July 2020 | Vol. 4PASSIONATE ABOUT RAISING THE NEXT GENERATION +Tackling mental health: what you can do
Preparing for a safe return after lockdown
Discipling ALL children and young people
YCW | July 2020 | Vol. 4ContentsRegularsFirst wordNews & comment
SafeguardingPreparing for after lockdown
All inclusiveOne hundred times a day
Young people will start to heal when they feel heardJoel Harris,
Tackling the mental health crisis
Our beloved Faith at Home section now has its very own dedicated magazine once a month, with all the regular content and much more. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Faith at Home edition in August! FeaturesCoronavirus need not break usPredicting the impact of COVID-19 on youth and children’s work was impossible, and now we’re left picking up some of the pieces. Dave Thornton, author of Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry, gives advice on how to cope with the ever-changing tides of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tackling the mental health crisisIt hasn’t been an easy time for anyone, but for teens already trying to figure themselves out as they step towards adulthood, it can feel impossible. Joel Harris from Kintsugi Hope explains what we can do to help.
We’re trying something new this month! We’ve put all of our resources into one mag to make sure you have them ahead of time and can plan your sessions early. In case you missed it, check out the Premier Youth and Children’s Work app to read the July resources edition.
If you prefer, a printable PDF of the Together session plans is available here. The Ready to use resources can be downloaded here.
If one of your favourites is missing from this week's issue, there’s no need to worry. Our regular columns will be littered throughout the month, so there won't be long to wait!
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YCW | July 2020 | Vol. 4First wordIt doesn’t feel like there has been one collective experience or feeling among youth and children’s workers during lockdown. There can’t be many sectors where the entire area of work has been quite so disrupted, and the range of experiences varies from elation to despair.
For some of us, we’ve engaged with children and young people in new ways, got to know sides to them we didn’t know before and have seen God move in and through them in ways we didn’t expect. For others, it has been dreadful – soul-destroyingly dreadful. We have struggled personally, lost touch with our young people and put hours of work into projects that never took off. We like to think that the youth and children’s ministry community is safe enough to embrace our failures as well as our successes, but surrounded by Instagram feeds full of innovation and celebration, failure can feel lonely and isolating.
Luckily for most of us, many of the powerful moments in our community come from hearing honest stories that we can embrace and value failure as much as we do the successes. This is a sentiment expressed at the end of Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars (from around a decade ago – do you feel old yet?). After speaking on suffering for almost two hours, he reminds us that all of it, the whole thing, will shape us and our choice is to decide how it will shape us. Do we allow God to meet us in failure and pain? Do we remember Christ in these times?
In his book A Nazareth Manifesto, Rev Dr Sam Wells talks about the prayers we pray in such times as this and invites us into a new way of praying – transfiguration: “Make this trial and tragedy a glimpse of your glory, a window into your world, when [we] can see your face, sense the mystery in all things and walk with angels and saints. Bring [us] closer to you in this crisis…make [us] alive like never before.”
As a focus, then, this week, we turn to Dave Thornton’s article Coronavirus need not break us, as it finds that transfiguration balance. While recognising the tough sides of lockdown, there is much hope there for us all to find in the ways God has met him and those he works with, drawing them closer in the long run. That is our simple prayer for you: may the shaping of the last few months draw you closer into God’s arms.
Over the coming weeks, as we slowly continue our emergence back into the world, may you see God’s face, sense the mystery in all things and feel alive like never before.Social media shout-outTo have your tweets, posts and photos featured in our shout-out, visit our social media pages under the handle @ycwmag. We can’t wait to have you involved!
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NewsOnly one in five Christian parents thinks the Church should have big role in children’s mental well-being
A new study has found that only one in five Christian parents believes churches have a major responsibility to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their children.
The research, which was commissioned by Christian children’s charity World Vision UK and the non-profit fostering agency Northpoint Care, revealed that Christian parents were more likely to identify teachers (54%) and their wider family (53%) as being most responsible for their children’s mental health, outside of the parents themselves.
