Acts 6.7a – ‘The word of God continued to spread’
The Evangelism & Church Growth Initiative Newsletter
We are trying to flexibly respond to our readership and also do justice to the articles that we have been sent. Given that most people only read the text of Witness6.7, either in an email or on line, this edition is the first of a new simpler format. We are no longer constrained by fitting articles into columns and an exact number of pages (always a multiple of four) so some articles are longer and there are more articles. If you want to download the pdf then you can do so and will find that although there isn’t the same emphasis upon design there are some pictures included. Our ‘mixed economy’ means that to balance our simpler form of production, we will produce a more professional version once or twice a year, with printed copies, and try to increase the distribution of these editions and particularly try to get them into the hands of those in the Anglican Communion who don’t have easy access to emails and the internet. The first of these will be produced on the subject of ‘evangelism and reconciliation’ in October 2013, but can also include other stories. Please send material by 1 August for this edition.
This particular edition picks up on two of the themes that were discussed by the core group at its meeting in March; Children and Young People and Discipleship. Not surprisingly, there is some overlap in these articles so we start with children and young people, move onto articles related to discipleship of children and young people and end with discipleship generally. The material is from England, Zambia, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia and Peru, as well as a book review and an established Anglican discipleship resource.
Lay pioneer minister Di Woolridge has seen numbers steadily increase at a weekly 'play and praise' worship service for the under 5s. She now believes the Staffordshire community is developing into a fresh expression of church
Four years ago I was employed part-time as a pioneer minister at St Lawrence's, Gnosall, to explore how we could connect with children, young people and families not attracted to traditional church.
We are only a small village of about 300-400 families and one of my first objectives was to look at the contact made through baptisms - of which we had a good number each year. However, we were not seeing any on-going link with these families. As a result, we developed a structured approach to baptism preparation. In three evening sessions we’d look at God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit before I’d talk about the events and groups we offered to help children in their Christian journey.
It was at the first of these preparation sessions when I mentioned our children's groups which, at the time, catered for youngsters of school age; I was really challenged when one of the mums then said, 'So, I have my child baptised and the next time I bring her back is when she is five?' From that I realised we needed to do something, so I launched Play and Praise on Thursday afternoons in church. From the start I made it clear that this was not a playgroup, but a worship service. It's really important to look at how such things are set up in the first place and what their intention and the values are.
In terms of format, we have between 30-40 minutes of worship before the children get on with some art and craft activities associated with the theme of the service. It is quite structured in that it follows a traditional church pattern of liturgy, we usually have:
When we started Play and Praise, we had five children and three parents. Now we average around 18 children and 12 adults with about 30 children on the books in all. Some come every week without fail; most come three out of every four weeks and others come occasionally.
We don’t stop for school holidays at all because it's a worship service. Other services in the church don't stop simply because it isn't term time and I insisted that we keep going too so Play and Praise meets 50 weeks a year. The only times we miss are Maundy Thursday and the week between Christmas and New Year. Many churches only offer something like Play and Praise during term time but people appreciate the regularity and look forward to it as one of the highlights of the week.
We always have members of our Play and Praise church leaving us to start school but others come to fill the gap. In the past, we - as a church - developed close links with the school and thankfully this is continuing with a ministry team there and areas of reflection throughout the school. The pupils also come across to the church for services, prayer stations, events etc.
I now alternate the running of Play and Praise with the rector, Mark Bridgen, and others from the Sunday congregations are involved on a rota basis. We have a Facebook Play and Praise page and a monthly coffee morning and discussion group for young mums called Yummy Mummies; we also launched a house group for those wanting to go deeper in the Christian faith.
Play and Praise tries to serve in ways that are appropriate for people who haven't previously been involved in church. It is a growing, Christian community and I would say it is now maturing into a fresh expression. It's connecting with the children – and their parents - and they are all moving on in their journey of faith and starting to do what any other Christian community would do. They have the DNA as to what Christian living is all about…..
