A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children
In my first post about Vision I talked about my Personal Vision,
In my last post I asked: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched?’
This time I want to ask the question: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For Children?’
According to analysis of church attendance statistics in 2010 the average age of churchgoers was 61 (against the average adult age in the population of 48), and on average half of all churchgoers are pensioners. In the UK there are approximately 12.5 Million children under the age of 16 of these approximately 218,600 will usually be in a church service on a Sunday. That equates to less than 2% of children in the UK!
Why do we need to be ‘A Church For Children?’ Put simply – if we aren’t the church will cease to exist in the next generations!
So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For Children?’ It means that children and young people have as much right to be part of who we are, how we worship and what we do as adults have. It means that the resources we give to working with children are the very best, both in terms of people and in terms of finances. It means that children have as much right to be fully part of our Sunday corporate worship as adults have even if their expression of worship is different.
At St Paul’s I believe we have come along way in becoming a Church for Children. We introduced the areas at the back of the building for toddlers which have been well used. I very, very rarely hear reports of children being ‘tut-tutted’ for the noise they make (although I am always saddened when I do hear such comments). There is a simple answer if the noise of children at the back of our building disturbs you – there is always room on the front row! A lot is invested in our relationship with Sarisbury Junior and Infant Schools and that investment will reap long term benefits that we may never see personally. Our Carol services have been revitalised as we have welcomed the choir from Sarisbury Junior School and in recent years we have had to hold multiple children’s services on Christmas Eve to fit everyone in.
More recently the growth of our work with young families in our Under 5s and Under 2s groups has been fantastic. Led by Clare and Brenda we regularly have contact with over 30 families with good relationships and friendships being built. I am convinced that one of the side effects of this is the increase in the requests for infant baptism that we have seen in the past 12 months. Out of this the Tea Service started in December 2010 and has grown and matured in the last 18 months, so much so that others have come to see how we do it. Once again this has been led by Clare, Phil and their Small Group who have mission to young families at the foundation of their group.
This is good news, however we are still only reaching a small percentage of the children and young families in Sarisbury Green. We have very few families with school aged children who regularly attend our Sunday Services, I wonder why? Is the content wrong? Is the music style wrong? Is the time wrong? I wonder if this last one is perhaps one of the most important questions. I’ve seen some of our families leave because sport happens on a Sunday morning, or because children are with mum and dad on alternate weekends and Sunday morning is just the wrong time. Perhaps to be truly a Church for Children we need to experiment with moving our Family Services to 4pm on a Sunday with a bring-and-share tea and see if more families come?
What do you think?