CEO of World Vision, Mark Sheard told Premier that by dismissing the value of how churches can boost mental health, families are missing out: “Children’s well-being depends on three things. I think it depends on physical well-being, and mental well-being. And somewhere in the midst of that, there is soul well-being and I think that the churches can bring a unique perspective on that,” he said. “From our work around the world, we know that faith communities and church leaders have a vital role to play during epidemics and other crises. We’ve been working in those types of situations all around the world and we’ve seen the damage that they do to children particularly.”
The study also found that Christian parents were most likely to be concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their children’s education and learning (57%), mental health (50%) and physical health (51%), with fewer showing concern for the impact on relationships with existing friendships (44%).
Elijah Kirby, CEO of Northpoint Care said: “The Church should be a key player in advocating for children and providing safe spaces through which children of all backgrounds can thrive. Now, more than ever, our churches need to be equipped to help families and their children recognise the trauma many of us have been through and be resourced to make sure we build the resilience our children need to develop in a healthy way.”
The research comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) warns mental health services could face a post-COVID-19 crisis with a rise in demand as lockdown eases. In a paper on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health provision, the BMA said services could face an influx of existing patients whose care has been delayed, as well as a rise in people developing mental health issues for the first time.
PA MediaArchbishop of York says he’ll listen to young people
Stephen Cottrell has said he will listen to the voices of young people as he takes on his new role as Archbishop of York. In his first public address since his confirmation, he spoke at the online gathering of General Synod of how difficult the lockdown has been and the situation it places the Church in.
Speaking about the journey the Church is on, he said he is looking to discern a strategy for the next decade. Part of that process will be listening to different voices. He added that the Church remains “overly dominated by people who are usually white, usually male, usually with a certain sort of education, usually over 60. At the moment I am engaged in a very wide-ranging discussion with people from all across the Church but with a particular determination to draw in and listen to the voices of younger Christians and those whose voices are not usually so easily heard in church,” he added.
Young Christians encouraged to flush scripture down the loo in new campaign
Young people are being encouraged to experience what it would be like to be part of a secret church and have to hide their faith. The religious freedom charity Open Doors has created activities for youth groups for the Secret Church Experience to help people identify with those who could be locked up for being a Christian.
The activities include creating a trail to a secret meeting place for youth group, hiding everything that indicates you may be a Christian, reading a story about Jesus without mentioning him and writing Bible verses on toilet paper and flushing them away when you’ve learnt them. The toilet paper exercise is based on the experience of a man from Eritrea.
Emma Worrall from Open Doors explained: “Gideon was locked behind bars for reading the Bible. He was beaten, tortured and almost died for his faith. While he was in prison, he and other Christians encouraged each other by sharing Bible verses written on toilet paper.”
Head of youth development at Open Doors, Naomi Allen said: “We want young people to understand and experience some of the risk and danger involved in choosing to follow Jesus where that choice can get you killed. There is so much that we can learn about what pressures the persecuted church are living under. Lockdown was a temporary experience for us in the UK, but for many secret believers, isolation, fear, lack and exclusion are normal.”
Have your work profiled in the media
A popular Christian PR firm is celebrating its ten-year anniversary by offering a church or charity an entire year of free PR support. Jersey Road PR, which seeks to tell the positive, newsworthy and powerful stories of the Church in the media, is offering the prestigious prize to a charity or church with an income of less than £250,000.
Managing director Gareth Russell explained: “In this year of disruption, uncertainty and fear, people need more than ever to hear stories of hope and peace, and this has been reflected in an increase of positive mainstream media coverage of Christianity during the pandemic. Many small Christian organisations have struggled for the past few months because of COVID-19; for many, being in a position to stretch finances to enlist PR support ordinarily would be a stretch too far, that is one of the key reasons we’re launching this competition.”
Andi Russell, co-founder, added: “We’ve seen national headlines about huge numbers of people watching church online or turning to prayer in response to coronavirus, and about the Church in action serving the lonely and vulnerable around the country. The UK needs hope, the Church is providing it and journalists are noticing.
“As an organisation, we’re passionate about telling the positive stories of the Church. What better way to celebrate having done this for ten years as an agency working with some incredible organisations than to help another great charity or church share its story, and what better time to do it than now? We’re encouraging everyone to nominate a small Christian charity or church they think most deserves its story to be told and who may also need a bit of help with their communications during these uncertain times.”
