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Household of Faith – why you should join us

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I have been involved in children’s and youth ministry for 28 years.  During that time i have seen (and been involved in) some crazy, inspired, silly and ordinary stuff!  Thinking back, THREE moments stand out and hugely resonate in my Spirit as “God moments” and what Church both IS and should and could be.

#1.  It is 1994.  I am part of a team called “Captain’s Crew” working with 1000 children at the New Wine family conference in Shepton Mallet.  Our team leaders had an idea – we had been doing a lot of prayer ministry teaching and equipping with the children so, it was decided we would visit the main adult gathering one evening.  All of us that were working with the 7-10 year olds and the children themselves.  So, about 850 of us!  We marched out of our venue singing songs and praising God, we marched into the main adult gathering and walked through the aisles until we all got to the front.  We then turned and faced the adults – 750 kids, about 100 leaders.  Facing off with what must have been about 7000 adults.  We held out breath!  Then, we and the children put our hands out and started to pray God’s blessing on the adults.  Dead quiet!  We hard a ripple of what sounded like laughter (in my human weakness my first thought was, “oh no, they are laughing at us!”), but – as the laughter grew stronger we also started to hear crying too.  As we looked at the faces of the adults we realised that God was meeting with them.  God was pouring out His Spirit as the children prayed His blessing over the adults . . . I will never forget that time.

#2.  1991 – 1999.  We are still with “Captains Crew”, but – this is a repeating moment if you like.  Every year!  I worked with the “Crew” across those 9 years and saw this every year.  In the afternoons, as part of our regular programme of activity we would,  for an hour, offer “family prayer time”.  Kids could turn up with any of their family that they wanted to and go and sit with a few “Crew” leaders and pray together.  Children would come with their mum, dad, brothers, sisters, extended family with grandparents or whoever . . sometimes they would share a fear they wanted prayer for, sometimes they wanted prayer for healing, for a friend . . sometimes it was the parents coming to ask for prayer with their children.  Asking for prayer as a family together.  Then, as we prayed – it was WONDROUS to  watch children praying for and with their parents and vice versa . . .

#3.  2004.  We are in London and it is “Soul in the City” a massive mission to London.  I had the privilege of helping in West London.  We knew that 1000 young people were going to arrive on our doorstep to get involved in mission . . . what were we going to do?  In our bit of London we organised more than 40 social action projects and events to take place over the 10 days of the mission.  What still STANDS out to me is one relatively small church in Northolt.  They were a church of about 60 people.  During the 10 days of the mission, 60 people from that church got involved in the mission.  That’s right. Everyone.  Every age got stuck in – the actual whole church became alive to mission – everyone in their way getting involved, making it happen, playing a part . . . it was beautiful.

Why have i highlighted these things in a blog post that is about trying to get you to come to a conference?  Yes, let me be up front – if you read this blog post i want YOU to attend “Household of Faith” from 17th – 19th July at Sussex University . . . (check it out here :: Household of Faith )

I have highlighted these three “God moments” as i have called them because they ARE for me what the “Household of Faith” is all about.  They are what the Church should be about.  Every generation together, every generation receiving from and giving to each other.  Expectation that, regardless of age, God is at work in and through his glorious body . . . which is ALL OF US!

I had the idea for the “Household of Faith” conference because I am CONVINCED that we – as the people of God in our homes, our families (in all their messy complexity) and the church community – should be doing and being more together than we do apart.  That, in the church our diet of worship should be broad and deep gathering us all in together – not enduring our time together until we can have “our bit” of the service (whether that is the way we want the talk or the way we want the coffee or the way we want the sung worship) but absolutely REVELING in being and learning together – the HOUSEHOLD of FAITH!  That, as families – we create such EXCITEMENT about our faith that parents and grandparents have confidence and boldness in sharing that faith with their children and grandchildren – that opening the Bible, talking about Jesus, praying together, grappling with life together in and through FAITH as it expressed in the HOUSEHOLD is the norm.

Why?

