A Question for Church-based Children’s Workers…

26 04 2012

A question for church-based children’s workers…

I often do training for church leaders, Sunday school leaders or church workers on working with children and young people – particularly being strategic in our ministry. I get a lot of questions about how to do this or that with them, how to really reach them. Amazing leaders – big questions. Being a disciple of Jesus – I learnt from His example of asking a question back, and the one I usually ask is,

“What is the role of children and youth in the mission of your church?”

I don’t just mean, how and when do they take part in your services, or do you give them little jobs here and there. As the Church, we have a mandate to reach out to our local communities. If you think about it, if everyone in our churches reached out to the people around them – we should be able to do the pro’s out of a job! (Idealistic perhaps!)

The point I’m getting at, is that we are very good at doing things to children, or at young people, but I genuinely think that without children and young people involved in the missional aspects of church, not only is their spiritual formation lacking, but so are we as the older generations. How often do we do things with them?

The challenge is to create ways to incorporate them, not as a tokenistic, one-off, child-friendly outreach, but to give them valid, important roles in the outreaching aspects of our church life. We’ll be better off for it! And so will they. Being nurtured and learning on the job, making friends with the other generations in their church family. Being needed and seeing their purpose in Jesus outworked. Making a difference. After all, children don’t receive a Junior Holy Spirit!

I usually find that when I ask this question, there is a whole unravelling to do of what people have thought about the place of the child in the church – often without even thinking about it, but getting caught in the day-to-day life of church rhythm. This is normal, but I encourage them to revisit that question, dig deep, and allow themselves the possibility of seeing children in a new light.

They can be agents of change, not just recipients of it!

Coffee & Co.

26 04 2012

Coffee and Co. or Coffee and Company as its name really infers, is this fab little coffee morning at St Paul’s in York. I worked for the church there for just under 7 years, and in that time I saw Coffee & Co. launch and grow into a wonderful community of people, lonely, elderly, homeless – all friendly, normal people. It was a real mix of walks of life, ages, and a real sense of community developed, served over the years by faithful ladies who baked, prayed and planned to reach out to the people in their community.

On moving to London, I found out that all services for carers and the elderly had been cut in our borough and with a colleague, decided to launch a Coffee & Co. of our own in CROUCH END – 145, Park Road N8. We got some sofas from freecycle, the donator turning out to be a lady who was a social activist for the elderly and carers (co-incidence? I doubt it…) and so we launched it in early March. Each week we have many people who are carers for elderly relatives or partners, or of adult children with physical or learning disabilities, or adults with disabilities themselves, as well as chatty ladies, parents, singles nand YWAMers who turn up for much cake and tea drinking.

Already we have prayed with people, talked about their troubles, talked about everything except their troubles if preferred and seen groups of carers club together to make plans for other provisions and ideas in the borough. It’s amazing to be able to bless these incredible people with a bit of TLC when they give so much and, as many of them are, are so near to breaking point with the pressure of caring for loved ones.

21 06 2011

I would say the comedy and cringe factors are in equal measure. Yep.

Growing Pains

21 06 2011

I’m a closet gardener. Actually, not even that closet – I have courgettes and peas growing for all the world to see! The other day I had a lightbulb moment thinking about seeds, and plants and growing. I was thinking about my fast paced life and how I always have to make a concerted effort to be patient. I’m not used to waiting – we have fast everything, food, internet, phones, trains, cars – I mean you can get to the other side of the world before your body and your mind even know what’s hit them. So faced with  a traffic jam on the A14, I found the perfect opportunity to practice patience, and have a bit of time to reflect.

As a children’s worker I’m constantly thinking about how to pass on values and concepts to children, so how does one pass on patience? In our fast paced world where my friend’s three year old knows how to work his Dad’s iphone better than the adults, how do we teach them, and also demonstrate patience? How do they learn about waiting and especially, to understand that God’s timing is sometimes different to our own?

