Children and Holy Communion

Recently I have been doing some reading about children and Holy Communion.  One of the most helpful things I read was this blog by Margaret Pritchard Houston:

As we were preparing to admit six children to Holy Communion before Confirmation, our curate turned to me and said, ‘So we admit them at age 7? Explain this to me theologically.’

And I had to explain that I couldn’t – that the only reason we do admission to Holy Communion at 7 is that we’re not allowed to do it from baptism, that our policy is more a compromise than a coherent theological principle.

She goes on to answer the following questions:

  • If we admit children to communion at baptism, then what is confirmation for?
  • Children are allowed to participate in other ways, aren’t they? They can come to Jesus through Sunday School and worship without receiving communion until they’re older.
  • Wanting it doesn’t mean they should have it. They don’t understand what it means, and that’s crucial to receiving the sacrament.
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Empowering Children as Ministers

Empowering Children as Ministers was a day conference organised by Gill Ambrose and Ally Barrett (Reverendally), with help from the Praxis East Committee.

The notes from the day show it to have been a rich and thought provoking day with a diverse group of ministers and church representatives reflecting together on how they might empower our churches’ children and young people as ministers, and the impact that this may have on the children and young people themselves (both now and into adulthood) and on the church itself.

At a time when the Church of England is actively promoting the nurturing of young vocations, why not start in childhood?  Click here to read a full report on the day, including the full text of the speech given by 11 year old Joanna about her own experiences as a minister.

The decline of play

In this TED talk, Dr. Peter Gray argues that children must be given support for more free play.

Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents.

Based on his own and others’ research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children’s healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children’s lives.

Talking to children who are bereaved

Support Around Death have recently launched a animated video for professionals on how to talk to children when they are about to be bereaved or have just experienced a death.

Talking to children who are bereaved from NES on Vimeo.

Talking to children when they are about to be bereaved or have just experienced a death may feel daunting. Knowing how children of different ages may react can help. As a professional there are many ways one can help families, friends, schools and communities do and say things before and after someone dies that can help children to cope with their loss. This NHS Education for Scotland video aims to enable professionals to facilitate such discussions through an enhanced understanding from the perspective of children who have been bereaved.

For more information on this video and other resources please visit sad.scot.nhs.uk.  This website was designed for health care professionals supporting patients at the end of life or  with bereavement care.

Helping the victims & perpetrators of girl bullying

Child psychologist and former teacher, Dr. Sam Littlemore, offered some advice in the recent ATL magazine on helping the victims and perpetrators of girl bullying.  Littlemore is the author of Girl Bullying: Do I Look Bothered?

Bullying is a problem across the gender divide, but while there are girls who bully physically, it is the way in which girl bullies scan for weakness in social status, and thus vulnerability to manipulation, that can prove particularly problematic to deal with. Because of a perceived lack of evidence, it can be denied by perpetrators; supported by a lack of witnesses willing to stand up; or dismissed as false allegations, a victim mentality or a friendship issue.

Here are some reactive intervention strategies.

  • With the perpetrator, use a timeline to track when the bullying behaviour happens. List the rewards she feels she gains when she uses power over someone and find a way to achieve them in a pro-social way instead. Indirect, psychological bullying is about redressing gains and rewards.
  • Discuss with her the idea of power, gain and control. Work with her to focus on the impact of her behaviour on others.  You could use familiar soap-opera scenarios as examples of bullying behaviour and behaviour change.
  • Spend a few weeks keeping the pack and perpetrator busy during free time. Engage them in social roles at school, but as individuals rather than as a group: the girls learn that there is a different way to build an identity and gain respect.
  • Staff members can support the victim by noting down any incidents, but don’t encourage the student to keep a record herself, or she could keep going over incidents again and again. A staff member can look after the record and talk incidents through with her.
  • Ask the victim to draw around her hand and write the name of a supportive member of staff on each finger. This shows that there is a team willing to help her. This intervention can also be used for the perpetrator, who needs a support team to help her change her behaviour.
  • Help the victim to regain confidence within another friendship group. Also help to give her a focus at school, especially in free time.
  • Encourage all bystanders to take the responsibility to integrate an isolated student.  They should involve her in their social activities and play an active role in reducing indirect bullying.

Help students learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, but allow them to generate the definitions. This can empower them to make better choices in their friendships. Children learn to bully. Bystanders learn to stand by. They can also learn that bullying is normal behaviour if there is no intervention. No one person can socially isolate another; it takes a whole playground to join in and adults to turn a blind eye. It’s everybody’s responsibility to prevent this.

Whilst obviously focussed on an education setting, there is many ways these tips can be used in youth work settings.

Children in care need long-term support

 writing from his own personal experience argues that, too often, young in care are simply contained and criminalised. If a permanent home can’t be found, then having a mentor would make a huge difference to young people’s lives.

