Monday, January 30, 2012

Something's stirring

Imagine what it would look like if children, teenagers and their parents with no faith background at all, who know nothing of the stories of Jesus, start to come along to your gatherings in significant numbers – as little as three or four families could change the dynamic of some smaller churches and some fifty families will have a considerable impact.

It was with a mixture of excitement and incredulity that I read the following question from a working mother in a column in one of the UK’s quality newspapers. She was seeking advice from the well known TV presenter Mariella Frostrup :

I feel angry a lot at the moment – I'm taking it out on my husband, and because my two-year-old is inseparable from him I'm worried I'm also hurting him when I head for the front door. I'm so frustrated. I'm the main breadwinner and I work 60 hours a week while my husband and mother-in-law look after our children. It's the best-case scenario, but it drives me mad. My husband constantly whines about how tired he is from his 27-hour working week. When I'm at home I'm in primary care of the children. I would find the sick feminist joke that is my life funny and enjoyable if I was appreciated, but I'm not remotely. I have my character assassinated on a daily basis. Do you think church is the answer? I don't believe in God, but all that singing and being grateful has to help, surely?
I read this woman’s desperate question just days before I finished an edit of my book on getting ready for children and families to seek out solace and meaning in the church - community - and I felt a deep urge to include a reference to this story in the book, so I hope I have snuck it in despite the deadline.

This precious family is who we are to be ready for – will you love them with me?

There were a variety of comments in the online section of the newspaper following Ms Frostrup’s reply, with one person suggesting that the advice given back (“why not check out church?”) was written sarcastically. I know that the actual scenario was true, as I personally have met women who have expressed the identical sentiment to this. Something is drawing them. Let’s be ready to welcome whole families coming to or churches to check us out, to come to a church gathering so that they do something together and experience something different from consumer-led weekends - there is a growing desire for community and I'm up for whatever this entails!

Full source reference:Life & Style column, Observer magazine, p54, Sunday 15 January 2012, online link in second paragraph

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Update

Quick update on where the book writing project is. It's finished!

It's now in the internal editing process which is me and my three senior pastor friends who have agreed to have a read and suggest changes, but at the same time the manuscript is now with my publisher and next week the external, professional edit begins.

The publisher has also asked me to obtain some 250 word summaries for the first page or back cover of book. The person who knows me best, my senior pastor of 27 years, said it contains "dynamite". That's a bit scarey (it could go down like a lead balloon?) and also very honouring of him to say that as he is man with a deep knowledge of Scripture with impeccably high standards (there is no truth at all in the rumours that he used to re-align all the chairs early on a Sunday morning if they were millimetres out from their set pattern.....!!!?)

Next comes the cover design, title etc.... - very, very exciting. It's been a long haul but I have read a lot, prayed more and really "enquired of the Lord" to process my ideas and thoughts. It has also been an act of worship and a time to recall all the great things the Lord has done amongst the congregation in the two churches I have worked in.

If you are interested in getting a copy, I hope it will be out by June this year

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

God loves children

I've written this post for anyone who pops by here because of what I posted on a public forum offering to pray for anyone who wanted someone to do that for them following the "One Born Every Minute" programme on TV tonight.

God loves children, very much. He cares about their entrance into this world, that moment of birth, the first breath they take and the path they follow in life.

He didn't intend that it should be a difficult time, a lonely time or a tragic time. This world has got pretty messed up through the actions of humans and not because God wanted it to happen or meant it to happen.

But he knows when we need him, and the great news is that when we look for him or call out to him, he's there.

I'm a minister, a pastor, who specialises in working with and supporting parents, children and families. Although I'm on a break from my job just now because I am finishing a writing project, I love what I do. It's not about forcing what I believe on anyone, I always, always respect other people's beliefs - my job has always been more about standing alongside you when things are tough or celebrating with you when your family brings you joy and happiness. Being a parent and working together as a family is genuinely hard work at times!

Christians believe that prayer works. God always listens when we pray, so post in the comments below if you would like me, and some of my friends who I trust hugely, to pray for your family and your children. You can keep it anonymous and not even give much details except please pray for XX and XX.

I used to work alongside a carers and toddler group that met twice a week and the carers got a break while their children were looked after by "aunties", older people from our church who were fully trained and Disclosure-checked. We had a prayer tin where people could write out things they or the family were worried about and some of us met to pray for these little requests. Every week there was things in that tin and it was a great privilege to be trusted with them so that we could pray.