Because the 3 “God moments” are when i have witnessed the Household of Faith clicking into place.  Maybe only for those short moments, but . . . IF these times can be (and ARE!) so special . . . and, as i have witnessed TRANS-FORMATIVE for adult and child alike – why do we all get together so seldom?  Why in the Church do we prefer our own thing?  We should know – and this is my belief after doing 28 years of children’s and youth ministry – that children are with their children’s group leaders and youth group leaders so much LESS than they are with their families.

That being part of worship where they SEE the adults engage in meeting with God through songs, through ritual, through scripture – SEE their own parents expressing their faith in that context is SO important . . .

That if their parents had the confidence to LIVE out their faith in front of their children in the HOME it would make such a difference.

Here is the thing though – this is not ONE WAY traffic (what we pass on to the children, bless them!) No – we only have to look at the Bible to see how God, time and time again, draws adults back to Himself through the faith, the trust, the sheer audacity of children who hear what God is saying and then do it!

I so don’t want us to miss it.  Faith formation does not happen in vacuum packed age groups.  We should not be creating some kind of “disciple factory” where each age group gets shunted through to the next thing . . . something WHOLE, something CREATIVE, something of GOD becomes possible when we are all together – the Household of Faith.

So, please – check out the programme for the conference on the website link.  Do try and be with us.

A couple of final things::

Our Keynote speaker is Dr John Westerhoff.  Theologian, author, professor, and priest.  After teaching at Harvard University he joined the faculty of Duke University, where for 20 years he was professor of theology and Christian nurture.  He is the author or co-author of 35 books.  His classic work, “Will Our Children Have Faith?” was reissued in recent years in an updated and expanded edition.

And finally, this bit of blurb sums up what we are trying to do :

Household of Faith is a Conference focused on issues of nurturing faith within the home and church community as we bring together some key voices to discuss the theology, practice and the resourcing we need to effectively pass on faith to the next generation.

 

Beyond Belief

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One of the readings this morning at Church was from John’s gospel – It was the account of Jesus appearing to the disciples after his resurrection. Thomas does not believe them – he wanted to see for himself or he would not believe – in fact more than that, he wanted to thrust his hand into Jesus’ side!

Jesus appears to the disciples again, this time Thomas is present – Jesus makes him the offer, ‘put your hand here – see Thomas – it’s me!’ Then Jesus says,

stop doubting and believe

The word used here is ‘pistos’ there are variations on believe and believing, but this exact word, ‘pistos’ is used 33 times. In every other occurrence the word is translated, ‘faithful’. This is the only time it is translated, ‘believe’. I think right here is where we have a problem in grasping what is being said by Jesus. There is much more to this than simply, ‘here I am Thomas, you can believe I have been raised from the dead – I am right here!’ ‘Believe it’.

Believing it is only part of it . . . And translating this word here as ‘believe’ I think misses something . . . Something is required of Thomas. We have come to understand ‘believing’ something in quite a cerebral, intellectual way – we even list a load of those ‘beliefs’ when we say the creed.

There is more to being a follower of Christ than believing He was raised from the dead. Paul articulates it clearly in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,

if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The ‘believe’ bit is there, Thomas now can be in no doubt that Jesus has risen from the dead – but he also, makes a declaration, like the one in this passage, Thomas says, ‘My Lord and My God’ – He acknowledges who Jesus is to him. Jesus is Thomas’ Lord, Jesus is Thomas’ God.

This is so important – it is this willingness to claim, to own, to witness who Jesus is to US that makes the difference. Believing in him requires action, requires commitment, this is about putting ones trust or faith in Jesus – this is what true believing is.

The thing is, if we actually TRUST Jesus with our lives – then everything changes. Acknowledging the truth of the creeds and the statements about Jesus . . . Believing them, is the beginning of our journey with Jesus. We must then let those things which are true and which we believe SHAPE our lives.

Jesus isn’t simply saying to Thomas, ‘will you believe I am raised’, he is asking him, ‘will you trust me Thomas? Will you be faithful to me? Will you let me be a Lord of your life and take it and mold it and shape it, will you be mine Thomas?’

Jesus asks the same of each if us today.

Samuel forgot, will you?

