A Dad for Christmas

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survey highlighted in The Telegraph of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot. One child asked for Eva Longoria and another wanted Harry Styles from One Direction.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

Advertisements

Ministering to Children conference: Q&A with the speakers

Just before the end of the conference there was a Q&A with the speakers

How much do you refer to the parents, in resourcing them to disciple their children?
Colin: Who is Israel in Deut. 6 is it parents, God, the church, the nation, all of the above. It is a partnership from all. Anyone who is involved sees it as a partnership between church and parents.
Andy: a leader who was a mum told another child off, and the parent complained, had to work through it. We have to see all God’s children as our children.
Pete: primary role for looking after children is me, and if you’re being paid then people assume you will do it. The more we can do to help parents the better.
Helen: Parents are desperate to hear feedback at parents evening, what opportunities do we give.
Jane: remember the non Christian families as they don’t have parents to help them. Church can provide a safer community, helping families to connect with 20 mums doing toddler groups, become a Christian through Alpha, and now have tough challenges moving forward.

Do you have a stance on non-Christians helping to lead children’s work?
Andy: a bunch of non Christians who were in worship group but not leading, all of them were involved in a mentoring relationship moving forwards toward faith, so no problem so long as in that relationship and have boundaries.
Helen: need to be very clear in boundaries and relationship, and you would never want into be outnumbering the Christians, and sympathetic to Christian faith. Seen many volunteers come to faith, and equally how we do know that our “sound” Christians aren’t having crises of faith etc.
Colin: is it on God’s heart or yours, is it because you don’t have enough people to fill the roles. Anyone can paint but to what standard?

Love the idea of integrating children more fully into church but what does that actually look like?
Pete: that is the heart of Messy Church, an all-age group that meets midweek or Saturday. Don’t go to Sunday church as am a member of the Messy Church.
Jane: preached in a church, did the singing and liturgy, and the Vicar said we will go to groups, if want arty and crafty go here, if film go here, if discussion go here, and if want to listen to Jane go here. As started preaching someone interrupted with a question and ended as a dialogue sermon.
Teresa: a common theme from all-ages in Godly Play is that they have their own spirituality, it is visual and so they taken in from where they are.
Andy: don’t need to dumb it down, too many parishioners don’t attend as think it will be dumbed down,
Colin: what is church, a relationship with God and each other, a discussion with church leaders sounds important.

Ministering to Children: Spirituality Development

Andy de Feu, from Moorlands College is leading this seminar.

Pets don’t last long and so they give us a chance to talk about death. Child lost her hamster, came with a ppt with all the stages of life, sisters share their experience, dad share his bit. This was a significant moment but we could have missed it as we deemed it not important. As Amy shared it she felt secure in asking, and she was validated in her experience.

Get asked a lot of questions. How do you explain the Trinity to a seven year old:

  • Water, ice and steam but it can’t be all 3 states at the same time
  • Egg – yolk, white, shell all egg but need all 3 to be completely egg – but what does the shell represent
  • 3 piece suit – one item clothing, but three items, also made up of the same material.

Why use abstract models to children who need concrete models?

Bryn Hughes: “believe your children into greatness”, don’t ask how can I teach the bible more effectively etc., but ask what do you want the children to become.

When asked what is the biggest decision teenagers have made a lot in Andy’s group talked not about being Christian but living out a Christian faith in front of their friends.  What would we want to see in a group of children and young people with a mature faith:

  • Caring
  • Confident in themselves, in others, in faith
  • Be secure in self-esteem
  • Identity in Christ
  • Have faith
  • Right choices
  • Positive view of church

Your vision will give you permission to stop doing things you are doing, are the Duggy Dug Dug songs helpful or just entertaining, just because I have fun doesn’t mean it contributes to the faith development of children.

Kanon Tipton, the four year old preaching, gained over 4 million hits on YouTube. He started at 21 months, he is mimicking but there is also a calling according to his dad.

Development theories
What stages of faith do we all go through, Fowler believes not many people get to the universal faith – stage 6 e.g. Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Imagine if you exposed Santa to your children’s work! Children get confused as parents had said Father Christmas and Tooth Fairy don’t exist so as they haven’t seen God they think he doesn’t exist either.

Aged 8-11 they see ideas as concrete so tell them that God exists as they trust authority figures. Synthetical Conventional encourage them to lie down and look at the stars, what if there were two of me and the other one is in parallel family looking at us but we can’t see them.

Can children achieve a mature faith?

Westerhoff says look at content development. It implies owned faith can’t happen until later, but equally you can add rings to the tree, you can re examine issues of faith. Asking questions, having crises of faith is fine, everyone has a belief system even if it is an atheistic structure.

Christmas crackers can show difference between faith development and Christian spiritual development. We know what is there a bang, hat, joke, present but we don’t know exactly what they are.

Need to pray and seek what God is doing in this child?

“Children are like sponges. They absorb so much, not just from what you teach, but who you are.” James 3 teachers will be judged more seriously, we can distort and confuse the teaching. Children aren’t a blank piece of paper, but a wrinkled ripped broken piece of paper they have issues, scars, hurt and so on. Spiritual development is messy.

