As the new year dawned and our eyes looked towards a post-pandemic world, I was asked about my hopes and dreams for the church, and particularly for children. This is part of an article originally published by Prayer Magazine…
- I dream of a church where we miss those children who are not in our midst.
Perhaps our children have returned to our church activities, or perhaps it isn’t yet possible to do so, but our children represent a tiny portion of children in this nation at this time. In 2017, Scripture Union launched its campaign; The 95, reminding the church that only 5% of children in the UK are in regular attendance or membership of a local church. As our doors reopen, and our children return, my prayer is that we genuinely miss the missing, that our hearts break for their absence and that we move to reconnect with them, helping them to discover their place in the Kingdom of God.
- I dream of a church where children can take their place.
Back in the 1980s and 90s, Ishmael; children’s evangelist and worship leader spoke of children as the church of today and the leaders of tomorrow, yet still we are more likely to be found talking of them as the church of tomorrow. Our children have so much not only to gain from being a part of the body of Christ, but so much to give too. Let’s take seriously the gifts and skills they have, lets be brave and let them get stuck in and this means more than trusting them to take the offering plate around. When we allow children space to serve, we enable them to fulfil their God potential, and we allow the body to feel more fully alive.
- I dream of a church who speaks out for children.
In August 2020, The Good Childhood Report, published by the Children’s Society found that children in the UK are the unhappiest in Europe. We must be a voice that speaks into that, offering hope, and speaks out for children, and “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Proverbs 31:8. The events of the last year have highlighted some of the inequalities which exist in our society, and we must speak out for those who have no voice of their own; reminding those who govern over us of their responsibilities to our children.
- I dream of a church where everyone is welcome.
I have been saddened over the last twelve months to discover how many people have suddenly ben able to access church once it moved online. Now, don’t hear me wrong; it’s wonderful that people could access church! But it’s deeply sad that they could not do so before now. Many parents of children with additional needs have been able to access services without fear of being made to feel unwelcome because their child may make a sound, for instance. This is a travesty. When we return to physical gatherings, lets make sure not only our buildings are accessible, but our activities too. If we need to update our training, lets do that now, and be ready to be welcoming to all.
- I dream of a church where Children’s and Youth leaders are cherished.
Many of our children’s and youth leaders have worked tirelessly throughout the last few months to provide resources for families, offer pastoral care, learn new skills to reach toddler groups and children’s church online for instance. And many of these are ‘just volunteers.’ Let us hold them up, thank them, and give them rest. Whatever 2021 looks like in terms of our activities, there will always be something more we ‘could’ be doing, but let’s be the permission givers who allow our teams to take time out; to rest in God and be filled once again.
- I dream of a church who discovers God’s heart for children.
This is the dream above all others. When we ask Father God to share the things He cares for, the things He notices, the things He wants for His kingdom, we will miss those God misses, we will see God at work and the God-shaped potential in others, and we will understand our role in speaking out for those who have no voice, just as Jesus did. This point could perhaps have been made first, perhaps it even should have been, but it is my hope that this dream remains with you as we enter the new year.
We’re now six months into this ‘new year, and marking our own new beginning, as The Resources Cupboard launches as a national and local charitable ministry. We have lived with more uncertainty over the last six months as we continue to wait for things to reopen, restart, relaunch. What is clear is that we can’t go back. The world we inhabited pre-pandemic no longer exists and even if it did, what we had wasn’t working. We need to go forward, prayerfully listening to God’s guiding and taking steps into a future He has prepared for us.