Trying to build the future on Solid Rock – Children, Young People and Family Ministry
In a recent article, Fr Kevin Smith, Priest Administrator at Walsingham, laments by saying that “The absence of children and teenagers (and their parents), evident in many of our churches today, is a real cause for concern and demands our prayers and attention”. The decline of families in church is well documented and we only have to look around to see the effect of this decline on All Saints’ in recent years. An aspiration coming out of the Parish Away Day was that All Saints’ might once again increase its children’s ministry so that average numbers might grow to match those of the country at large – around 18%.
So over the coming months and years, we will be developing our leadership and approach to the way we engage our youngsters, in church, during services, at Sunday clubs and in wider engagement. All this in the hope that we can once again see growth in this essential area of church-life and ministry. Sunday School will become more of a teaching and nurturing group, intentionally looking to teach children the essentials of faith and morality in an age appropriate, catechismal way. We will also be exploring children receiving First-Communion, because this is encouraged throughout the Church of England and is proven to help young people grow in faith and to feel accepted by the wider church community. Families will be encouraged to stay in church together during their early visits so that they no longer feel pressured into being separated during what are often anxious first few visits for them amongst strangers. A children’s corner will be erected to help families feel welcomed and to show them that as a church community we value their presence with us (and that we don’t mind a little noise – better that than they don’t come at all!).
On a more structural note, Sarah Parker-McGee is to be commissioned as our Childrens’ and Families’ Missioner on 9th September at 9.45am by the Archdeacon in our morning Eucharist service (she was licensed to a similar role in Peterborough Diocese after many years of training and experience – please do come and support her!). Even though her role will be a voluntary one (as she works full-time), She will provide our children’s ministry with valuable pastoral care and leadership skills, and a wealth of knowledge on recent thinking and approaches to the spiritual nurture and care of children, young people and families. Her role will, no doubt, develop as she settles.
The PCC has also committed to begin focusing more resources on supporting this essential area ministry, and this will include providing better facilities for our youngsters and employing (on a paid basis) a Schools and Young Persons Officer, to increase what we can do to engage children and youngsters during the working week as well as on Sundays. This is to be funded for a few years out of reserves, by which time it is hoped that it will receive enough wider encouragement and support to be resourced from congregational giving.
Finally, at the appointment of our vicar and at the Away Day, the subject of children in the choir was raised and a mandate given to try and once again grow a children’s element to our Choir. This is something many feel the church has dearly missed these past few years. As with other children’s ministries, there is no magic wand and this won’t simply happen overnight. It will require some structural re-organisation before we can even attempt to begin growing it.
Between these things and with the ongoing support of our current team of volunteers and the wider congregation, it is hoped that these and other approaches may help our church begin to once again see an increase in its ministry to this valuable group.
Please hold our children, youngsters, their families and our various ministries in your prayers these coming months.