Lord Laming’s review for the Prison Reform Trust has found that children in care are six times more likely to be cautioned by police or convicted of a crime than others of the same age. It is a national shame that we allow these young people to fill young offender institutions and prisons after spending so much money “taking care” of them throughout their childhoods.

Unlike in your average family home, kids in care are regularly criminalised by those caring for them: police are called out for incidents that happen to many teenagers but especially those who are harbouring pain and hurt from family breakdown, and exposure to violence and abuse. As a result children and teenagers are getting criminal records for throwing plates and smashing up their rooms, and other actions often regarded as domestic by the police called out to help manage such behaviour. But to the child in care, it’s often their first contact with the criminal justice system.

In my children’s home the police were regular visitors. I had police called on me for breaking windows, getting caught sniffing glue and fighting with other kids. By the time I was living independently at 15, I was well known to both probation and the police.

My argument has always been that if we got care right more often, lots of money could be saved – and lives too. But the problem with care is that too often it feels like we are just containing these kids. With so many moving between foster families, they often have no consistent positive adult in their lives. I have met kids who have had three social workers and eight foster placements, which often include school moves too. They have no one to walk alongside them as they navigate their life over a long period, no one to take a real interest in their long-term wellbeing.

Go check out the full article.

Children’s & Youth Work links

Here’s some links from the last few weeks that are worth taking a few minutes to read if you’re involved in children’s and youth work:

3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry: Austin McCann gives three great ways you can use young leaders in your youth ministry.

Gertrude Ederle’s Channel swim: an inspiring story of how at the age of 19, she crossed the 21-mile Channel in 14 hours and 45 minutes, beating the male record holder by more than two hours.

7 Ways To Cultivate Spiritual Curiosity: if we want our young people to ask questions about their faith, we have to cultivate spiritual curiosity argues Jen Bradbury.

Game – Full Speed Dictionary: an old classic for that moment when you need a game and have limited time to plan and nothing but paper and pen.

Helping young people take action on social justice issues: Latasha Morrison shares how we can help students create conversations about social justice issues in their communities.

Welcoming people to church

Ben and the team over at the Diocese of Portsmouth have shared some brilliant resources by Margaret Pritchard Houston from St. Albans Diocese that your church can use to help welcome people:

Newcomers who aren’t familiar with what happens at church may be nervous and feel unsettled and conspicuous. I’ve made some simple handouts that you can make available when people come to church.

There’s a version for younger children, with very simple language, and a version for older children and adults, with some more detail. The explanations in the version for older children and adults are designed to be autism-friendly.

There’s also a sheet you can fill in with details about your specific church – where the toilets are, what happens after the service, etc. – to help people feel at home in your building. This is included in the PDF file, but there’s an editable Word version as well, so you can type your explanations in, instead of having to handwrite them!

Please note: when filling in the “Our Church” sheet, avoid jargon!  For example, here are two ways to answer the question “what books or leaflets will I need for the service?”

  • WRONG: The hymnal will be used for the processional, gradual, offertory, and recessional hymns – the insert will be used for the Psalm. Today’s lectionary readings are found on the insert, while the rest of the congregation’s words for the Eucharist may be found in the seasonal service sheet for Epiphany.
  • RIGHT: The green book has the words for the songs in it. We call these songs “hymns.” The vicar will tell you what number to turn to for every hymn.  The words we all say together are found in the leaflet with the coloured cover – we use different colours at different times of year.  When there’s a Bible reading, the words for that are on the sheet with the red top that’s stuck inside the leaflet with the coloured cover. One of these readings is a song from the Bible called a Psalm, which we all sing together. If you get confused, feel free look over someone’s shoulder to see what they’re doing, or ask someone sitting near you.

Resources

Supporting transitions in children’s & youth work

Here are my notes from a session I led at Moorlands College on the area of transition – reflecting on transition from pre-school to primary school; primary school to secondary school and out of secondary school.  The powerpoint can be found here.

Introduction

Psalm 84 challenges us to a holistic view of children’s and youth ministry.  To help meet the physical, social, emotional, and mental needs as well as their spiritual needs.

 

Transition is a critical area for children’s and youth ministry.  In the 0-18 age group there are three major transition periods:

  • Moving to primary school
  • Moving to secondary school
  • Moving to university or apprenticeship or work

 

Outside of these three main areas we must also reflect on the occasional transitions that happen with moving home or parents work place changing, for example Forces families.

 

Each of these transitions has four contexts for the child or young person

  • Education
  • Church
  • Social
  • Home

 

If we are attempting to deliver a children’s and youth ministry that is holistic, as I believe we are challenged to do from scripture, than we need to attempt to engage and support each of these four areas.