The deadline for applications is 14th August 2020, after which a shortlist of five charities will be selected and then put to a public vote as well as judged by a panel consisting of Gavin Calver, CEO of Evangelical Alliance, Chine MacDonald, head of community fundraising and public engagement at Christian Aid, Debra Green OBE, national director and founder of ROC UK, among others. The successful organisation will be announced by mid-October 2020.
The competition is now live. So, to make a nomination, just head here.
Christian charity to open new pre-school
Christian charity Fegans will be opening a new preschool and after-school club in Kent this September thanks to funding from Allchurches Trust. Fegans has been providing children’s counselling and parent support services at the Archbishop Courtenay primary school in Tovil, Maidstone for a number of years.
The charity said that by opening its own Ofsted-registered preschool onsite, these services can now be consolidated into a ‘family hub’ so local families can benefit from childcare and development, parent support and specialist therapy from an early stage. The Buttons ABC Preschool will open on 7th September and follows the model of the Buttons preschool run by Fegans in Ramsgate, Kent which has been an integral part of its local community for over ten years.
Ian Soars, CEO of Fegans said: “Our Buttons preschools don’t just focus on the development of the child but provide support to whole families throughout their individual journeys with all the ups and downs life brings. Families are welcomed and valued, and children feel comfortable, secure and are able to forge positive relationships with both staff and other children. We see how transformative this can be and are very excited about offering this to young families in Maidstone too.”
The project has been part-funded by a £10,000 grant from Allchurches Trust which has paid for much of the set-up costs as well as toys, equipment, staff uniforms and a new dishwasher. Allchurches Trust is one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities and gave more than £16 million to churches, charities and communities in 2018. Its funds come from its ownership of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.
Buttons ABC preschool manager, Michelle Burr, who has been busy getting ready for the opening said: “The funding from Allchurches Trust has enabled us to create such a nurturing and fun environment. We have a fabulous outdoor space and everything looks so bright and inviting. We cannot wait to open and to welcome lots of children and their families to enjoy everything we have to offer.”
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NewsCOMMENTA report by grant giving organisation Allchurches Trust has shown a quarter of churches have reported a decrease in engagement with children and young people since the start of lockdown. Lucie Shuker of Youthscape says that headline doesn’t reflect the whole picture.We’ve heard very different experiences of how lockdown has affected Christian youthwork, so it’s helpful to have some new research launched last week from Allchurches Trust, which gives us some insight into how hundreds of churches have been faring in their engagement with children and young people during lockdown.
The survey from June shows that almost a quarter of churches have experienced a decrease in engagement with 11-18 year olds during lockdown; with 30% having not been able to run any activities at all for the younger generation since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
The survey follows on from the Growing Lives research, which we collaborated on with Allchurches Trust, and which revealed that 67% of the churches surveyed had five or fewer 11 to 18 year olds in their worshipping community, and a quarter (26%) had none. We know this is an area of ministry that churches often struggle with, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that youth work has been hard hit by the pandemic.
But the research also gives us reason to be optimistic too. We have learned from these new findings that more than half of churches have been able to engage young people through regular online worship in recent months, while 46 per cent have run family focused online activities for children and parents and 31 per cent have run online activities and challenges for young people.
These figures might seem low, but last year Allchurches found that only seven per cent of churches would want to offer online support to children and young people if they had all of the necessary resources and skills in place. So, it’s clear that lockdown has been a major driver for churches to embrace digital opportunities. That can only help support church growth and community connection in the challenging months that lie ahead, as churches carefully consider when physical youth work can realistically begin and their future model for engaging with young people.
For those churches who have been unable to engage their young people since the pandemic struck, now is the time to take stock and think about what’s working and what’s not. It’s not a stop but a pause in which to reflect and plan.
What we’ve seen as a result of Coronavirus is that the church can adapt when it needs to. It can be innovative and that presents an enormous opportunity to facilitate experiences of church with and for young people that make it more meaningful for them. There is an open door here for churches to directly ask young people how they would like to engage, and to shape the future together.DR LUCIE SHUKER
is director of research at Youthscape.
