How to make Missional Communities and children work together

There have been countless studies on how children learn, how they interact with information and how they grow.

One of the themes of this research is that there are three primary environments in which children learn – classroom, apprenticeship and immersion:

# Classroom – The child is taught something by somebody. They listen and then process the information being shared with them.
# Apprenticeship – The child is shown something by somebody. The child is involved in, and so learns from, a process. Information is engaged with and processed through implementation, experimentation and application.
# Immersion – The child experiences and gathers information from the culture, environment or context within which they live.

Sunday morning kids work is 45 minutes, an hour at best, in the week of a child’s life. There might be activities, object lessons or games to go along with the bible teaching to help the children think through how to apply what they are hearing. It’s good sharing of information but it’s still a classroom environment.

Missional community, extended families of 15 to 30 adults (and any number of children!!) on mission together, give children & young people the environment to learn by being part of a community that lives out its faith. They are given the opportunity to be part of a group that looks to share its faith with others that don’t know Jesus. They don’t just attend an event but learn from many different and varied life experiences. They are encouraged to take more responsibility and participate; to be part of the community – not just to be talked at but talked with. In a missional community context children are not just waiting for adults to define something but shaping and crafting it themselves. They can be involved in, and contribute to, the life of the community.

Children learn by living out their faith – not just learning about their faith from others. They take hold of it for themselves through apprenticeship and immersion – seeing their parents lead, learning how to study the Bible for themselves and share Biblical reflections themselves. The community necessitates that young people help with younger children. Children can share with adults their thoughts on a passage, serving and sharing faith together as family.

There are many different ways communities function as they gather but three ways we found missional communities can ‘work’ well as they gather together have come by thinking about family environments; environments that are normal to families, both Christian & non-Christian.

Three environments all families interact with  are:

1) The Educational environment (i.e school, nursery)

2) The Coffee Shop environment (i.e. Starbucks, restaurants)

3) The Party dynamic (i.e. birthdays)

# The Educational environment – is where the parents & children are learning together. We encourage families and extended families (missional communities) to think about rhythms of family prayer, worship and study. One of our family missional communities had gatherings where they took a bible passage and the children & young people came up with a drama, craft and teaching lesson from what they’d learnt and then shared with the adults.  Lots of applause and then good conversations were had afterwards!

The Coffee shop – is an adult environment with children present – tables, papers and coffee with activities in the room. This environment encourages the informal relationships and interactions between children, parents and the extended family. One geographical missional community did this as an access point for non-Christians with prayer cards and opportunities for conversations on the tables.

# The Children’s party environment – (if you haven’t yet got kids there’s a treat in store!!!) is an environment where parents serve the kids – everything is set up for the kids to have a great time together – noise, mess, chaos, games, fun………sweets!!

 

 

This is a great way to really help relationships & their faith come alive because if there’s one thing kids can do it’s have fun!! This is also an environment where non-christian parents and children can engage – enjoying the experience together.

Parents taking the responsibility as primary disciplers of their children and doing this in the context of a missional community is often a major but important shift

Effective missional communities use some or all of these dynamics as they gather and disciple their children rather than abdicate to the children’s workers or do a smaller, “worse” version of sunday school in a side room whilst the adults gather. Central children’s ministry should function to resource the communities – prayer, training, resources so that families can express their faith locally in community.

The synergy that comes from both a Sunday celebration (with central ministry resourcing) and a missional community lifestyle for discipleship of children is a dynamic that works for both parents & children. They are able to grow not only in relationship with God but also each other and they learn, together, how to be a family of missional disciples.

It’s not easy – but neither is being a parent!!

 

On Syria: Real life, Real people

Each night my daughter is tucked up in bed,  alongside a bunch of cuddly toys, with joy written all over her face.  Her only concern is whether to wear her pink or her purple skirt the next day. That’s her reality. That’s how life should be for a six year-old.

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And then there’s Nizar*.  He’s just a few months younger than my daughter – just a small five year-old boy.

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Nizar found his mother’s dismembered head amidst the rubble in his family home in Syria. A rocket had come through the kitchen whilst she was getting a drink for his father.

Once, maybe, his face too was written with joy. But now it’s marked by grief. And loss. And confusion. That’s his reality

He’s not just a faraway story on the news, only to be flicked over to watch another home renovation programme. He’s not just another statistic. He’s a real child. As a Syrian refugee in Jordan his world has been turned upside down.

  • Civil war in Syria has displaced 6.5 million people within the country and led to around 2.5 million becoming refugees in neighbouring states.
  • More than 100,000 people have been killed, and now every hour, more than 300 people flee their homes in fear.

This boy, this real boy, with real feelings, blames himself for his mother’s death. His world will never be the same again.

This is real life. Not my real life. And probably not your real life.  But this is his real life: painful and scarred and broken.

And he’s not a singular case. These children have lost fathers. And mothers. And siblings.

Families had fled Syria to avoid rockets in homes and tanks on roads. They’ve fled so their children no longer have to see fathers tortured and mothers abused.

