In this section:
For those children who attend a Junior church this can be an opportunity to encourage them to learn about what it means to follow Christ.Encouraging children to individually reflect on what they have learnt from the bible during a session can be way of encouraging them to consider their personal journey.
Junior churches allow our children with the space to be confident talking about their faith.Providing space and opportunity within church to respond to the bigger questions faced with society can equip our children to be more confident to talk about their faith in their schools and communities.
We begin to understand who we are when we discover where we have come from.This is no different with our Christian family.Considering who we are in Christ can help a child explore the person God is calling them to be in the world around them
How we engage and nurture our children on a Sunday morning is vitally important. The space which we create for our children will shape how they experience and connect with faith as they grow. Within this its not to solely think about the physical space but also the emotional and auditory space (Nye 2009).We need to be challenging the current culture of an instant fix to begin to promote a space where someone can explore what their individual faith means to them.
For more information on creating Space in your church click here .
By developing our spaces we can move from a show and tell culture moving from a culture where our children are empty vessels which we need to fill with Christian facts towards a culture where we are all pilgrims together learning from each other. Children can teach adults so much about faith they are probably at an advantage as their minds havent yet been cluttered with the 'what ifs' or 'ah buts' that we have developed as adults. It is important that our churches create intergenerational opportunities to spend time with each other, learn from each other and build community together. Jesus places children in the centre of his gathering- where do we place our children? Perhaps if churches move away from childrens entertainment and age appropriate activities and think about things more in terms of Spiritual Styles then intergenerational work can become more natural. For further information on Spiritual Styles click here .
Churches with no children
Not all of our churches are blessed with having children present on a Sunday morning. There are various reasons for this, the main one being that society has dramatically changed over the past few years. Jobs often require a 24/7 rota, children often need to live in two homes throughout the week as their parents no longer live together, there is an increase of sporting activities which meet on a Sunday morning. Our churches and congregations are now beginning to think through the change of culture that if attending Church on a Sunday does not work for children and their families, as a church, how can we provide church on a different day of the week? For further discussion on this click on Messy Church/Fresh Expression section of this REACH Document.
What do you do if you have no/very few children? The temptation is to not provide anything for children this then means that on the off chance that there is a child who comes along with their parent/grandparent then there is nothing for them to engage with and therefore they are less likely to return.
Pray for the children
Although there are no children physically present in your church, inevitably there will be congregation members who are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles of children. There may even be a school not too far from your church. There are still children out there. Take time to pray for them, their teachers, their carers.
Have activity bags
Although you may not have children regularly it is always nice to have some activities on stand-by that children could use. Having a childrens Bible or two on the shelves in the back of church demonstrates the expectation that children are welcomed. It is possible to also have a couple of mini packs of colouring pencils and some colouring sheets on stand-by that they can take with them when they go home.
- Continue to pray for the children and families in your community
- Look for opportunities to connect with the local school
- Look for opportunities to connect with Baptism families
- Have activity packs ready for when children attend if there is nothing there they are less likely to return.
On the occasions where there are children present;
Welcome the children
Bend down to their level, smile at them in their grown-ups arms and say hello. It is by saying hello and smiling at children that we notice them and they gain a sense of value and belonging in our churches.
Welcome the parents and carers
All are welcomed in our churches and no doubt if there are grownups with children then they will be slightly anxious about keeping the children contained and behaving relatively well. Welcome them smiling, encouraging them to feel comfortable and at home that noise is ok. If a child needs to run around and play ensure that the grown-ups know where there is a safe place for them and where they may be able to use the toilets.
One toddler and carers group have the value where they say goodbye as enthusiastically as they say hello. Try not to allow them to sneak out (no matter how much they may want to) the last experience they have of the church will often be the most prominent memory let it be a warm one where they are wished a safe journey, again say goodbye to the child with as much care and attention as you do the grown-up.
For many of the children who attend a Sunday School or Junior Church, this can often be a prime opportunity for hearing about the core teachings of being a Christian.
When we run a Sunday school or Junior Church we want to make sure that we make the most of the opportunity to meet with the children.Moving away from entertaining the children towards ensuring that there is space for their faith to grow and be nurtured.There are plenty of ideas and curriculums that are available to churches, some free and others are a worthwhile investment, some link in with the lectionary other explore the Bible and offer activities for the different age groups.When exploring the right curriculum for your church ensure that there is space within everything you do.Perhaps there is a seven second pause at the end of the story, perhaps there is time to wonder about the story perhaps there is space for each child to respond in a way that is best for them (reading, playing, sitting etc).We are all individuals and none of us learn in exactly the same way.
Thinking in terms of how someone can connect and engage with God rather than fun activities to keep them occupied.
Roots - https://www.rootsontheweb.com/
Scripture Union - http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Light/42705.id
Creating and leading a team
Whether it is recognised or not, every person involved in Sunday School or Junior church is a part of Gods mission to tell the next generation about Him.They are a part of journeying with them as the church explores faith sometimes they will lead the children and at other times the children will lead them.Throughout this unique journey it is important that our Sunday School leaders are equipped with the most appropriate resources to help faith grow.That they continue to be inspired through the tough times as well as the exciting times.The faithful hours, money, energy that our Sunday school Leaders invest into our children should be regularly acknowledged, commissioned and thanked to model that this crucial ministry is valued and treasured within our churches.
Creating a team
As a church we are often tasked with the challenge to create a team of volunteers to ensure that an activity is able to run.We can often feel pressurised into drawing in anyone who has hinted that they might have had a child/niece/grandchild in the past, regardless of the fact that they might have the time or interest in supporting the club.We then tend to undersell what is involved in a project for fear of putting someone off and then, once they are on the rota (which wont be reviewed for another 20 years), we can breathe a sigh of relief and move on to recruiting another innocent by-stander.This system of recruitment has inevitably contributed to an climate where our churches are finding it a huge challenge to recruit people to a ministry who are appropriate, gifted and passionate about the work that is needed.Below are some ideas and resources to consider as you recruit leaders to your Sunday ministry with children and young people
When recruiting the appropriate people for helping with your Junior Church it is important that people know what it is they are volunteering.Below is a sample form which can be downloaded and used for churches when outlining what might be involved when volunteering for a Junior Church.As good practice it would be advised that each volunteer has their role reviewed every 12 months as part of an informal conversation.This would ensure that there is the opportunity for the volunteer to change their minds and step down due to change in priorities and life circumstances - it also prevents a culture where the volunteer stepped in to help as a one-off but remains on the rota 25 years later.
(Sunday School Leader Role resourcing Sunday schools)
Ensuring that we are recruiting the right people for the volunteering posts is essential.The Safeguarding Team of the Diocese of Lichfield have created some packs which helps support and guide churches as they recruit people for their volunteer posts.
Below are details of training opportunities that the RNG Team offer your church free of charge
Our Safeguarding team offer training suitable for volunteers and staff - see the Safeguarding pages for details of upcoming training opportunities.
Faith at Home, article 2017 Premier
Faith in Homes
Telling the Bible, Over 100 stories to read Out loud, B.Hartman (Monarch Books, 2006)
The Lion Storyteller Bible , B.Hartman and K.Nagy (Lion Childrens, 2008)
Long Story Short, ten-minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, M.Machowski (New Growth Press, 2010)