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CultureJust when we thought it was all coming to an end and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, cities in the UK are moving into ‘local lockdowns’ as the battle against the spread of COVID-19 continues. The World Health Organisation is warning of a second wave of infections. Confusion and fear feel almost normal, but – and hear me out – a second wave of coronavirus is not the second wave that’s consuming my thoughts. There is in fact a second wave I’m craving.
I know for many people, this has been a time for pressing in with Jesus and they have seen an abundant deepening of their relationship with God. I see plenty of Instagram stories of a morning where friends and family are sitting in the sunshine with their Bible and sharing how they’ve felt so close to Jesus. It’s a wonderful thing (and I’m not being a Scrooge) but if you’re anything like me, this hasn’t been the case. I’ve struggled with my faith more than ever before.
There’s a reason why Netflix’s trending is filled with serial-killer documentaries, that queues at theme parks are quickly returning to normal and why we spend hours late at night scrolling deep through Twitter conspiracy theories about underground Hollywood rings. Our modern society is driven by feeling scared. Through our consumption of 24-hour news and the constant checking of the coronavirus death counter, we crave it. It gives us that buzz, that adrenaline rush.
The second wave is the latest obsession, with mainstream media reeling us in again with their age-old scaremongering tricks. Click, read, repeat. It’s had me distracted for more than three months. In the morning, I used to open my Bible and read – now, I open the news apps and catch up on the latest. With every Google search or liked post about the second wave, I take a step further away from my routine with Jesus. I’ve been swept away by the tide of life.
I’ve let the world consume my thoughts and slowly, almost unnoticeable day by day, the daily waves of Jesus in my life have all but stopped. While I used to be lapped up in waters of love and encouragement everyday, I now look out onto my faith like a still sea. It’s calm and perhaps beautiful to observe, but it’s empty and lacks excitement and emotion.
Riding the wave
Nobody likes to say they’re struggling with their faith – but the more I’ve reached out, the more I’ve found it to be common. Many of us as youth and children’s workers (parents and carers too) will have faced furlough or worse, we’ve lost our usual coping mechanisms: being able to escape outdoors or be immersed in worship at our churches. Even those who at first felt this time was a blessing have admitted to me that they are now struggling (and luckily, vice versa – there is hope).
But I know for a fact that I’ve been riding this wave instead of swimming against it. I’m watching Jesus back on the land (though we all know he could just walk out to get me!) and I’ve found myself too tired to try and swim. At a time when the whole world is begging for the second wave to be put to an end, I am desperate for a second wave of God’s grace to come along like a tsunami and throw me back ashore.
“Luckily for us, God doesn’t work on our terms”Going against the tide
Some of us need a second wave of God’s love, mercy and protection right now more than anything (and those of you already have it may want to help those who you know are struggling). Where to start? I can’t say I have all the answers, but here’s some wisdom I’ve gained and helpfully been given by others:
Open the Bible, it isn’t that scary – sometimes when we’re feeling like the tide is taking us and there are no big waves for us to surf, it can be tricky to even open your Bible. I know for myself, I’ve felt guilty over this too. But, if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that opening it is never scary. Funnily enough, there’s some great advice in there.
Pray, even if you don’t feel like it – “I don’t even feel like anyone’s listening, so why should I?” It’s a classic question I’ve heard from plenty of young people, and now frequently myself. Luckily for us, God doesn’t work on our terms. He is there and listening no matter what our emotions and feelings are towards him. If we don’t feel like anyone’s listening, that won’t stop God.
Trust in him when things are scary – the COVID-19 second wave is just one of many things we may be worrying about right now, but remember that we can trust in God no matter what. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he can handle much more than we can and love us when times are hard.
Don’t be deceived – still seas might look like a good thing at first when you’re steering a heavy ship – they give us the time to go and do other things and look after other areas of our boat. Yet still waters often mean no movement. We’re not going anywhere. Don’t be deceived, therefore, and look for the calm water; ride with the waves of God.
is deputy editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work magazine.