First published on the Fresh Expressions website (www.freshexpressions.org.uk)
In April, the Zambian Diocese of Lusaka organized the first ever camp for teenagers; an initiative that was birthed in small group discussions of the teenagers. They have attended youth camps before and they still came to a conclusion that there must be a Teen Camp. The age group for the participants was restricted from 12-16 years old. We realize that teen age goes up to 19 but in our part of the world a 17 year would have completed grade 12 and be preparing for college or university. They therefore do not count themselves as teenagers.
The camp was full of life, singing, jokes and dancing into the night with most of the young people being forced to sleep. Their energy was amazing as they woke up early in the morning at 0600 hrs for devotions and learning how to have Morning Prayer. The program was largely directed by the teenagers taking the roles of worship leaders, ushers, intercessors, sports coordinators, catering helpers and in an amazing way towards the end of the camp we discovered some that were counselors to their friends.
This article stems from the group discussion that was held during the camp. This camp was different from others; being the first, it was full of group discussions and presentations that really opened our eyes as helpers in the camp. In one of the discussions each group was tasked to consider this question: “If you had the authority to improve things in the church, what would be your priority?” This particular group during their presentation started by saying,
“The Anglican church today is not for teenagers, so we propose to create another church for teenagers”.
All of their colleagues in the other groups clapped and gave supporting feedback for the presented suggestion. So during discussion time we decided to engage the young people on this issue by asking them to justify their point. The following were some of the reasons raised:
After this discussion, a consensus was reached that we start Teen Fellowships that would meet on Saturdays or during the week to address these issues.
When we returned the teenagers in my parish requested further to start a Teen Church, at least once every month, parallel to the main service. This service will be experimented on 2nd June 2013 and we hope to develop it further. The question still remains however,
“Where is the place of young people in the life of the Anglican Communion?”
“Have we done enough to nurture and support them with a strong foundation or are we assuming too much?”
Fr. Bob Sihubwa, Lusaka Diocese – Zambia
Information about some of the long term youth strategies of Lusaka Diocese can be found in the August 2011 edition of Witness6.7 at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi/newsletters/2011/august/index.cfm
You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats children. In the Old Testament while the pagans sacrificed their children to the pagan gods, the Jews taught their children these words: “Hear, O Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deu. 6:4-5). Our children are a gift from God. We should treasure them and not take them for granted. Jesus declared that “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Then he offered this solemn warning, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Because Jesus loves children, those who harm children will answer to Him.
Psalm 127-128 were placed together for a reason. They teach us how God feels about children and how they can be a blessing and not a burden.
The children are very important part of the society. If you have trained children well you will have good society. The things which they learn from their childhood remain in their life even at old age. If we look at our situation in Pakistan more than 46% are at the age of 15 years or under which means that they are part of the very big population and they need to be addressed seriously.
I am writing on one aspect which is how God looks at children. In other words the importance in God’s eye and what is the responsibility of the Churches. Let’s look at God’s view of Children.
I. Children are a Heritage from God.
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3).
Children are a special sign of God’s favor. Instead of building empires, parents must first build a family. Children are a “heritage” from God, a way of preserving the family into the next generation. Sometimes a couple can’t have children for various reasons. This text does not say that not having children is a sign of God’s judgment. It simply declares that children are a blessing from the Lord. In holding up this truth, it’s important that we say what the Bible says and not go beyond that.
The Lord Jesus loved little children … and so should we!
II. Children need proper Training and Attention.
“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4).
An arrow is small but powerful. Think what our children can do. An arrow must be sharpened well. So must we shape our children. An arrow can travel far. Who knows how far our children will go? An arrow must be aimed in order to hit the target. What are you aiming at?
III. Children are the Strength and Honour of the Home.
“Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies at the gate” (Psalm 127:5).
Children were the Biblical version of Social Security. They provided for their parents in their old age. If parents have loving children, their future is more secure than if they had millions in the bank.