Even as I write, it’s hard to grasp that this is the reality for so many lives.

This is Safiyya*:

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Safiyya is 23 and a first-time mum. When she was eight months pregnant, she and her husband decided they had to leave Syria for their safety, and their child’s.

They walked for six hours through the night, coming from Daraa to Jordan with a group of around 90 other Syrians.

Safiyya was training to be a teacher in Syria. Now she’s a supervisor in a kindergarten for Syrian refugee children run by a local charity in partnership with Tearfund. Safiyya worked with Nizar, mentioned earlier. This is her story:

“For 8 months I was at home, I did not leave the house. When we’re at home we think of family, friends we left in Syria. It makes us really sad. The kindergarten is a nice place where children are loved. I feel that they are my children. And the teachers are very sweet. Together we are one, we work together.”

As a volunteer at the kindergarten, Safiyya receives a cash stipend for her help –  it’s her family’s only source of income.

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Ninety children go to the kindergarten; all of them have fled from Syria and many are traumatised by what they have been through. The Syrian women who work there have all been trained to look for and understand the signs of trauma in children. In addition, a qualified psychologist visits once a week to run sessions.

Despite all that’s happened Safiyya’s greatest hope is that they will return to Syria and her son will grow up there. She says:

‘Our lives were in Syria. We love Syria.’

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

We may feel powerless to help. We may feel there’s nothing we can do.

But maybe today, we could believe something different. Maybe today we could allow our reality to affect their reality. Maybe today we could believe our prayers make a difference.

Maybe, today we could pray together for this war-torn country and those affected. Maybe we could choose to stand #withsyria

Maybe today we could use our financial reality to give to projects like the kindergarten Saffiya works at.

This is one prayer from a Tearfund partner in Jordan providing preschool education and trauma care for Syrian children:

Bringing light to the dark places

Lord Jesus, you give sight to the blind, you heal the

crippled and you restore the dignity of the disenfranchised.

Give us renewed vision and hope for the future and restore

the dignity of our Syrian brothers and sisters.

We beg for mercy for the many children who have

lost their fathers; for the many men who have been

tortured, beaten and maimed; for the many women

who have suffered from abuse; and for the many

more who continue to live in fear and shame.

Where there is fighting and fear, please bring peace.

Where there is hatred, please bring love and forgiveness.

Where there is death and hopelessness, please bring

the joy of your deliverance.

Lord, you are our only hope, our only Saviour.

Amen.

For more guidance on how to pray for Syria, or to financially contribute to the work of Tearfund in Syria please click on the Tearfund website here.

*Names have been changed at their request. For security and cultural reasons, there are no photos showing Safiyya’s face.

where Emeli Sande and I write a prayer for the church (me and you)

The first time I really appreciated Emeli Sande was during her incredible performance of “Abide with me” at the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. Since then, she’s been a welcome voice in my ear. In fact, her music has often been a channel for me to worship God. I guess I’m a believer that we can worship God through any songs  – “secular” as well as “Christian”, as long as we’re honouring God through them. One particular Emeli Sande song has become my running sound track, and in time it’s developed into a prayer.  As I’ve been running up and down the streets of Sheffield I’ve felt God speak to my heart through this song, and over time I’ve prayed this not only for me but for “us” – the wider church in general.

Here’s the song if it’s helpful to listen to it as you read….

So here goes….

“You’ve got the words to change a nation
But you’re biting your tongue
You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
Afraid you’ll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?”

You know what? We have some good news. Really good news. I forget that sometimes – maybe you do too. Lots of us have been biting our tongues, stuck in silence…quietly treasuring this Good News in our hearts. I get it, I’ve been doing the same thing myself. But if no one ever hears it, how will others learn our song? Our song of salvation, our song of lives transformed, relationships reconciled and hearts healed. Our song of forgiveness. Our song of the never-stopping, never-giving up, unshakeable love of the Father.  Maybe like me, you’re afraid you’ll sing something wrong. Maybe we’re worried it won’t quite come out right.  You know what? We will do that sometimes.  Our song won’t be perfect. Our lives won’t be perfect. We might get a word or two wrong, or we might start in the wrong key, or we might not quite reach those high notes. But if we never sing anything at all, who will ever learn our song? So, God, help us pass on this Good News, this Jesus-life: take our efforts –  our lives, our words –  and lead and empower us as we try to sing this song.

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“You’ve got a heart as loud as lions
So why let your voice be tamed?
Maybe we’re a little different
There’s no need to be ashamed
You’ve got the light to fight the shadows
So stop hiding it away”

Do we realise  – I mean really realise –  that in our hearts, lives the Lion of all lions? He is the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And His Spirit lives in you and me. He is both Lion and Lamb.  And our cracked and crumbly jars of clay leak out His light everywhere we go. So let’s not let our voices be tamed. Let that lion heart out, and love fiercely, and fully and with all that we have. Let’s not hold back, shrink back or think it’s not enough. His love is all-consuming, all-powerful and more than enough.  We’ve got a heart as loud as lions. Yes, maybe we’re a little different, maybe we’re against the flow.  Maybe. But we don’t need to be ashamed of that. We’ve got a light to fight the shadows so let’s stop hiding it away. It’s a good thing, this light. This light – this Jesus – pushes back darkness. So  wherever we see injustice, and darkness and death He wants to bring His justice, and light and life. And He wants to do that through plain old me and you, His church. If we’ll let Him. So, God, help us to really comprehend that you live in us, and that your power in us is greater than the power in the world.