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Tackling the mental health crisis
It hasn’t been an easy time for anyone, but for teens already trying to figure themselves out as they step towards adulthood, it can feel impossible. Joel Harris, from mental health charity Kintsugi Hope, explains what we as youth and children’s workers, parents and carers can do to help.Lockdown has seen changes for everyone. Some may feel like they are living in a whole new world – and for teenagers where this is already true, it can be unbearable. All of their coping mechanisms have been taken away, and any level of certainty they had about the future has been broken down. Their routine of waking up, getting ready and going to school is gone.
It’s been just over a year since I left school and I remember the shock I had when I realised that the security of the education system around me wasn’t there anymore. Five out of seven days a week my life looked the same and had structure, but now at 19, I have so many choices and options and it can feel overwhelming. That same security has been stripped away from young people during coronavirus like a rug pulled from under their feet.
The future for them feels uncertain. Will they get the grades they need? How will they navigate meeting friends? Will they get into university or be able to find a job to support their families? Will their relationships with loved ones they haven’t seen in months be the same? How do they cope with being scared about all of this?
Creating a better forecastThe YMCA released research in 2018 showing that my generation is the least drug and alcohol addicted generation to date – and the most highly educated. It’s great news, but we’re facing challenges that people haven’t faced before because of it. There is a lack of job opportunities from a saturation of young people, and as children and young people focus more on their future, their career and success, mental health issues are on the rise. The pandemic will have only escalated these issues.
I am worried about the future of my generation – and I’m sure many of you are too. Knowing how to help is tricky, but at Kintsugi Hope, we have a model to help break the cycle of shame around poor mental health and allow young people to seek help. It involves four key messages: invest, equip, create and break. How does this work for you then in your churches and homes?
InvestInvest in your young people’s well-being and mental health and get alongside them. Research conducted by the World Health Organisation shows that one in five young people struggle with a mental health problem in any given year. So, if you’re a youth leader, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some young people in your group will be struggling. Invest in these children, and give them the time and energy they need.
EquipTo support young people with their mental health, we need to be equipped to do so. You don’t need to be an expert, but basic knowledge of the right resources and having a listening ear will help young people open up. Kintsugi Hope’s Wellbeing Group Leader training is online and offers support.
CreateYoung people will start to heal when they feel heard. Safe and supportive spaces are key for this, setting up places where there are no worries and feelings of judgement. I know I was more likely to open up to my youth leaders when I felt safe, so to break the cycle, we have to form a trustworthy, kind and caring environment amongst adults and children.
BreakYoung people will start to heal when they feel heard. Safe and supportive spaces are key for this, setting up places where there are no worries and feelings of judgement. I know I was more likely to open up to my youth leaders when I felt safe, so to break the cycle, we have to form a trustworthy, kind and caring environment amongst adults and children.
works with social media and youth at Kintsugi Hope.
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need not break usPredicting recent world events and their impact on youth and children’s workers would have been impossible, but it has left many of us tired and worried for the future. Here, Dave Thornton, author of Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry, gives advice on how to cope with the ever-changing tides of coronavirus pandemic.
Even after 28 years of youth and children’s ministry, I never saw lockdown coming. I thought I had seen everything: a talk illustration boulder dropped on a child’s head, police nearly called to an elder’s son shooting a fake gun out of a window and a leader setting fire to three tables during a church barbecue (that leader was me). But lockdown has blind-sided me. Everything is new and I’m exhausted.
While we may not experience another pandemic in our lifetime, if any of us stays in youth and children’s ministry long term, times will come when it feels like the bottom has dropped out of our world and we will cry out to God like David in Psalm 13:2: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
When that time comes, will we stay in ministry? Over three months into youth and children’s ministry in lockdown, many of us will be beginning to have a sense that it might not be worth it, especially if our numbers are going down as people give in to Zoom fatigue. But if the Church is to grow, we must commit to staying in longer. COVID-19 need not force us to give up. God may use us more in leadership after five years than he does after two, more after 20 than he does after five. To do that we need to stay in the race. I appreciate some will have lost jobs or been furloughed from youth and children’s ministry in lockdown. But please keep going, even if it is as a volunteer. So, what will help?