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This is just a quick thought. Don’t grow up. That’s it! Or, rather – don’t ‘grow up’ to the extent that you forget all that God has spoke to you and encouraged you with . . . ! Samuel was spoken to by God when he was just a boy serving Eli in the temple. Samuel grew up to effectively lead Israel as a prophet and a man who walked closely with The Lord. Samuel went to anoint a new King after Saul stuffed it up. On arriving at Jesse’s house, Samuel gets out his little jar of oil and is already to anoint the eldest son Eli has – ‘this must be the one’ he thinks.

Why does Samuel assume that ‘Gods anointed’ is the kind of guy that everyone would admire? God says this, ‘I look at the heart, not outward things’. How could Samuel forget that HE was also chosen when just a boy.

When he runs out of sons to anoint – he has to ask Jesse if he has anymore. David was not even worth calling to stick in the line up!

Samuel forgot how God works. Are we prone to forgetting as we get older? Do we expect a God to pick our young people for great things? Have we grown old? Don’t forget the young, don’t make assumptions, don’t keep stuff back from a God (which is what Jesse did), throw everything in with Jesus.

We have an ‘old’ church in this country – we are long in the tooth. We are struggling to ‘pass on’ that which we have received. The challenge is not about whether or not we a WANT to pass it on – it is whether we are engaging with those who are not yet part of the church enough that they will receive what we are trying to pass on.

There. It is not a radical thought – we just to remember – if the prophet Samuel could ‘forget’ the fact that he was chosen when a young boy and was going after the safe bet of the ‘eldest’ son – then what might we forget? What might we fail to notice? Who might ‘turn our heads’ instead of cause is to bow our heads – in wonder again at God’s economy, God’s choices – God’s values.

YES Team Announcement

It has been agreed that the YES Team Officers (Ali Campbell, Steve Tennant & Irene Smale) will continue in post until the end of July 2014 so that we can deliver our existing commitments, these include:

  • Fuel Retreat (7th – 9th March 2014)
  • May Camp “Echoes in Eternity” (23rd – 26th May 2014)
  • Household of Faith Conference (17th – 19th July 2014)
  • The Encounter Gap Year Scheme for 2013/2014 (Currently running with three on the scheme – running until the end of the academic year).

During this period, we continue with our work to support, encourage and equip you for work with children and young people – let us know what you need.

In terms of the consultation, we anticipate the formal process will begin shortly.

So, if have been planning to join us at the Fuel retreat or May Camp . . . start getting those forms filled in – and get them back to us ASAP!

Expect more information about all of the above in the coming days – and any questions about booking etc – please give us a call at the office on 01273 425684 or email any of the team. 

 

5 Top Tips for School Ministry

I am going to take it as a given that if you are reading this you think that schools ministry is a good idea, you are either doing it already and just looking for some hints and tips or you are thinking it is something you should be doing.  I have being doing assemblies in schools for 17 years (having cut my teeth in Edgware, north London at Stag Lane Primary School working with the legendary Heather Boyd) . . . I have done both occasional and week in week out assemblies (depending on the school, the relationship developed and time allowing).  First a little something in response to a twitter query . . . the question asked was, “Is there any evidence that Vicars doing school assemblies has any effects on children’s subsequent faith development?”