Derek Kidner points out that raising children can be tiresome and difficult. Children are both a burden and a blessing. It is not untypical of God’s gifts that first they are liabilities before they become assets. The greater their promise, the more challenging will be the task of raising God’s children. It is likely that our children will be a handful before they become a quiverful.
IV. God Fearing Parents – God Fearing Children.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128:3, 4). Olive shoots speak of great potential for the future. Mature olive trees produce fruit, wood, and valuable oil. In the same way the children given by God have vast potential for good in this world. What a privilege God gives us to be caretakers of his vessels of blessing for the world. No one can tell what a child may become.
We live in a world that downplays the value of childhood and causes our kids to grow up too fast. It’s never been easy to be a child, but today the pressures are greater than ever. I believe happy families are still possible where God’s Word is taken seriously.It is important to have family devotion together. The Word of God is our right direction for life.
We can partner with the Lord Jesus Christ in the building of our homes. When we do, our families will be blessed, our children will prosper, our marriages will flourish, and Jesus Christ will be praised. And when our work on earth is done, we may look back with joy and say, “God blessed us with a happy Christian family.” There is no greater reward, no better testimony, no higher goal for Christian parents. If we can say that when the day is done, we may go out of this world singing, knowing that we prevailed in the one area of life that matters the most.
The Rt. Rev. Irfan Jamil, Bishop of Lahore, Church of Pakistan
“Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In his night charge before my diaconal ordination my Bishop told us that the most immediate need for evangelism and discipleship in the church was for the children God had already given us. He said, before organizing a big campaign to reach the lost, evangelize and disciple the children who are already in your church. This struck a chord for me and set the tone for all my ordained ministry so far.
It is obvious that the church should be reaching out to children but there have also been particular motivations for me in the different contexts in which I have worked. I have ministered in a Cumbrian market town, a small city and I am currently the chaplain to the English speaking community in Rio de Janeiro.
The first context is being Anglican. As a church which baptizes infants I believe that we have a particular responsibility to nurture our members; to obey the great commission to not only baptize but to teach and disciple.
The second context is being in a modern Western culture. My small experience has highlighted a cultural shift for me; in many parts of the world and forty years ago in Britain it was the parents who brought their children to church, but in my current experience it is now the children who bring the parents to church. If the children do not like church the parents stop coming, if the children ask to go back to church the parents come along. Therefore, offering effective ministry to children opens the door for broader evangelism to their parents.
In the past I have visited conference talks on how to build up children’s work in the church and found that they are led by people who have thriving Sunday schools and youth groups, and their advice has often sounded like “first gather together all the children,” leading me to wish that someone would write a book - “How to build up children’s work where there are none.” How do you start to offer ministry to children if you do not have any children in your church?
I have ministered in three different parishes that have been in this situation and I thought I might offer some helpful tips.
Every church, even those with no children at all, can be made welcoming to children. People can be encouraged to be understanding, facilities such as toys and colouring can be made available should any children arrive. However, these are background details, what has worked for me is to always offer a Family Service once a month on the same Sunday each month. I have done this in churches with no children and churches with just a few. Sometimes I have made excruciating mistakes but I have also seen very positive results. Having a regular Family Service gives a message to the church community and the wider community that your church is open for children. The phrase Family Service has gone out of fashion but it works on two levels to give a very helpful message. Firstly, it says to all members of the church, young and old, families and singles that there is a service in the month when the whole church family is gathered together compromising their preferences to share worship. Second, it implies to those outside the church that there is a service which it is suitable to bring whole families to.
You manage to get some children to come to church, you show them a lovely welcome, and then what do you do with them? You teach and disciple them and their parents. There are many effective and interesting ways to teach, my main point here would be that it should be intentional. We are not child minding in church, we are worshipping. Selecting good Sunday school teachers for non-family service Sundays and choosing an effective syllabus is vital. Most of all church should not be boring, if church is boring what kind of advert are we giving people for heaven. Inspiring teaching can be informative, inspiring and fun. Obviously a church needs to work with the resources it has. Sometimes offering a Sunday school simply means finding some individuals who are willing to have something prepared should any children appear.