“Times will come when it feels like the bottom has dropped out of our world”Schedule daily time with GodHow many of us, struggling with our prayer lives and Bible reading, thought that lockdown was the answer to our prayers (that we hardly prayed!) and yet find ourselves, months in, in the same spiritual desert as when we started? Now we realise that moving chairs was never the problem, getting our priorities wrong was.
Before we do anything else today, let’s spend time with Jesus. If we’re working in full-time paid ministry in the Church, it probably feels like we’re praying and reading the Bible all the time, but Jesus doesn’t say: “Give us today our questions for the small groups.” It’s right and good to pray that prayer but we are to start with our daily bread. We are to depend on Jesus for ourselves before our ministry. Quiet times might be more difficult if we share a house or flat in lockdown, especially if we have young children in the house, but be creative: get up earlier, have them last thing at night, put headphones in or simply hide (perhaps in the garden if we have one).
If we struggle with finding a time, why not put that time in when you get up from work mid-morning and put the kettle on? Or try once a month to spend a morning refocusing on Jesus. Find a place, maybe away from home, where there are fewer distractions. Take a notebook to write down what God is saying – personally, as well as about our ministry.
Get supportWho is supporting us in lockdown? Hopefully our minister – great. Maybe our parents, wives, husbands and friends can offer support too, and it’s important to be proactive in finding people to offer support. Who should we look for?
Find friends and activities outside our churchMinistry is a weird thing. Paid or unpaid, it’s always on the agenda. We watch a movie and spot an illustration. We join a family Zoom quiz and discover a new function we can use on Sunday nights. We invite friends round for a barbecue and find ourselves asking if they’ve ever thought of helping with a children’s group. Try to build relationships and activities that are separate from church. Why not use lockdown or what comes after as a time to learn to slackline or take a watercolour painting class?
- A mentor: someone older and wiser who is helping us to grow in spiritual maturity. If we have one, but haven’t caught up in lockdown, message them now.
- Peers: who will walk with us, cry with us, support us and pray for us.
- Other people in ministry: who are those people who understand what ministry is like?
- Encouragers: some people drain us, even when not seeing them physically, others encourage us. It might be a parent who is incredibly grateful for our chasing their teenager who took six weeks to join our online meetings, or an older member of the church who used to be a children’s leader. Seek out encouragers.
- Someone who is outside our church who is a Christian and trustworthy to whom we can just unload.
“Even at home all week, it is right to have a Sabbath”Set boundaries and keep to themI was talking to a youth worker who explained how, because she was tech-savvy, she was spending hours stitching together her church’s online offerings. These are unusual times, but that’s not on her job description. There is always more to do, even in lockdown: from socially distanced home visits to Zoom uniformed organisations. From residential at home to YouTube leadership training. Me? I’ve started publishing escape rooms! It is vital to establish boundaries. If we don’t, we will never end a day or a week or a term or a year thinking that we have done what God and our church asked of us. Sooner rather than later we will be leaving frustrated, and the church won’t understand because we seemed to be doing so much good. If we want to cope through lockdown, then we must ask our minister what their expectations are and not be afraid to pause something (look, we don’t even need to call it ‘stop’!).
Work then restEven at home all week, it is right to have a Sabbath: “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:9-10). We need to discipline ourselves in rest times to avoid anything that looks like work. Turn off notifications, don’t go on social media – whatever it takes to rest.
There’s another danger as a paid minister – that apart from our rest day each week, we make ourselves available 24/6. Many statutory youth workers work in sessions, splitting up the day into morning, afternoon and evening sessions. If they’re working morning and afternoon, they don’t work in the evening. If they’re working morning and evening, they don’t work in the afternoon. Obviously, that isn’t always possible, but it gives an idea of healthy time off each day. You’re working this evening? Go out in the sunshine! (Sorry, it’s July – cold and rain...)
Building up not drainingIf we want to keep going a long time, then we need to take care of ourselves physically. My tendency after back-to-back (why am I still doing that during lockdown?) youth sessions is to watch a boxset (and it’s hard to stop after one episode) and drink hot chocolate. Maybe that’s only me, or maybe it’s something to do with stress. I need to work out a better plan. This might be a short time of prayer to give thanks to God for what he’s done, exercise and sleep.
