‘Lots of children and young people come to our outreach activities – but we never see them in church on a Sunday. What can we do?’ It’s a common question. Your support is enabling SU development worker Steve Hutchinson to help identify some answers.
Steve says, ‘Perhaps a better question to ask is, “How do we help children and young people who aren’t in our church services progress on their faith journey?” For some, attendance at Sunday services might be the best thing to encourage but, for others, the answer could lie elsewhere.
‘Relationships are vital on the faith journey. When children and young people trust us, they open up about what’s important to them, and we can help them explore the answers that Jesus off ers. Having a day to-day relationship with them also means they can see how we live out our faith (and we know how important that is from SU holidays!). So if our outreach activities aren’t building relationships, we need to think what we can do to change that.
‘Many churches run toddler groups, which are attended by half of all the UK’s toddlers. It’s a valuable service, but does it result in parents and children knowing about Jesus, wanting to explore if the Christian faith is for them? Often the answer is “no” because the Christians running the groups are too busy serving refreshments and running activities to be able to build relationships with the parents. There’s a need to recruit volunteers specifically to chat with the parents and carers. Often those conversations will turn naturally to matters of faith and an opportunity to invite them to a “next step” activity.
‘In a schools setting, churches need to do more than run assemblies which provide little opportunity for relationship building. Regular activities – holiday clubs, after-school clubs or football sessions in the park – work better in that respect.
‘Once relationships have been built, in order for faith to grow, children and young people need a safe space in which to explore questions about faith more deeply and intentionally. It could be a “So Why God?” or “Youth Alpha” course or something informal – a weeknight club, or going in a group on an SU weekend residential.
‘But regardless of where they are on the faith journey, we should aim to make every child and young person that we encounter feel genuinely part of our Christian community from the outset. God first loved us before we loved him. We need to value, love and accept those who are still on the journey to faith.’
Read more stories from Connecting You magazine
This story features in our supporter and prayer magazine, Connecting You. You can read Connecting You online here.
- Connecting You