One problem of devising a ‘plan’ to train children in patience, is that if I purposely withhold things to enforce waiting, I might end up inadvertently communicating a God who withholds, a God who says no. Whilst I believe God may keep us waiting as a way of having us seek him and to develop and endure, to build character and of course hope, I also believe He’s a kind God who says yes, but that it is shrouded in mystery and wonder.

As I sat in that traffic jam on the A14, I was thinking about all the circumstances where we don’t have control – and are forced to wait! (such as traffic jams!) It occurred to me that there are very few things that you can’t speed up these days – and then I thought of gardening. Of course, you can, if you so desire, choose fast growing varieties of plants, and add lots of manure, and even pray for sunshine and rain in just the right amounts, but the reality is, that even the fast growing ones can’t be hurried.They have a season, a time for us to wait and watch – and be patient.

And so in that moment – which was a lot shorter and less complicated and rambly than this blog, I decided my own children would, and the children I work with, would grow seeds!!! And in those moments of watering, and watching and waiting, we would have to be completely dependent on things outside of ourselves, resulting in something beautiful, and perhaps nutritious!

The reality of the supernatural

19 06 2011

This week I have been at a conference run by Purefire ministries. As a Christian I’ve always believed in the unseen realm, the Bible is full of encounters with the supernatural. Somehow though, I’ve always distanced it from my life, my understanding of God, and my experience. Heaven is there for when you die….

That was until about November last year when I began to find myself in situations where the supernatural was normal to those around me – they regularly encountered God in a way which intellect could not explain – and I was hungry for it. Every opportunity I found myself seeking God in a new way, in a deeper, more real way – but to be honest, I always felt like I hit a brick wall, and immediately the defense mechanism of cynicism kicked in; It can’t be real then, it’s probably a load of hype.

A few weeks back, the rest of my team (I was elsewhere) did some outreach at the Mind, Body, Spirit fair. If you want to know if the supernatural is real – then you should read some of their testimonies, as I did – they blew my mind. Workers from various stalls literally stopped in their tracks and turned when Christians walked by, and even spiritualists asked to be prayed for, but not to have hands laid on because, “you Christians are like bleach – you clean off all my spirits.”

It occurred to me, that those trained in seeing in the supernatural, but not Christians, don’t deny the presence of God, of angels or His power. They don’t like it, they are threatened, but they know He’s for real. And I had this deep conviction that if they can see God’s presence, why do His own people not yearn after that?

At this conference this week I have been wrecked again and again with the fact that intimacy comes before power. The power of the cross means that we can stand before the Almighty God, for whom many cannot be in his presence and live under the weight of His glory – and yet because of what Jesus has done, he stands by our side and represents us to the Father, bringing us into His presence and restoring our purpose and the original plan that Adam and Eve were created into. I have wrestled and wrestled with God, feeling forsaken, unloved and abandoned, and His response has been to love me more, to tell me more, and this week, to give me a teeny, tiny glimpse of the bigger picture. Just how big God is, just how small I am, and how narrow my understanding of Him has been. Repentance is a true gift of being able to dwell with him, knowing my identity as a chosen, forgiven, precious daughter, not allowing the enemy to convince me otherwise.

One thing that stood out to me was that, many people have a desire, and do push up to higher realms, but that in doing that they are positioned to be more destructive. To truly go higher, we first have to dig deeper and ensure good foundations that offer the stability needed. I was challenged that for many people, living the supernatural was normal, every day. Where the rubber hit the road was in praying over rooms, and over each other asking Jesus if there was anything else going on than the surface symptoms of sickness or bad moods, and recognising that Jesus gives us eyes to see, and asking him to take off the covers.

Stories after stories of amazing encounters with the heavenlies…. get me some of that….

In the silence

17 06 2011

Sometimes God does not speak to me. Maybe I’m asking the wrong thing, maybe I’m not listening right, or maybe, just maybe God is remaining silent. This is really hard, really frustrating, and at times, heart-breaking. CS Lewis in the midst of a his wife’s illness talks about how it’s easy to feel God’s open arms and love in good times, but in times of suffering and pain, of angst and real crises, it seems like God slams a door in your face.