All I can do is respond in the affirmative based on my own practice and experience.  I am not a vicar, but I have taken regular assemblies . . . . in and of themselves assemblies may sow seeds of faith, but by themselves, I think assemblies on their own have a limited impact.  If it is the only time children see someone from a church, or the only time the church does anything in or with the school and if it is not part of a wider dynamic of school engagement . . . then, I don’t think it can bear fruit.  It is something happening in a vacuum, without meaningful community or relationship being integral.  In one school I did week in week out assemblies for infants and juniors – so two assemblies every week, for seven years.  After a couple of years, I was asked to help with other aspects of what was going on in the school – I did “hot seat” ask a Christian kind of stuff, I hosted visits for different year groups to visit the church and talk about what we did as a living faith community (note, I did NOT simply show them round and point at the Font, the Windows, and get them to do Brass Rubbings, if the school wanted those kind of activities, then they could visit a museum), we showed videos, we did role play, we did refreshments, we sang the kind of songs we sang in our family orientated worship services . . . we talked about all the activities that happen in the church for children and families).  We ran at the church as mid week kids club called “Breakout”, we were allowed (and encouraged) to put flyers into book bags.  At significant times of the year we hosted carol services for the school (they couldn’t get everyone together in one space at the school, so they were very please to take this up), we took in pastries for the staff at the end of term, we prayed for the school, staff and students etc.  All these things create a context for doing assemblies as part of something – not as something separate or distant from the mission of the Church, but as an integral part of ministry in and to the community, of which schools are a part.  The upshot of all this?  We saw “Breakout” grow to a regular attendance of 60+ we had children bring 4 or 5 friends at a time, we saw a significant number of children “stay” in our midweek work into their teens and a number became Christians.  We also realised there was something else with the kids club we hadn’t thought of, 50 adults who didn’t normally come to church, milling about outside the church to pick up their kids at the end of the club.  The Vicar made it a priority to try and hang out at the end of the club when we could and chat to these parents.  The profile of the church and the good will towards the church in general was raised as news spread about “Breakout” – to be clear about the ethos of Breakout, when I started the club, the purpose was to run an “open to all” club, staffed by Christians – we used videos and illustrations in some “upfront bits” which taught simple truths from the Bible and we always finished with a prayer, but predominantly, it was an activity club for the children, with gentle Gospel input . . .

#1.  Be yourself.  This is harder than it might seem!  If you are week in week out conducting liturgy at the front of a church – you might, just might, over time have developed a “liturgical voice”.  You might sound and act differently leading worship than you would in conversation.  In order to engage well with a group of children, whatever age, I would always recommend a relaxed and conversational style – yes, you might be leading worship in a school (depending on the type of school) but most of the children will not be used to you, or your “liturgical voice”.  Who are you?  Who are you when you don’t have a collar on, when you are relaxing with family and friends, when you are chatting with a mate, your primary aim in doing an assembly is NOT, simply to come in to the school and do an act of collective worship as the Vicar of “Such and Such” – you are Brian, or Peter, or Wendy or James, or Sue . . . the aim (in my opinion) of doing an assembly is “Firstly, to share our excitement about our faith and the Gospel in an attractive and accessible way for those who may never have heard that Jesus loves them.  Secondly, to leave them with ONE thought to reflect on and maybe ONE action that will help them remember what we have shared.”

#2.  Start Where they are.  I regularly spoke at a Wednesday school Eucharist at a church in Ealing and the curate there was just about to do his first assembly, he dashed up to me asking for some help and, to quote him he said, “I didn’t know what to speak about – all I can think of is Saint . . . . something or other (so obscure, I can’t remember now who it was he mentioned).”  I was worried about a couple of things!  The main thing though is – for a first assembly – starting with something that is very familiar or comfortable for us because of our faith and existing relationship with God might not be the best place to begin for the children.  We need to start where they are.  We cannot expect them to know things, in fact – increasingly, we shouldn’t expect them to know things.  I go into a Church of England primary doing monthly assemblies, there is a great Christian ethos in the school, but a significant number of the children arriving in reception do not know about the significant events in Jesus’ life, they have never heard the parables.  Never mind talking about obscure Saints, however worthy, they don’t know anything about Jesus.  The challenge again about doing an assembly in this context is getting out of the habit of saying things that we might say in church, by force of habit, for example, “You remember the story of the Good Samaritan?” (not if they have never heard it they won’t!), or “as it says in Romans” (what is Romans?  Aren’t the Romans those people in togas that we learnt about in Year 1?  What did the Romans say?)  Starting where they are means – getting to know the children, getting to know the school, getting to know the community . . . which might be different from the one that makes up your church!  (I was in a predominantly white Baptist church in Edgware at the end of the 90s, we had one Asian family who attended regularly – the school I did assemblies in at the time was 90% Asian, with 70% of those being from Muslim families).  Starting where they are will often mean starting at the beginning.