The Greeks did us no favours
Dualism of higher sacred and lower secular has been bought into and we have 1 in 168 hours a week to do spiritual development. Did an analysis of children’s and youth work we spent 5 minutes quality time one-on-one as so much of what we do is in big groups. We hope by osmosis they learn about faith and connect with God. How can you develop the soul in five minutes.

Biblical worldview says that God can input across all areas as can Satan and it is seeing who operates the influence.

Creative Spirituality
The least effective way is to teach through purely verbal speech, was 10% probably less now. Visual symbols and simulated experiences by adding in actions and sounds to the bible story. Direct experience are likely to remember 90% of what they are taught, want them to be generous in Spirit, asked them two guys to help clear rubbish to help stewards, chief steward says thanks, they felt amazing. The next night did it again but no chief steward, challenged them to serve but not to be served, to be praised or not, but God knew, it is for the audience of one. That’s spiritual development.

The concrete principle – don’t get abstract, but do relate, e.g. we don’t keep sheep or camels but we know cars so feel free to reinterpret, the important thing isn’t the metaphor but the message.

The Travel Agent Principle – allow Tweens to influence the topics you study, and become more issue based, find the crises in their life and speak from there

The Rotation Principle: a proportion of every module has to be taught outside as boys learn best outside. Pray on the hill outside the village for it, or create an atmosphere of awe and wonder.

Final question
Simon Peter do you love me, do you love me, do you truly love me, Simon is hurt, and Jesus says to feed the sheep (children). Do I love enough to go beyond our norms, for what we are doing, wrestle with John 21:15.

Above all pray for the children, young people and understanding.

Boys Hit Puberty Younger

The New York Times recently highlighted researching showing that boys hit puberty younger but it is unclear as to why:

A large study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that boys are entering puberty earlier now than several decades ago — or at least earlier than the time frame doctors have historically used as a benchmark.

The study, widely considered the most reliable attempt to measure puberty in American boys, estimates that boys are showing signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than was reported in previous research, which historically taught that 11 ½ was the general age puberty began in boys. But experts cautioned that because previous studies were smaller or used different approaches, it is difficult to say how much earlier boys might be developing.

The study echoes research on girls, which has now established a scientific consensus that they are showing breast development earlier than in the past.

The study did not try to determine what might be causing earlier puberty, although it mentioned changes in diet, less physical activity and other environmental factors as possibilities. Experts said that without further research, implications for boys are unclear.

Dolores J. Lamb, a molecular endocrinologist at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, who was not involved in the study said:

“This should perhaps set a standard going forward for being very attentive to puberty in boys and being mindful that they’re developing earlier.  Whether the difference is as large as what they say on some papers 40 years ago is not clear.” However, she added, “this is going to be incredibly useful to pediatricians and urologists.”

The new study also found that African-American boys began puberty earlier than whites and Hispanics, a result that other studies have shown also applies to African-American girls. Researchers said that difference is most likely driven by the role of genes in puberty.

On average, black boys in the study showed signs of puberty, primarily identified as growth of the testicles, at a little older than 9, while white and Hispanic boys were a little older than 10.

Several experts said the study should not be seized upon as cause for alarm, but rather as a way to help parents and doctors gauge what to be aware of in boys’ development and whether to start conversations about social issues sooner.

For the study, researchers enlisted about 200 pediatricians in 41 states to record information on 4,131 healthy boys ages 6 to 16 during their well-child exams.

Responsive Prayer: No it’s the church actually

Church Actually

We used this responsive prayer by Krish Kandiah as part of our response to thinking about our local community at our Churches Together service for unity and prayer on Sunday, it worked really well, and maybe worth you keeping for a future occasion:

This was a “call and response” part of my sermon – I asked the questions and the audience replied “No its the church actually!”

Do you know who provides half of the parent and toddler support groups in the UK. Is it Surestart? No, it’s the church actually.

Do you know who provide the biggest network of debt couselling across the UK with 190 drop-in centres? Helping over 19 141 individuals last year alone? Is it Martin “Moneysavingexpert” Lewis? No it’s the church actually.

Who is it that donated 72 million hours of volunteer work to social initiatives last year estimating a contribution of 1.5 billion pounds a year? Was it the National Trust? No it was the church actually.

Do you know who will feed 100 000 hungry people this year in the UK is it the Redcross? No it’s the church actually!

Do you know who brought hospitals, schools, universities and democracy into our country? Was it the Vikings? No, it was the church actually!

Who invented Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, and Tottenham Hotspur Football clubs, was it the Football association? No it was the church actually!

When the doctors, the police and the social workers move out of an area and go and live somewhere else who is that moves in ? Is it Richard Dawkins and Militant Atheists? No it’s the church actually!

Who is it that is the hope of the world, is it NATO? No, it’s the church actually!

How Do You Measure Discipleship?

Tape measure

Geoff Surratt has written a great blog post on A Tool to Measure Discipleship, which is well worth chewing over:

How do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted follower of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?
I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:
  • Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
  • Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
  • Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion; the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
  • Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
  • Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
  • Developing other disciples. Jesus final command was very clear, Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.
I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.
Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.
As a growing disciple of Jesus I (circle all that apply)
  • Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources
  • Pray consistently
  • Read my Bible almost every day
  • Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group)
  • Actively participate in missional outreach
  • Develop other disciples
The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak. Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.
Be sure to let me know if you use this tool and how I can make it more effective.