If I can answer any questions you have about Christianity and what Christians believe and especially how this fits in with children, do post here too or perhaps you might think about attending an Alpha course, again all of the details on these (you put your postcode in and you can find out where one is near you) by clicking here

Alpha is great, it's a no-pressure course introducing Christianity, often over a meal if its an evening course, or at the very least (if its during the day) with coffee and cake! You can ask anything at all, be totally honest about what you think and no-one will try to make you change your mind. The course just puts some information before you (usually by watching a short DVD) and then has a discussion time. What I have always found to be great about alpha is that people make really good friends and the group forms a strong bond - which is an added bonus!

Finally, here's an ancient prayer of blessing that any of us can pray over our babies and children, friends or older relatives. I often pray it while the other person sleeps. You're praying it to the God who suggested it
to us as a way of blessing each other and it is now used by many churches as a prayer said over babies and children. A blessing is simply praying the best from God for someone.

Its from the book of Numbers, chapter 6, in the Bible. An online bible is available here.

The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Dummies Guide to Creating a Vision Statement

In this period of sabbaticalling I have met with a number of lead pastors who are working out their church's view on children and children's ministry. They have all asked me how I got my vision going.

Prior to April, I was emailed by LOADS of children's/youth workers all over the country to ask, amongst other things, how I knew what I was to do first, what were my priorities. I always asked them what their vision for their role was - which was often met with....pauses/blank looks/uncertainty. So I'm pretty pleased that now their team leaders want to support them in this.

Last year I ran an equipping track at my annual vision day to help pastors and leaders get a vision for children's and youth ministry but, errrrr, I encouraged them gently not to just copy my vision statement. That's a cop out - what might the Spirit of God want to say to you which will be much more exciting than my vision statement would say?! I know whose I would rather have any day :-)

Here's my Dummies Guide to Creating a Vision Statement
(not that I am saying pastors are dummies. Far from it. I'm one!! (one what?)

Implementing a Vision for Children and Young People

The first THREE steps to implementing a vision for children and young people in YOUR church are to:

1.Get armed with information from culture and Christian research

2.Get familiar with passages in the Bible pertaining to children and young people

3.Have an open heart and mind, to be challenged and changed, stirred and broken

The next step, if it is needed…..(and it might not be, you alone know this about your church). Vision for the future is built from the ashes of repentance.

4.Repent for any wrong attitudes personally or corporately held towards children and young people.
See this post for help with this.

5. Consider the following definitions. Make sure you understand them:
Values – principles held that informed the vision process
Vision – the place children’s, family and all age ministry should go.
Process – how is this vision to become reality?

6. The next step is to write out your theological non-negotiables about children and young people. These are your values.

"My last church" example:
•Children start with God. However, their “default” is to veer away from him without a twin strategy of evangelism and nurture. Every young person needs to hear the Good News and be nurtured in their faith journey.

Children and teenagers need to be given regular opportunities to personally respond to what God has done through Jesus’ death and resurrection and to keep on saying “yes” to Jesus through thick and thin, throughout their stages of cognitive and spiritual development.

Children and young people are capable of understanding their position in Christ, precious, chosen, people whose prayers are heard and who are worthy of the Father’s love, “welcome at the table”.

Children and young people are part of the Joel 2:28 promise (“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh”). We are not to construct a theology of “what is not for them”. We uphold that there is no “junior” Holy Spirit.

7. Then write out what, in your wildest dreams, you would like to see in the future. This is your vision.

Mine is tightly worded into three bullet points. If your church has a vision statement, look at your thoughts to see if it marries with it. Hopefully it’s not going in the opposite direction!

Obviously I am not going to reproduce this here now as that was for then. I will be asking God what it should be for next place I am and those who follow me in my previous church should be asking God what it is they are uniquely to bring as they're not me and they will have different "wildest dreams". I know mine were very big but I had a history of seeing big things happen with God so I was never going to have a vision statement that said "I hope the children all behave and have good fun in Sunday School."

8. Think: how are you going to get there? What needs to change? This is the process.

Again, I had a tightly worded pathway to make these things happen and before the church's structure changed I was a significant way along seeing these being carried out.

9. Finally, writing a vision requires the heart to follow it through to implementation.
It needs to be presented to vestry/diaconates/board/elders. It needs to be taught from the front. It needs to underpin every leadership decision your church makes. It needs to have someone/people behind it who can make it happen. Who are passionate about prayer and passionate about the vision; which is why the initial four steps are more important than anything else.