#3.  Be Visual.  Metcalf (1997)  Carried out some research on what people are able to retain.  These were his findings, we remember: 10 percent of what we read; 20 percent of what we hear; 30 percent of what we see; 50 percent of what we see and hear; 70 percent of what we say; and 90 percent of what we do and say.  There are a bunch of things to look at here, but I want to focus on the need to be visual.  It is still only 50%, but way up on 20% if you are just standing at the front talking at people, they will struggle to remember what you said . . . but, make it visual with an aid and the dynamic of engagement, interest and memory are stirred into greater action.  You might be talking about the lost sheep (have a bunch of things that get lost easily e.g. keys, a sock, a pencil, a hair clip, a comb, a pair of glasses etc), just having those things and holding them up is more visual than you just speaking . . . the more interesting you can make the visual aid the better obviously!  A CLASSIC illustration is to use an Ox tongue when you are doing an assembly about how we use our tongue, how we speak (you could start by talking about the fact you are going to show them the most dangerous thing in the world, it has caused pain and death, wars and suffering . . . NOW – you could just have it a box, and then show it when you say that you are talking about the tongue – OR, you could put on a lab coat, special protective goggles, long thick work gloves, decorate the box with toxic signs – and come across like some kind of mad scientist, and THEN when you have freaked everyone out – get a child to open the box!)  How creative and imaginative you get will depend on time and – to some extent, knowing your audience.  But, BE visual.

#4.  Tell a Story.  A couple of awesome quotes:  “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories“. —Ursula K. LeGuin (Ursula is one of the greats of Science Fiction writing, if you have never read anything she has written – I recommend:  “The Dispossessed” or The “Earthsea” books . . . she is a living legend).  “You have yet to understand that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story“. —Anthony de Mello.  (Again, if you have never read any DeMello, can I recommend “Awareness“?)  Disney know what they are doing . . . they tell a great story, many of their recent films look like the same story, again and again, but – draw the children in with characters they like, think are funny, can do amazing things . . . and they will get lost in the story, rapt attention in the Cinema is not just the magic of something visual (as per point 3 above) but the power of story.  Jesus nailed it with the parables, so much of his truth telling was illustrated – and, NOT in a black and white or linear fashion, his audience sometimes had to do some work . . . we don’t – in telling a story – have to telegraph every single parallel or analogy with a sledgehammer sentence that reminds children we are really talking about Jesus.  Tell a story, and let the story do the work.  Let them think about it!  I would rather they went away from an assembly, being gripped by a story and wondering about it – than went away from an assembly with the thought, “I knew what was being said, but it was pretty boring” and then thinking no more about it!

#5.  Response.  Whatever you have done, visually, story, being yourself, thinking about where the children are at and trying to begin there . . . you have to stop.  Often, you have maybe 15 minutes to include everything you might want to do, saying hello, introducing your theme of the day, (a song – which might be obligatory depending on the school you are in).  Plan in some time for a response, have in your mind this question at the end of what you have said, “So what?”  Big deal, what’s it to me?  The value of what you have just shared rises or falls on what you do to equip the children to make the most of it!  You may have delivered a cracking assembly, but, if you run out of time – wrapping up can be a bit like falling off a cliff, a quick prayer and off they go to the next lesson or out to the playground . . . thinking back to what we retain – we retain 90% of what we do and say.  So – as part of the response, what are the children going to “say”?  It used to be that teaching bible memory verses was the norm, then it seems to have fallen out of fashion and is now lost in an era of fuzzy felt and flares.  What a disaster!  No wonder so many children (in our churches, never mind in our schools) can’t remember anything from the Bible!  So, if you have used a particular verse then get the kids to say it out loud, e.g. “Man looks at the outside, God looks at the heart.”  (in fact, with that bible verse – which is 1 Samuel 16 verse 7, there is a great song you could use too which would teach the verse, “Man Looks At the Outside, God looks at the heart.”  So, they say it, they repeat it – now what . . . ?  Years ago Juan Carlos Ortiz wrote “Disciple”, in it he talks about the time he preached the same sermon again, and again, and again.  It was on “love”.  Eventually, after maybe a month, some in his congregation started to say “didn’t you preach the same sermon last week?” He replied, “I am going to keep preaching about love until we DO IT.”  Wow, how long would we need to preach for in our churches if we kept saying the same things until we were doing that thing?  Give the children something to do!  As an example, going back to the “tongue” assembly, when I have wrapped up that assembly in the past I have used T.H.I.N.K. to encourage them to stop and think before they open their mouths and use their tongue – T is it True? H is it helpful? I – is it all about you “I want this, I want that?” N – is it necessary and K – is it kind?  Maybe next time they are about to say something they will stop and THINK first!  It is just a little thing, but it is an action a response to what they have seen and heard.  To get biblical about this, James Chapter 1 verses 23 – 24, links what we have heard with what we do – and why it is so important.  We need to consider this in all of our public speaking – but particularly in a school context – AND, the school will LOVE it.  Teaching uses response stuff all the time to reinforce what is happening in the class, the purpose of homework is to reinforce what the children are learning . . . creating the opportunity for the children to respond within the assembly time is critical, AND giving them something to “take away” and do.