When the church is ready to accept children you then need to find a way to invite them in. This will be very different in different contexts. We found a one week free holiday club brought a Sunday school of eight children to a church that previously had none. Also, contact with local schools and youth groups followed by invitations to special services can reap benefits. It is the calling of the church to make disciples of all nations, to baptize them and to teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded. With some effort we can make our churches places that do this effectively for all ages. May God bless you in your work with children.
Ben Phillips, chaplain to the English speaking community in Rio de Janeiro
Children represent arguably the largest unreached people group and the most receptive people group in the world. Yet the church is largely unprepared to take up the huge opportunities for mission to children. (Evangelization of Children - Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 47 (2010))
Various surveys and investigations done over the last 20 to 30 years indicate that the church is still ineffective in the ministry to children and young people. Parents and church leaders are still complaining about the attitude of today’s children and youth and that they are not willing to listen to instruction. They feel that young people lack commitment and dedication and cannot be depended on for anything. On the other hand the young people are complaining about lack of opportunities being given them to express their faith and worship in our churches. They feel marginalised and on the periphery and are not involved in general church activities, especially in decision making. They would rather leave the church than grow up in an environment that does not suit them.
However, the list of issues (and perceptions about one another) are endless and too many to list in this article. In our experience in Southern Africa, we have summarised our top priority problems, as being:
However, new approaches are required. We need to think a whole lot more differently about this ministry if we are going to make a reasonable impact. Here are some of our thoughts we grappled with:
These may sound like high ideals, but it is nothing short of what Christ would expect if we are going to make great disciples of our young ones.
So what have we done about this?
The Provincial Youth Council in the Province of Southern Africa has just launched a project to put a Development Team of experts together to develop a more outcomes based curricula and training programme for the spiritual formation and development of children from age 3 to 18+. It seeks to define the outcomes expected of any age as well as a curricula which provides tools, guidelines and materials to help the facilitators (Sunday School Teachers, youth leaders, instructors, etc), achieve the outcomes. In addition, a facilitator training programme will be developed for all those involved in children and youth ministries.
So, instead of just plugging in programmes and activities, etc, we hope we will end up with a clear framework for the ministry against which we will be able to assess and measure the success of the development of the young.
This curriculum will define the minimum that a child or young person will need in order to develop as good Christians and to make a meaningful contribution not only to the life of the Church, but also in the community where they live. It is foundational in nature and sets the platform on which much can be built using all the gifting and passions of the persons.
We will be back in a later edition to report back on progress being made.
Tony Lawrence – Provincial Youth Coordinator – Anglican Church in Southern Africa (ACSA)
The Diocese of West Malaysia has embarked on a life-style journey for all parishioners which we called Intentional Discipleship. Since 2007, the Diocese has set forth a vision to transform the whole diocese gradually and steadily into a Christ-like diocese. Knowing that this is a massive shift and huge programme to shoulder, it was deliberately chopped up into bite-size manageable parcels of mini-vision. In short, the following steps are taken and adhered to closely:
Our aim is that by 2020, our diocese can be vividly seen as a diocese progressing towards the pathway of Intentional Discipleship.