 

The largest UK based report into transition is unsurprisingly based in education.  The Government have for many years sponsored the EPPSE 3-14 research (Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education 3-14 Project).  This is led by researchers from the University of Oxford, Institute of Education (University of London), and the University of Nottingham.

 

It examines transitions across six Local Authorities with a range of pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, children and parents participating in the research.

 

Pre-school

Preschool children

Toddlers see the biggest transition in our lifetime.  Their development physically, socially, mentally, morally and religiously outstrips any other point in their lifetime.

Education

In partnership with our two local pre-schools we are involved in supporting trips to the local primary schools for the taster sessions.  This brings a bigger sense of continuity for the children as we are involved regularly in the pre-school and their Infant education through Collective Worship, RE, pastoral care and trips.

Get Ready Go
In July we give each child a copy of Get Ready Go! which is a Scripture Union resource helping both the child and parents to think abut getting ready for the big adventure of starting school.  The main booklet uses simple words, colourful artwork and fun activities to explain what school is going to be like during the excitement of their first term together.
But that’s not all, Get Ready, Go! comes with a companion guide for parents, packed full of advice on:

  • parents evenings
  • working with your child
  • looking at school through the eyes of a child
  • dealing with bullying
  • leaving your child at the school gates

and much more so that they can help their child on their way to primary school.

 

Another tool we have found to be helpful is the You’re not Alone guide from the Evangelical Alliance.

 

Church & Social

  • Toddler Groups
  • Sunday Groups are run across age boundaries to ensure the transition doesn’t happen at the same time.

 

Home

Faith Development

I have found that when working with parents, running a session on development can be really helpful.  Parents worry about their child, especially if it is their first.  Everything is so unknown.  It is helpful for them to see that as we look at how children develop, if we look with a big picture, we can make some broad generalisations, some broad brush strokes.  I’ve often used these diagrams from Core Skills for Children’s Work which is written by The Consultative Group on Ministry among Children, a inter-denominational group.

 

Parents find these reassuring to be able to plot where their child is on these diagrams.  To see that to some degree their child is average or normal.

 

Secondary school

secondary school

Helpfully in the latest EPPSE secondary transition research the team identified five keys to a successful transition:

 

  • developing new friendships and improving their self esteem and confidence
  • having settled so well in school life that they caused no concerns to their parents
  • showing an increasing interest in school and school work
  • getting used to their new routines and school organisation with great ease
  • experiencing curriculum continuity.

 

Education

In terms of school transition this requires partnership working between primary and secondary schools.  In my experience this can be patchy, and churches can play a role in helping to strengthen this relationship.

 

Other things that promoted a positive transition among children included: looking forward to going to secondary school; the friendliness of the older children at secondary school and those in their class; having moved to the same secondary school with most of their primary school friends; having older siblings who could offer them advice and support; and finding their new school work interesting.

 

Overall, children with special educational needs (SEN) or those from other vulnerable groups did not experience a less successful transition than other children. However, the survey data did highlight some interesting findings. Children with SEN, approximately 20 per cent of children in the sample, were more likely to be bullied – which is a key inhibitor of a successful transition. Out of the 110 children with SEN in the sample 37 per cent had problems with bullying compared with 25 per cent of children without SEN who had problems with bullying. On the positive side, children with SEN and other health problems were experiencing greater curriculum continuity between Years 6 and 7. It may be that the earlier and more individual transfer process that these children experience has prepared them better for the move and the work they will do in Year 7.

 

Of the 102 children living in low SES households 72 per cent did not get used to the new routines with great ease and 58 per cent did not settle in very well. In comparison, of the 186 high SES children, 50 per cent did not get used to the new routines with great ease and 39 per cent did not settle in so well that they would cause no concern to their parents. However, children of low SES did look forward to secondary school, which had a positive effect on them developing an interest in school and school work.

 

It's your move landscape

We support schools by providing a one hour It’s Your Move lesson that helps young people to explore changes, challenges and

This links heavily to the It’s Your Choice resource from Scripture Union which we give every Year 6 pupil in our parish a copy of.

 

In addition we provide transition support for SEN and vulnerable children from the May half-term, by working with the two main secondary schools to host an afternoon session at their school each week.  This brings together 10-12 children from the area to provide a stronger transition with additional time to meet teachers, learn their way around the building etc.

 

Church & Social

What is particularly alarming is the rate at which we are losing those who grow up in the Church, but whose faith does not transition into adulthood. According to Christian Research, the Church in the UK will have lost an estimated 1.1 million children between 1990 and 2020. They also predict that in the year 2020, 183,700 children aged under-15 will attend church compared to 375,300 in 2010. Unless we do something about it now.