I have called this my top 5 tips, there are more things . . . but I hope some of the above might be useful.  One final thought, nothing has changed in the way we are “wired”, Metcalf carried out recent research to get to his percentages highlighted in this blog, but Confucius said this, 500 years B.C. ” What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand.”

If you ever wonder why discipleship seems to get harder with each generation, we have got out of the habit of “doing” our faith and become increasingly reliant on a few people telling us about our faith and seeking to impart truth in an auditory fashion.  If we do this alone, we will never have an impact and assemblies like this are pointless.

The Youth Work Awards . . . And I nominate . . oh, I can’t

The Christian Youth Work Awards 2012 Logo

It has been over a month since my last blog post . . . (which was also, about silence and having nothing to say . . . !)

OK, no longer.  I was – against my better judgement as I don’t really believe in awards – going to nominate something in the “best resource” category for the Christian Youth Work Awards when, unless I have misread the website, I realise that I can’t.  The nominations for this category appear to have been done for me.  I have nothing against the organisations represented in this category . . . it is just frustrating that unless you are a national or international Christian “brand” you don’t get a look in . . . (in every other category, nominations are still open, “Volunteer of the Year”; “Most Innovative Youth Work”; “Best Employer”; “Youth Worker of the Year”.  That’s all great . . . and, “Beauty Cocoon” won it last year . . . which is quality.

Soooo, not sure why:

1.  You can’t just nominate something.  Someone has done that work for us.  Youthwork Magazine maybe?

2.  Every nominee this time round is an organisation, it is a shame that – either: a).  No individuals, just by themselves through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the work they are doing are writing / filming / producing in whatever form great resources for youth work.  b).  They might be, but as nobody has ever heard of them, who is going to nominate them.

3.  We are still stuck in this mindset that when it comes to resourcing youth ministry we must slavishly continue to believe that organisations might know what our unique, crazy, gifted, weird, clever, frustrating and amazing young people might need.   “Alpha” – as some organisation did not write Alpha, someone had an idea, they wrote the bones of what has become a phenomenal resource around the world.  Who was that?  They need a medal – but maybe we will never know who that was / is.  Even Alpha being re-written and adapted and updated was done by individuals rather than by an organisation, can we find out WHO and say thanks to that individual?  The same goes for “Soul Survivor”, “YFC”, “Tearfund”, “Open Doors” . . . what these organisations have done is employ great people who have then produced great content . . . but the brand must be thanked.

Am I hoping for the impossible?  There is a shed load of FREE stuff available to download from all over the world, some of it is produced free by organisations like those mentioned – but so much is produced by individuals.  Individuals who now have the power to produce great material – right here, you know, just online, for free for anyone to download.  Some of them aren’t trying to shore up or support other work they are doing through these resources, some of these individuals don’t need you to come to their events or give them money, or give them your email and contact details – no strings or expectations, no bombarding your inbox – just great free content.

HAD there been space to nominate, as appose to just agree with someone else (that is obviously my problem), I would have liked to nominate this: The Bridge (but, I can’t)

IF there was a nomination process in advance, and for this category the nomination stage is closed – then my apologies for all that has gone before.  My bad.

BUT, if not . . . well, come on lets aim for award categories that are actually open to ALL.

Pop Up Ideas – Faith at Home?