Bishop Moon Hing
Police Captain Oscar Ugarte lay in his prison cell, his life in tatters. One shot from his gun had led to his being divorced by his wife, abandoned by family and friends, sacked from his job and facing twenty five years in jail. He was alone and crushed. In success he had not been a religious man, but in despair – a bit like the thief on the cross - he turned in repentance to God. Although there was no human agent to present him the Gospel, things started to change in his life, the first sign being an element of hope and peace. After a few months, some missionaries visited the prison and, on hearing his story, presented him the Gospel message which he joyfully embraced. They also gave him the SEAN course Abundant Life which he devoured and began to put into practice. Other prisoners, seeing the change in his life, began to open up to the Gospel and also to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
After several years the prison church passed the hundred mark, and Oscar continued his SEAN studies course by course as he pastored the new flock. One day a Peruvian mission team entered the prison to support this effort, and to Oscar’s astonishment one of the team was an attractive woman who had been one of his many lovers in his earlier life. After a long and emotional sharing of their new found faith she told Oscar how happy she was to see him now as a Christian and asked him, if he would like to meet his nine year old daughter Patricia, fruit of their past affair and whom Oscar did not even know existed!
Miracles continued to happen, when out of the blue, Oscar’s case was reviewed. It was concluded that his shot had been in self-defence, and that his conviction had resulted from internal grudges against him. On leaving prison Oscar got a job as a security guard, married Patricia’s mother and continued in active Christian service. One day, he was asked to take over a small struggling congregation on the outskirts of Lima, the capital of Peru. When he arrived, the congregation of thirty halved, as many refused to accept him as Pastor. He persevered and remembering his SEAN training in prison, immediately set up his congregational Bible Institute to disciple new believers and train new workers.
Over the past decade, his congregation “Jesús es el Camino” (Jesus is the Way) has grown to over three hundred active and trained members. Instead of making his church grow further, Oscar has preferred to reach out and share their blessings with other small struggling congregations and help them to grow. For this they have purchased a bus, and every Sunday afternoon they send out a team of fifty trained evangelists to work alongside the members of these other churches to visit people in their homes. In this way, the other congregations are also growing and adopting SEAN courses to disciple and train their members. Indeed – “Jesús es el Camino” (Jesus IS the way!!)
This story by Terry Barratt, first appeared in SEAN International’s newsletter in August 2011
SEAN International is a member of The Evangelical Alliance and Global Connections http://www.seaninternational.com/
Recent Church of England statistics highlight that the downward spiral of church attendance has finally begun to halt. This is encouraging news, but it also means that the church has to increasingly look for new ways of being church outside that of the confines of Sunday worship.
Messy Church is doing just that, it has taken seriously the needs and interests of non-churched people, tailoring the setting, day, time and activities to appeal to a congregation that would not normally attend the more traditional forms of church.
It is clearly meeting these needs, as the growth of Messy Church continues, not only in Britain but worldwide. But as with any new form of church the age old question is always there “Are people of all ages coming to faith and is it making disciples?” Is this simply a craft club for children or is it beginning to fulfil all the requirements of a true church, which includes making disciples and nurturing them towards a more mature spiritual faith.
In his new book “Making Disciples in Messy Church” Paul Moore analyses the thinking behind the messy church initiative and answers the many questions raised about the validity and efficiency of this form of Church, and what we understand by the term “discipleship”.
Paul Moore makes a strong case for Messy Church and provides the reader with helpful insights into the many stages of becoming a Christian and the strategies for making and retaining disciples, principally by getting to know people as individuals and encouraging them through friendships and participation in church. He reminds us that someone who became a Christian, several years ago, is on exactly the same journey toward God as someone just starting out! If Messy Church does not yet have figures showing that vast amounts of adults and children are becoming Christians and advancing in discipleship, it does not mean that God is not working in their lives.
The aim of Messy Church is to reach whole families, and is especially inclusive of children while quite clearly also catering for the needs of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles alike. One of its main aims is to facilitate a more positive experience of Christian community while dealing with the key issue of building relationships and trust. It works on the principle of mentoring and coaching and learning through experience.
I was particularly interested by the quote from the book ‘Moving from courses to coaching’; Bob Hopkins, a member of the Fresh Expressions team, explains that “In order to encourage and enable future leaders of the church for pioneer ministry, there should be more non-formal training in the shape of apprenticeships.”