“Let’s get the TV and the radio
To play our tune again
It’s ’bout time we got some airplay of our version of events
There’s no need to be afraid
I will sing with you my friend”

So, let’s use every medium to creatively share our version of events, whether that’s with our friends at work, on our walk to school, on the bus or wherever.  Let’s re-tell the story of God and his love for all people, in whatever creative way we can. Let’s tell our storiesLet’s tell His version of events. Let’s live out our version of events. It’s such a good version. Amy Carmichael, William Booth, Elizabeth Fry, Smith Wigglesworth, Jackie Pullinger, William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa  and so many more: you all chose to tell your version of events. And the world is a better place because of it. You all chose not to be defined by the can’ts, the won’ts or the shoulds. You chose to live out the goodness of God, telling His version of events.

So let’s do this together – I’ll sing with you my friend. I’ll be praying with you whilst you’re sharing and living out the goodness of God wherever you are  And I know you’ll be praying for me as I try to live out the goodness of God wherever I go. Thank you for singing with me,  my friend – my brothers and sisters. And know that I’ll be singing with you too. We’re in this together. So God, help us to faithfully tell and live out your version of events, together.

Emeli Sande photo Source: http://goo.gl/ln2hmY

Building a missional culture isn’t as easy as A-B-C

written by Rich

Here are some of the marks of a M.I.S.S.I.O.N.A.L culture – can you see them in your culture or how could they begin to shape how you and your people live?

 

M – Missional Mindset

People who understand that they are Continue reading

Checking the shore

(This fab post is written by Rich)

We can get so busy. Caught up in all the things that “are so important” or the things that might, and probably will, “fall apart” if we don’t do them. The events that will “not be as good when we’re not there” and the people “that will struggle if we’re not around”. Sometimes we share these opinions out loud, but usually they are a hidden, personal dialogue. This hidden dialogue so often drives us. We build our world, where all these things depend on us. Or so we think.

We so often, and I am guilty as charged, construct a world with us at the centre. We are the doorway, the celebrity, the saviour, the ‘one’. And we are really busy doing it all.

I once heard someone say we can substitute the word “busy” for the word “important”. Saying “I’m really busy” is actually saying to your listener or audience “I’m really important”. We fall into that trap.

I’ve recently been on retreat and have been reflecting on the hidden life of a leader (as well as a follower of Jesus, husband, father and friend). If we do not have the right assessment of our self and what we’re doing it does two things.  Firstly, we get very busy & stressed and secondly, we miss the point!

We get busy.

The change of scenery, of pace and surroundings of the retreat was so good. I was jolted and encouraged out of current patterns & mindsets. The change helped me to see a little more clearly. I realised that so much is done on auto-pilot; that I step in, fix, manage, hold tightly and try to keep all the moving parts juggled and perfectly balanced together. I sometimes do this intentionally but more often that not I drift into these patterns. Like the effect of the tide, I am taken subtly further and further away from the point & patterns I want. I don’t realise it until there is jolt – a conversation, a disappointment, a challenge. The retreat was the opportunity to see where the drift had taken me.

What would it look like if I regularly checked the shore? Where am I and where should I be? Am I drifting? How do I keep my course? 

If we don’t stop, look & listen we miss the point. It’s  like crossing a road. If we put our head down and run hard we may make it across the road – or we may hit something on the road or something on the road may hit us! We need to stop, look and listen.

We are designed to be heroic as we take on the adventure of life. We are called to be ‘running a race’ and heading ‘towards a prize’. To be running alongside others. To be sacrificing & battling for good. We’re on an adventure with a quest to be contended for. There is so much God has, by His grace, placed in us. So much He has in His heart for us.

In story the hero always wins – but he does it through battle & sacrifice and on behalf of others. There is a cost. A cost.  I wish there wasn’t, but there is.

We live in an era of comfort & celebrity – not heroes. Many of the messages we hear overtly & covertly from the media are about keeping or improving what we have and creating an environment of comfort. Many of the popular figures we read about, hear and watch are celebrity figures. They are exalted as celebrities – they are prospering but not for the good of others. A celebrity usually wins and has an adventure but it’s disconnected from normality and generally comes with little personal cost and primarily for personal gain.

And the biggest danger? That we watch the celebrities adventure rather than living our own. Reality TV is a counterfeit that we watch and are held captive by. We sit watching it rather than living it out. And then, in the middle of the reality TV show we watch the advert breaks and are bombarded with all that we ‘need’ or ‘should have’ – gathering possessions rather than experiences & memories.

I want to be jolted again. And then again. Not to drift with the tide.