A Child Friendly Story
22 October 2015
Some thoughts on our Child Friend Journey so far at Shotts EU Congregational Church.
As I watched Finnlay, who is 9 years old wearing his football strip going around the church uplifting the offering and hearing everyone after the service wishing him luck and saying “hope you score a goal today" I knew we had come a long way at Shotts.
We had started off thinking we were ok at Shotts. We liked having children in the church and the Sunday School were always encouraged to take part and a lot of the congregation knew them by name. After the first Child Friendly Coaching Day we attended in Airdrie in March 2014 we realised it was about much more and we had a lot of work to do. Three people attended and it was a wonderful day full of information, presentations, workshops and discussion and we were excited by what we heard and hoped that we could get our congregation to be as enthusiastic as we were.
At Shotts we were in a vacancy situation but we were sure everyone would agree that we should move forward on this and as we talked to the congregation and explained child friendly everyone did indeed agree we should go ahead. We asked for volunteers and we formed a Child Friendly Team. The team then went about completing the church questionnaire. This was a very useful tool and after several discussions, meetings and a lot of prayer we finally came to an agreement on where we were really at now and how we should proceed.
Now we could involve the children - at last - we asked them to fill in a questionnaire about the church and how they felt. The children at Shotts are enthusiastic and were happy to have their voices heard. They filled in the questionnaire with words and pictures. We now had the children thoughts and feelings, the congregation’s commitment. We all spent time in prayer asking God to bless and help us and although we have had highs and lows along the way we have felt God’s guiding hand in everything we have done.
PRAYER was something that came up in most of their answers to the questionnaire so now we have one of the children each week say a prayer in the Church before they go out to Sunday School. It is wonderful to hear them stand up in Church and praise and thank God. Their prayers can be simple but very meaningful and they always manage to remember to pray for others. We also agreed that we should all say the Lord’s prayer together before the children leave for Sunday School.
MUSIC was another thing mentioned in their responses and we try to include more children’s music and more upbeat music at the start of the Service. Although some of us are not great singers we enjoy this lively praise and we are lucky at Shotts to have a very good singing group who are a great help.
HELPING before the Service – If any of the children wish to take a turn standing at the Church door with the people on door duty they now do this. They welcome everyone coming in and give them a hymn book. This has helped both the children to get to know most of the congregation and for the congregation to get to know the children.
A little further along our journey we talked about uplifting the offering and now every second week the children uplift the offering. The children are always happy to help and it reminds us all that whatever your age there are many ways we serve God.
Christmas is always a joyful time but when we planned our Nativity Service in 2014 we had both children and adults taking part. It worked out really well with some of the older children narrating and a few adults playing some of the parts. We all worked together and it resulted in a wonderful morning of worship and praise for us and the visitors to our Church.
At Harvest time the children set up the table for the Harvest Sunday Service with some of the congregation. It was a great opportunity for both children and adults to talk about Harvest and to share their thoughts with each other and for the children to ask questions while setting up the table in an informal setting before Church
As well as the children who come to Church taking an active part in our Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Services we encouraged them to create special art work or posters to be displayed in Church during these Services. I have heard some of the adults congratulate them on their work after the service and again there is the opportunity to talk of God’s love and the talents he has given us.
DECISIONS – As we were in a vacancy situation and were starting to search for a new Minister we discussed involving the children. We all agreed that we should talk to them and find out their thoughts on what they hoped the new person would be like. We asked them what they hoped the person would do and if they thought they should change anything. They wrote everything down and drew pictures as usual. We emphasised to them our new Minister would come in God’s time and we just had to keep praying. They enjoyed having this input and it was good for us to see things through a child’s eyes.
The children in the church have supported various charities through the Sunday school such as Christian Aid, Water Aid and others closer to home but when they heard about the Nepal Earthquake they wanted to help. They asked the Mangers and the congregation if they would be willing to join with them so that a bigger donation could be sent to help. We were pleased they felt able to ask and that everyone was doing something to help together.
We had a low point when we tried a Fun Day and didn’t get any response but when we discussed it we felt that one of the reasons was that we had no Minister visiting the local school and the connection was not there so we decided to take a different approach.
One of the child friendly team took flyers to the local primary school for all the children inviting them to join us for a picnic and walk. Unfortunately again we did not get a response.
However we kept on trying and in November 2014 we sent a letter to every child on the Sunday School register but who no longer came to Church. We also send letters to families that we knew who had children but didn’t come to Church. We invited them to join us to learn about the Christmas Story. To come along to our Christmas craft day, our children’s party and to join in with the Nativity. We had a mixed response but there is one little boy and his Mum who now come regularly to Church.
At Shotts we have a yearly outreach through Samaritain’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child. If for any reason anyone in the church congregation cannot pack their own shoebox or they just wish to bring some supplies for the boxes the children work hard covering the boxes and packing them ready to be sent away. It is good that the children can help others when they are not as able and also for them to try and understand how little some people in the world have.
The children joined in with some fundraising for the fabric of the Church. Adults and children took part in a sponsored walk. All the children walked with the adults and we had a good time chatting, sharing our sweets while raising money for the church.
When we received the good news we had been awarded the Child Friendly Church status we were really pleased and excited and thanked God for his guidance and goodness. All the changes have enriched our Church at Shotts and it can only be a good thing to be able to look at what you are doing and how you are doing it and with God’s help find a better way.
Child Friendly is a journey and not a destination and we will continue to find ways to glorify God on that journey.
Our prayers have been answered and the Lord has sent us a wonderful new Minister and we have already been discussing our next steps, communion and all age services. He has also opened up the link with the local school and is visiting again and we look forward to welcoming new “little” people into our Child Friendly Church in the future.
Shotts Congregational Church