Personally, at the moment, I’m finding the news and much of social media emotionally and mentally exhausting. Lockdown and online youth are tiring enough. I can miss the news occasionally and leave someone else to comment on that article.
is youth, children and families’ director at Christ Church, Winchester. This feature is an adaptation of chapters from Dave’s new youth work manual: Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry, available from churchyouthministry.com.
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SafeguardingDoes safeguarding make you think of bureaucratic hoops you need to jump through? Does it conjure up nightmares of damaged children and young people? Or do you see it as a practical expression of God's love by keeping them safe? Here's how to turn a chore into a core part of your ministry.Planning for safeguarding after the lockdown
As lockdown restrictions are lifted, children and young people will be heading back to schools in September and church leaders are making plans to get people back together. Experts have spoken to the media suggesting many young people will need support from psychologists when they return due to the disruption caused by the lockdown, including lack of contact with friends, lack of exercise and too much time spent online. Here are some vital questions youth and children’s groups need to ask themselves while planning for young people to return.Are you ready for increased disclosures of abuse or mental health concerns?
If someone shares information with you, do not promise to keep a secret. While information should not be shared with just anyone, speak to your safeguarding coordinator to debrief, and be open with children that you may have to speak to someone else. This can be difficult, as you want the young person to speak to you, but it is important you do not mislead them. Reassuring the person can often be enough, particularly if you are clear from the outset that you will need to inform the right people. After the disclosure, make clear notes. Any notes may form part of a following investigation. Dealing with this can be difficult, so make sure you seek support for yourself.Does everyone know who to share concerns with?
It is the safeguarding coordinator’s responsibility to deal with safeguarding matters. They should be the first port of call if you are worried about a child or adult. It may not always be appropriate to speak to the leaders of the church; safeguarding matters should only be shared on a need to know basis. They have a responsibility to pass information on to the statutory authorities. If in doubt always pass information on, no matter how irrelevant it may seem.
Whatever action you may have to take, and even if the authorities are involved, don’t lose sight of the person or people at the centre of the concern. Ensure there is someone they can turn to for support, but do not question the person concerned. Don’t forget that abuse can affect many people: friends, families, workers and leaders too. They may need some help.
Finally, remember it is not the job of a church or charity to undertake investigations in order to decide whether information shared is correct. Our job is to gather and record it with clarity, and to share it with statutory agencies. The legal responsibility for undertaking investigations relating to safeguarding concerns rests with the statutory agencies. It is not for the church or place of worship to make judgements about criminality, reliability of victims or witnesses. The safety and well-being of the child or young person is paramount and in upholding Christian principles of justice, of supporting and offering protection to the weak and vulnerable, a church or place of worship can be confident they are also upholding biblical values.What if there is no safeguarding coordinator?
The first action some churches need to take to improve safeguarding is to appoint at least one person to take the lead on safeguarding within your organisation. The three main functions are to: act as an advocate, act independently in reporting concerns of abuse and to oversee the preparation and implementation of the safeguarding policy.
A safeguarding lead does not need to be an expert in child or adult protection. That can be left to the statutory agencies and Thirtyone:eight can also help. Whoever is chosen needs to be vigilant, ensure the right policies and procedures are in place, and that only suitable people are allowed to work with vulnerable groups. A safeguarding lead will be instrumental in making your place of worship or organisation a safer environment for all.Has your policy been updated with any COVID-19 specific guidance?
Writing and implementing a safeguarding policy sends a powerful message to parents, children and visitors, as well as those intent on harm, that safeguarding children and young people is taken seriously within the organisation. It also helps protect your workers by giving clear boundaries and ways of working.
Your policy should always include a mission statement, detailing intent and commitment to safeguarding by the organisation’s leadership and an expectation of conduct, explaining how adults should act towards children, young people and adults at risk. Before sending to the masses, ensure it’s clear and easily understood, approved and signed by leadership and readily available to view on request.