Pete Grieg in his book, God on Mute talks about this. He looks at Holy Saturday, and how for that excruciating time between the cross and the resurrection, God was silent. He didn’t speak or reassure. There was pain, there was loss, there was grief. So often in our pain and grief we point the finger at God and assume he has forsaken us, but in Grieg’s words, ‘Jesus endured complete forsakenness so that we would not have to.’ If I could truly get my head around it, what a difference it would make.

The challenge is one of choosing to believe when all hope and reason and facts for our belief are no longer there. We can’t hear his voice, we don’t feel his love, provision is scarce, prayers are unanswered etc etc, when those things are removed, and all we have is ‘steadfast loyalty’ to keep us going, that’s when we grow. God’s silence forces us to push harder, dig deeper, that’s when as Grieg puts it, ‘our relationship with God moves from being an us-centred one, to a truly Christ-centred one.’

Grieg’s book has had a huge impact on me. It has spoken into the silence and encouraged me to keep seeking Jesus, to face the doubts I have of God’s love. Last night I went to a conference about the supernatural. I’ve got to say, a lot of what they were saying and the stories they were sharing are so far removed from my own reality and experience of God. But one thing stood out – intimacy with Jesus is a prerequisite to His power. And so often I serve and work, and even worship as a matter of course, and do not really, really engage with Jesus on a relational level.

I want it. I want to be sooo sold out on God that I’m besotted with Him, with Jesus, and whole-hearted about Him in every way. The reality is that I’m a long way from that – thank goodness for grace and patience. But I’ll be able to share and communicate His love a whole lot better, the more I can get my head around it, accept it and love Him back.

Photo collection of our 50th Celebrations in Sept

23 11 2010

An Encouraging Quote

23 11 2010

“Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”  – Madeleine L’engle


A Resourceful Week

19 11 2010

I have spent the last week all over the place (as usual). For two days I had a research training conference at Cliff College which was very helpful and allowed me to shape my plans for my dissertation and a self study module.

I am (hopefully) going to do my dissertation on what it means for families to be involved in outreach and mission – and ask the bigger questions of should the family see itself as a missional unit, of course using the Olympics for the research! It’s all very exciting and I am looking forward to researching the theology behind families in mission and what it means for nurture and faith development, and family life!

I also spent some time at a meeting in London for More Than Gold discussing the resources I am (hopefully) putting together. One is an assembly resource for social action based on sports people, and the other, the manual for ‘Sweaty Church’ as launched by St. Paul’s…. exciting (busy) times ahead!

For useful articles, thoughts and links on anything to do with children’s ministry, check my CM blog at http://www.aimlower.tumblr.com or for more silly and creative things that have nothing to do with anything check out http://www.helenakittle.tumblr.com [I couldn’t make the links work, very sorry]

Trusting God

19 11 2010

I find it hard to trust God. When your heart hurts or you don’t see the answers to your prayers it’s easy, I find at least, to somehow move to a place where you question God. How do you hold his promises, his faithfulness and his love together with feeling rubbish and not seeing victory in parts of your life?

I have been realising more and more recently that the fault is all mine! I know it’s obvious. On DTS I really had to repent of a lot of unbelief. I’d say it’s come back to haunt me but in the last few weeks I have been praying and really seeking God for a bunch of stuff and I realised that I am finding it easier to walk in faith.

One of the things that has stood out to me recently was something that I heard at a conference in Barcelona. The guy speaking said, “gratitude brings trust”. I started writing down everything I was thankful for, and decided to walk round with eyes that look for things to be thankful for! It’s amazing how different I felt so quickly. I got  a completely different perspective on life and where I fit into it, and how God is working and really is faithful.

The other thing that has really challenged me is the Scripture that says,

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.” (Romans 4:18-20 NLT)

Whoa. This has been so challenging and inspiring and I find myself drawn closer to God as I try to follow in Abraham’s footsteps, even though I feel worlds away from that kind of faith. I guess it’s nice to think that Jesus himself said that if we had faith just as small as a mustard seed it could grow!