A little bit of learning
Whether you have a degree in children’s ministry or never had any training at all, this time of enforced slowdown might be the perfect opportunity to brush up on your skills. Alex Taylor explores the different elements that make up our Academy Basics course, and reflects on how they could help you.
I don’t know what your children’s ministry journey as been like so far. You might be enthusiastic and have a wealth of ideas; you might be a paid worker with a degree in children’s ministry; you might have volunteered 20 years ago to fill a temporary gap and are still on the rota. However you came to children’s work, it’s a great idea to give yourself some space to think about what you do and why you do it.
The idea of training and development might fill you with horror. With the ‘normal’ pressures of work, family life and all the other commitments you have, you might not have time to take time out to reflect on your children’s ministry. In this time of increased anxiety and stress during the pandemic, training may be the last thing you want to do! But never fear – we can bring training right into your living room (or office or kitchen, we don’t mind), with our online Academy Basics course on Saturday 6th June.
The Academy Basics course is an introduction to working with children. It’s ideal for you if you’re new to children’s work or have never had any training in it before. It’s also useful if you’re more experienced but would appreciate going over the basics. No matter how long you’ve been working with children, there are always new things to be discovered, new techniques to be learnt… and spending time (albeit virtually) with others doing the same ministry as you in different parishes can be rewarding and re-energising.
One of the first things we’ll explore in Academy Basics is the spirituality of a child. If we understand more about this means, we’ll be able to be more intentional when we choose our activities, stories and questions, so that they help children to grow in their faith. Children are not empty cups for us to fill with Christianity, faith and knowledge about the Bible. They’re not like Lego models that we need to put together in order to create a finished Christian. They have a spirituality, a connection to something ‘other’ than themselves that is innate.
In her book, Children’s Spirituality: What it is and why it matters, Rebecca Nye describes children’s spirituality as being “like a child, it doesn’t neatly conform, might sound like babble, defies categorisation, isn’t a straight line. It matters to the child and is vulnerable.” If we focus on how to foster this spirituality and help it to flourish (rather than squashing it), then it changes how we approach our children’s work. Rather than concentrating on getting facts about God into children’s heads or getting a craft done before we get called back into the service, we started to consider how we can help children meet with God and grow in their faith.
Leading a discussion
Applying this idea of spirituality to leading a discussion, our questions become more about wondering and imagination, rather than ‘right or wrong’ questions about facts. Consider the story of the good Samaritan. Rather than just asking if the priest helped the man or not, we can wonder about what was going through his mind as he set out from Jerusalem. We can wonder what he thought when he saw the man and then think about why he didn’t help him. Helping children to go deeper into the Bible like this means that they can start creating a picture of who God is, what it means to love him and be an active part of his kingdom, and the difference that makes to our daily lives.
As well as exploring the spiritual side of our work, the Academy Basics course will also cover things like managing a group, being a leader, planning a session and welcoming children with additional needs. So if you need help with resources, organisation or even how to arrange the furniture in your room, then we can give you some great ideas.
Academy Basics is free! All you need to do is sign up here to join us on Saturday 6th June from 10.30am to 1.30pm. We look forward to seeing you!
Alex Taylor is part of the children's and youth team at the Diocese of London. He is an experienced children's and youth worker and writer.
Read more from Alex Taylor