The policy may need to be updated in relation to COVID-19 and the resulting changes in many churches as they continue to expand their online presence, as well as help people in self-isolation. Changes may include making sure Zoom meeting passwords are not put out on public social media, and that records are kept of what activity is being undertaken that is outside your usual remit and by whom. Thirtyone:eight has a template policy available to members and additional support and training available to help you put your policy together.Putting it all together
Churches and youth groups are in a unique place to help children and young people as they come back to school and church. With some thought and planning around safeguarding after lockdown, churches can ensure they have good practice in place. Making sure that workers know how to deal with disclosures of abuse and ensuring a safeguarding coordinator is in place, along with an up-to-date safeguarding policy, churches can avoid feeling overwhelmed by issues that have become apparent during the time their congregations have been apart.
Thirtyone:eight is an independent Christian safeguarding charity. Call on 0303 003 1111 for independent, professional and compassionate support around safeguarding in your organisation: thirtyoneeight.org.
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All inclusiveEvery child and young person needs support to help them learn or engage with activities. Some need additional or different support from those of the same age to ensure that everyone benefits from all they participate in. We want to address some of the important questions around these needs. Welcome to ‘All inclusive’.A hundred times a day
Discipling children and young people with special needs isn’t easy, but here are three simple truths to get us started and to use as a foundation for whatever else we do.Discipling is something that we can all do all of the time through the everyday things that we do – teaching children and young people about Jesus by being Jesus to them and sharing his love with them in all the little things we do with them and for them.
Think about some of the things that you do for and with the children you engage with, and then think about some of the similar things that Jesus did to show us the way that we should live our lives and disciple others. Much of our time with children with additional needs is spent tending to their needs, serving and supporting them. Jesus modelled this in so many ways during his ministry, and during those times as he served people, he taught them too. He washed people’s feet, he shared food with people, he touched and loved people who were disabled or sick.
As we help a child to wash their hands, as we prepare food for children, as we tend to them in whatever way their needs require, we can be Jesus to them. We can show them his love, his peace, his grace.Sometimes we might wonder if any of it stays with children; is the faith that we share with them ‘sticky’? Does it reach them at the time, but then drift away like the morning mist on a summer breeze? I believe the words Paul wrote to Timothy are relevant for all our children as we share the love of Jesus with them: “…from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Nothing is lost; the love of Jesus is timeless. We sow the seeds of that love into a child a hundred times every day. Some might germinate and flower straight away before our eyes, some may come into bloom in a week, a month, a year. Some may burst into beautiful colour after we are long gone. The love of Jesus that we share with children each and every day will stay with them for ever.What those ‘spiritual seeds’, those little acts of love that we share with children each time we are with them, teach us is that it’s not all down to us. We also need to give space for God to water those seeds, to let the Holy Spirit move in a child’s life. Sometimes this can be in the most unexpected ways.
I met a young boy called Jack at Spring Harvest – he was autistic, which meant in his case he didn’t communicate verbally, preferred not to be in groups of noisy people and found contact with those he didn’t know difficult. As provision officer, I thought a lot about how I could help Jack and whether he had gained anything at all from his time at Spring Harvest. Had he just been child-minded, busying himself with his Jenga blocks (a favourite activity), or had something more than that reached him? Had he been discipled?
Shortly after Spring Harvest I got my answer. His family got in touch to share what happened on their car journey home. It seems that Jack, who remember is almost entirely non-verbal, had been singing, yes singing, a line from the song ‘Cornerstone’, a song that the worship band in his session had been playing.
He had sung: “Weak made strong, weak made strong, weak made strong”!
Jack’s heart had been touched by this song; through it he had encountered the Saviour’s love. It made me see that Jesus can, and does, through all the power of the Holy Spirit, reach everyone and that we can help in those hundred moments a day and in all the little things we do with children. Let’s remember that nothing is lost, those seeds of love are eternal. Let’s remember to give space for God and to believe in the unexpected!MARK ARNOLD
is additional needs ministry director at Urban Saints and co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance. He is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner and member of the Council for Disabled Children. He is father to James who has autism. Mark writes a blog on the subject.
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