 

According to statistician Peter Brierley, it is possible to buck the trend if action is taken. He says the number of youth workers in recent years has meant that the Church has not lost as many young people as it could have done. He says that fewer people have left the Church than would have if we had not had as many of these dedicated workers.

A mere 104,200 under-15s left the Church between 1998 and 2005, compared to a predicted 256,000. A job well done? Clearly not. The Bible tasks us in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. With so many children choosing not to stick with the faith, have we failed? And what can we do about it now?

The Evangelical Alliance research ‘How’s the Family?’, revealed that 45.5 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that “in my church many young people have stopped attending on Sundays in their teenage years”. There is lots of research about just why this is.  Most of the religious beliefs, behaviours and expectations that define a person’s life have been developed and embraced by the age of 13, according to Christian Research. If there isn’t a firm foundation in the Bible and the Christian life before that, children are more susceptible to succumbing to peer pressure, to doubting the faith and seeing church life as alien to the real world.

 

Research by Peter Brierley suggests that a thousand under-15s were leaving the church each week through the nineties, and, more recently, that the key time for early adolescents to leave the church is at the end of Junior/Primary school.  Peter’s research findings underlined that 11-14s are not happy with formality.  They want a more relaxed atmosphere, where it’s okay to wear what you like, sit comfortably, talk and enjoy meeting with others.  They key factor above even all of this, is relationships.  The lack of other young people of the same age, and unfriendliness from adults is the major reason why young people leave the church.

 

Early adolescence is the second most transformative time for a person developmentally, second to toddlerhood.  For the first time, they have the ability to make decisions for themselves, including whether they want to go to church or not (and early teenagers don’t want to do anything but sleep and eat).

 

The tweenagers and early teenagers go through so many transitions during this time period, whether it’s at school or in the home.  With so many transitions, they need a place that is stable.

 

This is a range of what we’ve done over the last few years

  • writing to all year 6s inviting them to the new groups at Easter
  • having youth leaders visit the children’s groups in advance of the change
  • having the children’s leaders (especially Junior Leaders) come into the youth groups for a few weeks to help them settle
  • joint leadership meetings between the volunteer teams to pass on pastoral awareness
  • formally offering transport to help any young people who are suddenly expected to get themselves to and from church
  • buddy system for young leaders from the youth team to support more vulnerable children.
  • opportunity for mentoring
  • one or two youth leaders attend special children’s activities such as children’s weekend away and the Holiday Club to work with the year 6s

 

Home

Parents by this stage are often more confident but are still nervous of these changes, especially around the area of latch-key kids and mobile phones and social media.

 

Each year we host a parents meeting to explain all the activities and options to them to help them understand what we can offer.

 

Sticky Faith

Sticky Faith logo

  • Intergenerational Insight #1: Involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation.
  • Intergenerational Insight #2: The more students serve and build relationships with younger children, the more likely it is that their faith will stick.
  • Intergenerational Insight #3: High school seniors don’t feel supported by adults in their congregations.
  • Intergenerational Insight #4: By far, the number-one way that churches made the teens in our survey feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed interest in them.

 

 

University / Apprenticeship / Work

University Drop Off

Finishing sixth form or college has gradually becoming another transition into the next stage of education rather than a time of adult-like living.  Certainly, there are adult characteristics in every university-age person, but we can also make the mistake of viewing them as more stable than maybe they really are.  University or Apprenticeship years have become a late adolescent stage of exploration versus a time of consistent maturity.

 

This is a range of what we’ve done over the last few years

  • Preparation for applying to uni/work
  • Summer term dedicated to Psalms and topics relevant to Yr 13s
  • Mentoring relationships adjusted and cemented
  • BBQ – including adults sharing their positive and negative experiences of the next stage
  • Goody bag and prayerful goodbye from church as missionaries
  • Postcards, chocolate and dominoes throughout the term
  • Where possible university visits

apprenticeships

Do NOT forget those who take other paths.

Grubby Faith training

Last May we hosted the really interesting Sticky Faith tour.  This year it returns in the form of the Grubby Faith tour run by Scripture Union, Urban Saints and the Centre for Youth Ministry on Tuesday 24th May at St. Andrew’s Centre, 7.00-9.00pm.

 

Active engagement in mission (in its broadest sense) is key to disciple and living faith.  So can we involve children and young people in this?  A core finding from the Fuller Institute’s ‘Sticky Faith’ research was the difference that participation in outward focussed church and family activities made to developing faith that grows out and lasts.

 

The evening will explore what we mean by mission, and how parents, youth and children’s leaders and church leaders can engage children and young people in God’s passionate mission to his world.

 

7pm Coffee and cake

7.30pm Start

9.00pm Finish

 

Come join the conversation to be inspired and encouraged to invest in children and young people in a new way.