Having in my previous career been taught 90% in an apprenticeship model, I can fully empathise with this method and style. Learning by “formal teaching” isn’t the only method. If a child wants to learn to dance or play football, then a lecture, talk or a book would not be as much help as, experiencing it, observing it or experimenting, so that eventually the skills are there; this is key, though not just to children but to us all. After all, Jesus’ model was one of making disciples and leaders through the coaching and apprenticeship model.
Where children and adults are concerned, I often argue the case for not always doing things separately. Should intergenerational church really be the norm? Why do we split up into age segregated groups? Each week we continue to send our children out to their groups because they will not understand the “teaching” the adults receive. Surely discipleship is far more than just understanding formal teaching?
Again in my experience, all discipleship courses are aimed specifically at adults. Why is there not more intergenerational material available, allowing both adults and children to learn together? Should we be looking at how to be an all-age disciple making community, being far more intergenerational in what we do, disciples are made in a community.
Paul Moore by his own admission does not have all the answers; one thing is very clear there is not one method for making disciples, or one size fits all. I am inclined to agree with him that “We should persevere with intentional intergenerational disciple making and see how God makes us grow together”
Now, that is exciting!
Paul Moore’s book is excellent and well worth reading whether you lead a Messy Church or not. Making Disciples In Messy Church: Paul Moore BRF publishing 2013.
Sue Mitchell, Children and Families Missioner, Diocese of Liverpool , England
How does being Anglican shape our discipleship? The report from the TEAC (Theological Education for the Anglican Communion) consultation on ‘The Anglican Way’, held in Singapore in May 2007, gives some pointers.
The Anglican Way is a particular expression of the Christian Way of being the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It is formed by and rooted in Scripture, shaped by its worship of the living God, ordered for communion, and directed in faithfulness to God’s mission in the world. In diverse global situations Anglican life and ministry witnesses to the incarnate, crucified and risen Lord, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Together with all Christians, Anglicans hope, pray and work for the coming of the reign of God.
Formed by Scripture
Shaped through Worship
Ordered for Communion
Directed by God’s Mission
Other resources from TEAC can be found at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/theological/
The Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative now has 450 registered participants based in at least forty different countries. We also have over650friends in our facebook group. The majority of the facebook friends are not registered, so we are confident that we are in touch with at least 900 different participants around the Anglican Communion; That’s 900 people with different stories to tell about how they’re involved in evangelism and church growth in their own contexts; 900 people we can all learn from and share with.
The Initiative is you, the participants, so we encourage you to use the Initiative as a way of keeping in touch, supporting and encouraging each other. You can:
Participate by registering - if you have not already done so, the online form is available on http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi — we will inform the core group person responsible for your region about you and make sure you are sent this newsletter six times a year;
Become a facebook friend – once you have joined facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/anglicanwitness/ the facebook page provides an interactive forum so that you can share stories, prayer requests, resources and questions with each other;
Explore the website – at www.aco.org/ministry/mission/ecgiyou will find back copies of the newsletter, lists of evangelism resources and various resources that others have produced to help with their work;
Encourage others – who are involved in evangelism and church growth to register, join the facebook page and explore the website;
Share your stories – so that we can include these within the newsletter; stories of how God is working through your church or organisation to grow his church; stories to encourage others; stories so that we can learn from your experience. Send stories, preferably of between 300 and 700 words, with photos to firstname.lastname@example.org Material for the October newsletter is needed by 15 August; we welcome all relevant material but we will include a special emphasis upon ‘evangelism and reconciliation’;
Tell us - about resources: books; websites; courses, good practice; prayers, forthcoming events etc that we can include in future newsletters or on the website;
Post – stories, helpful web-links, resources, prayer requests, questions, information etc on the facebook page;
Translate - this newsletter, and other material, into the languages of those who cannot read in English; at this stage we do not have the resources to do this ourselves;
Pray - for the work featured in the newsletters and facebook page and give thanks for God’s faithfulness.
The Mission Department
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew’s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP, UK