I love this!  I am a fan of Tim Harford, as he does “More or Less” on Radio 4 . . . which is a little bit of brilliance in itself.  However, “pop up ideas” is just superb.  Malcolm Gladwell recently, today as I was driving in to the office it was Gillian Tett of the Financial Times.  Absolutely fascinating . . . her past life (as an anthropologist) helped her to ask questions that no one else was asking of the financial world in the mid 2000s and she predicted the financial disaster that ensued.  Prophetic or what?!  Listen to it here.

I listened to it this morning and got to thinking . . . along similar lines, “what are the things that the Church is deafeningly silent on – that potentially have huge ramifications for even our future existence?”  Is there anything – or do we have all the bases covered?  

I think there is MASSIVE empirical evidence around the significance of the “household of faith” – the environment in which children are raised . . . the faith in the home and how that is passed on from one generation to another . . . or rather – how it is NOT passed on.  Most of our data around child attendance at church suggests that if parents attend (even just one) church, there is a far greater chance of their children having faith as adults.  Is that just because their parents BRING them to church . . . or is it also related to the faith of the parents themselves?  

I would contend, that rather than so much effort going into programmes and activities for children at church, so much time spent dividing the family for our segmented “church” activities, so much time spent supporting and sustaining “men’s ministries”, “student ministry”, “women’s ministry”, getting people to effectively sign up for things that mean we spend less time in (and with) our families is counter productive if our aim is to grow the church.

Much was said a couple of years ago (and it still crops up – unlike some “trendy” worries of the church, which seem to be all the rage until the time comes to produce the next marketable resource and then these “great concerns” mysteriously take a back seat).

With all we do at church, children still continue to leave . . . still in their hundreds, it is not enough to say that well – they aren’t leaving in their 1000s every week so we are doing better.  That’s like saying 100 deaths doesn’t matter as much as 1000 . . . each loss counts, each loss is a tragedy.

Isn’t it time to shift our focus COMPLETELY towards nurturing households of faith, the places where children still spend most of their time, the place where those closest to them are encouraged and EQUIPPED to live out their faith in full sight of and alongside their children.

That is my “pop up idea”, listen to this morning’s podcast, what are the conversations about in the Church, what are our leadership teams talking about, what is most prescient for our today and for our future.

Children, regardless of statistics are poor by a general standard if we consider the following:  the poor are those with no voice, no power and no money.  

Children are not heard or listened to . . .

Children have no power to make decisions in the church that will impact their present participation and their future involvement as leaders . . .

Children have no money (maybe that is the biggest issue!) and cannot buy influence or wave a wallet around to get what they want . . .

What are the homes of our children like – are they heard, can their voice influence what we do, sometimes they speak truth to power (whether in the home or the church) are we listening?  They may not have money, but BOY do we spend most of our money providing for their needs!!  How is that the case in the church.  Many parents prioritize the health and well being of their children when money is tight . . . it is just “what you do”.  Can the same be said in the Church?  Chips are down financially in the church, what do we ensure happens . . . what must be maintained and looked after?  Is it our children?  

Our children need to know that they are our highest priority . . . we must INVEST time in the home rather than in getting people into our buildings, we must EQUIP parents to talk about their faith and share the story or God at home – is this happening?  Is it what we do – or do all our efforts go into strong arming people onto the Sunday School rota?  We must STOP endless activities that keep families segregated and apart (which apparently, we declare is about ministries that will build the Kingdom) . . .

Here is a thought, if we kept the children we currently had (who we part of the church), if we invested in these family relationships in such a way that faith was passed from generation to generation, parent to child and that faith STUCK, by the middle of this century the actual “membership” of the church in this country, (with no overt evangelism, just faith being effectively passed down the generations through the home . . . ) would be about 8 million.  That isn’t those who tick “Christian” in surveys, that would be ACTUAL Christians.  That we have raised ourselves.  With no evangelism.   

Here is a thought then – scrap your evangelism budget and create an “invest in faith at home” budget.  Rather than Church Army Evangelists lets have Church Household Pastors and Teachers . . . 

The thing related to this that I think we know (I have even heard evangelists whisper it) is that if we got discipleship right, and raised a generation of children and young people in the faith, who kept the faith . . . then the evangelism would look after itself.

There.  That’s my pop idea.