, 2010

Children and the Holy Spirit in the World today

This is a very brief splurge..........

Why is a children and family pastor at a theological conference on the Holy Spirit?
What direct application does this have for my role?
Why was my church so kind to let me go in work time and pay my train fare?
(to shut me up?)
(to get rid of me for a few days?)

No way. Wasn't for those reasons.

I have accumulated some head knowledge about God through studying, but in addition I have spent the last six years teaching and modelling things to children and more so teaching my teams who teach children the things God has taught me. I have, in particular, been watching the signs of how young people are responding - and watching the signs of what God is doing over the nations of this world through the young.

Since 2006, I have been talking with my equivalent staff members in centres of outpouring and powerful renewal moves such as Bethel and TACF. I have visited Toronto twice. I have had the Toronto guys in Scotland to minister to my families. I have studied theology and in particular church history as it pertains to children and young people. I have looked at biblical instructions to families in the OT and NT. I have read how eminent theologians saw children (early church fathers, the Reformers - check out any Marcia Bunge books). I have read scholarly reviews of how faith develops (Westerhoff and Fowler) and combined these with educational theory (Bronfenbrenner) and studies on nurture (Bushnell, Wilhoit/Dettoni)

Then I have looked at the trend of children leaving the church in swathes Britain and in the USA (Christian Research findings, Barna Organisation, empirical observation). I have watched how families respond in church (must have toys or edible distractions for all non-puppet moments). I have listened to the thoughts of hundreds of children under my pastoral care (literally) in two churches - how they have expressed their experience of faith; their hopes for the future and their faltering fear of not making it through 12 years of education with their faith still in place.

Readers, its time for the church in Britain to stop giving birth to children whose experience of faith causes them to feel like victims. Where they are picked on and ashamed of having a faith. Where they are marginalised in their classes because they go to church. With all my heart I want to teach and train pastors, leaders, parents and children that children were created to be victors, not victims. This is *not* about triumphalism. This is about children understanding that those who love Jesus are invited into the most loving and accepting community - the Trinity!- that they could ever find. Those who are hidden in Christ become one with Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit! As much as I need the Father and the Son, I need the Holy Spirit to empower me and give me hope just when I feel I'm running low.

Pneumatology has a place in the spiritual formation of the young. We talk lots about Jesus and tell all his stories, but we also need to tell stories about the work of the Holy Spirit! I posted elsewhere on this blog: how can children love someone whose name they haven't even heard? Right now, in this nation, boys and girls are going to churches where they are taught either nothing or half-truths about the Holy Spirit. How can they keep on, keeping on without the precious Holy Spirit? I don't say this flippantly, but if I spent seven years in primary education being told the same stories again and again, engaging the head without the heart being touched by the phileo - demonstrated love of the Father - I'd be off out the door too.

And its through the Holy Spirit that we release our children into the supernatural - there is no junior Holy Spirit! It's exciting to be a Christian! Not meant to be dull and one-dimensional, but to be felt, experienced, laughed, cried, tried and practised. And dare I say - played with? Yes! It's fun listening to God! Praying for others! For more on this, read anything by Heidi Baker and how God uses the young in Mozambique. Or Visions Beyond the Veil
by H A Baker. <--- That one will get you!

I don't say any of this flippantly. I am absolutely serious about the fact that I know the set of circumstances that led me to leave a secure teaching job to do the job I do now, to labour under a second degree, to have the opportunities to influence some kids leaders and pastors in this little nation here, are all because of what is coming. Most people doing the kind of job I am doing did not intend to do it. They were involved in other work, secular or otherwise. This fact is substantiated by Becky Fischer in her book "Redefining Children's Ministry in the 21st Century".

With all my heart I believe that we will once again see children flooding through the doors of the churches who have repented of the wrong attitudes and are ready to receive a little child. I believe the hearts of fathers and mothers will be won through many, many children and we are in a season of "getting ready" - to disciple children who in turn will disciple their parents. I wrote a paper on this for Alpha at one point in the past. I also believe that theological trainers and church leaders need to weigh what I have just said: if it is true, or even possibly true, then every major church growth initiative/minister training school should have some component somewhere that looks at children and family in the Bible, looks at discipleship amongst children and families and most important of all, examines their own heart towards children. I have found these statements here to have been the most requested material I have ever written.

Further info here: Can Children Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?

And so I need good theology. I need to be well taught. I need to read and reflect because I am often so busy "doing".. I need to rest from work so that I can work from rest (HT to mark stibbe for that line!) for I think I am to help other people catch this vision and therefore I am deeply grateful to my church leaders for allowing me to go.

I am really blessed to be in a place where resources are released to me when I need them, where the leaders are permissioning, where the young are considered, even though I am probably a pain, but please do read as a last word the prophecy by Jean Darnell. I don't just believe it's coming but I believe I am witnessing some of it now.

Splurge over. This all kind of flowed out in a oner so I may just delete it in the cold light of day.....


  1. Don't delete it! I've only just quickly read it but I love what you have written.
    Why should children be pushed to one side? Children are capable of feeling and experincing just as much as adults.
    Be encourage, keep going and we'll see those flood gates opened!

  2. Lynn, as usual this is a well thought out piece (hope that doesn't sound too school-masterish). And you've given us a list of resources that I would never have come across otherwise. Your pilgrimage to HTB sounds like it was fun. Jurgen Moltmann speaking at a conference in a charismatic church!Brilliant. Keep the flame burning. We need people like yourself to remind us pastors that what's at stake isn't the strength of the youth group, but the future of the church. James
    ps. have you seen the latest from Peter Brierley on Church attendance in UK? If not you can get some headline figures here:

  3. @Ruth, thanks! Your comment alone made me keep this post on. It's welcome encouragement.

    @James, thanks to you too! You are always an encourager. Funny you mention these facts, I just discovered church mouse publishing (and these latest stats)last week and was thinking about them ....suppose though that sadistics (to quote my friend Laura Anne) can be used to prove or mean anything, so any readers of this comment in smaller churches or situations could still be encouraged.

    I think much more positive is the strategy that my last church used, which was to periodically evaluate where the "signs of life" were.

    Any activity/ministry that demonstrated life was encouraged and blessed; it had nothing to do with numbers - so there could actually be a decline in the people being reached/attending but there was tangible evidence of new life/transformation (human flourishing, to quote Jane Williams)...a previous youth pastor I worked with said (correctly) that numbers aren't everything.....


In the words of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted, go on, go on, go on........

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