Showing posts in 'Things I wish I'd known Series'

I wish I'd known...about parents

Alison Mitchell | Dec 3, 2013

From Jane:
So, what one thing do I wish I'd known before starting children's work? This may or may not be relevant, but the first thing that came to my mind was when I first started teaching in an infant school. Nobody had told me about the parents! They were terrifying, and had so much more experience than me. I didn't know what my role should be with them, I though I was just there to teach the children. I guess it's similar in church. We join teams because we love the children and want to teach them about Jesus. But what about the parents? How are we interacting with them? How are we encouraging them in their parenting and their discipling of their children. I think even new young leaders can engage with the parents. It lifts my heart when I hear that one of my children has prayed or shared something helpful.

I once led a training session called “No child is an island”. In other words, all children come in some kind of family or group (even if that’s a foster family or some kind of residential care). And yet we can easily run our groups as if a child is an isolated unit. So, as Jane asks: What about the parents?... continue reading

I wish I'd known...that youthwork doesn't fix my faith

Alison Mitchell | Nov 28, 2013

From Ed:
"I wish I had realised that being in full-time ministry would not fix the flaws in my faith, spiritual discipline or relationship with Christ. I'm still learning that if I'm not personally loving Christ, then my ministry becomes empty and unpleasant. I am a Christian first, before all else. Being paid as a children's worker does not automatically kick start my faith. It sometimes helps, but more often my sinfulness means it gets in the way of my love of Christ. I heartily recommend Serving without Sinking to understand this issue further."... continue reading

I wish I'd known...how to work with volunteers

Alison Mitchell | Nov 27, 2013

From Mary:
"One thing I wished I knew before starting children’s work was how hard it is to work with Volunteers – not only finding them but just how to use them too."

There are a few of us who work in isolation, as a one-man’s band – which has pressures of its own. But whether you’re a full-timer, or a volunteer yourself, most of us work alongside at least one volunteer. Of course, if everyone who helped with a children’s or youth group was lovely, enthusiastic, hard-working, cheerful, reliable, prayerful and a delight to be with… our groups wouldn’t reflect the church at all!

Your church and mine are full of forgiven sinners – being changed by God’s Spirit to be more like Jesus, but still far from perfect. So how do we work together? Here are a few ideas that might help:... continue reading

I wish I’d known…how to answer questions

Alison Mitchell | Nov 26, 2013

From Sally:
"I wish I had known that young people have loads of questions about faith, so don't make difficult subjects taboo – they want answers!"

Most children and teenagers like to ask questions. Most leaders and helpers worry they won’t be able to answer them! The most important guideline here is: It’s ok not to know the answer.

We so easily put pressure on ourselves over this:

  • “They expect me to know everything, so I’ll have to pretend”
  • “I don’t understand the hard stuff myself, so I’m bound to get it wrong”
  • “I don’t want to talk about difficult stuff, so I’ll ban discussions about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll”
  • “If I get the answer wrong, it might mess up their understanding for ever”
  • “If I say anything too controversial, the parents will be angry with me”
  • “If I give an answer they don’t like, they may leave the group”

I wish I'd known...what "normal" youthwork is like

Alison Mitchell | Nov 21, 2013

From Rich:
"I think the thing I would love to have known is what is the normal experience for a youth worker - because there have been times when I've been under pressure when I've not known whether I'm doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, from what people have said - and whether that means I should / shouldn't be doing the job."

From Dave:
"I wish someone had told me that I’d get better if I stayed in it! When I started I knew one thing – how to play the chocolate game. I’m still pretty awful at thinking of games, but I did spend my first couple of years at youth leaders training weekends with a notebook asking for new games from longer established youth workers!! And I do know where to look on the internet now for games!"... continue reading

I wish I’d known… about the pain

Alison Mitchell | Nov 20, 2013

What is youth and children’s work like? A painful privilege…

From Andy:
"I think one thing (maybe not the top thing) I wish someone had made clear to me when I started youthwork was that you will experience pain as the young people that I had invested time/love/energy in choose not to come to youth group/church."

Andy’s comment made me stop and think. You often come across parents who complain about the group because their son/daughter doesn’t want to come any more. Or church leadership who express concern about dwindling numbers. But it’s easy to forget that, when a young person drifts away, it hurts the leader too.... continue reading

I wish I'd known...the big picture of the Bible

Alison Mitchell | Nov 19, 2013

From Heather:
As a fairly new Christian, when I started doing Children’s work, I didn’t have a clear picture of the whole Bible story – I gained it quite quickly, but it would have been good to have a clear overall Bible story picture!

From Andrew:
I know it was a long time ago when I started Youth Work but without a doubt the thing I most wish I had experienced/known is a Bible Overview. Such a thing was rare or even unknown in the 1960s. Now they are freely available but I do wonder how many of our Youth and Children's workers have had the opportunity to hear one taught or have studied one. I believe my Crusader and Covenanter work would have been so much more effective had I had that input, and the lads I taught would have had a better grasp of the gospel.

Again, I can echo what Heather and Andrew are saying. I had been a children’s worker for 15 years before being introduced to a simple Bible overview. It made a huge difference to my own understanding, and informed every part of my teaching too. And now, when I teach, I make sure there’s a Bible timeline around so that the group can see where a particular event or character fits in Bible history.

There are various tools around to help us grasp the big picture of the Bible. Here are a few to try:

  • God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
  • Mini Bible Timeline: I created this to go with an issue of XTB Bible-reading notes for children, but have since given copies to many adults as well. It’s very small when folded up - easy to tuck inside your Bible.
  • CEP Bible Timeline: Ideally, I’d have one of these on the wall whenever exploring the Bible with children and teens (and adults!). Earthing Bible events within Bible history helps all of us understand them, and also reinforces that they are real historical events that can be pinpointed in time. Bible maps are great for this as well.

Youth and children's work: things I wish I'd known...

Alison Mitchell | Nov 19, 2013

I asked a bunch of children’s and youth workers to think back to when they first began. For some that was last year; for others it’s 20, 30, even 40 or more years ago. You may think that youthwork has changed a lot in that time but, interestingly, the issues raised were mostly the same.

So this blog series - which will be running this week and next - is taking their answers and using them to help us think through some of the joys and difficulties of children’s and youth ministry, whether you’re just starting out or have been around a while. And if some of these seem obvious to you, maybe you could forward this blog to someone you know who is just starting out.

From Matt:
“I think one thing would be to not expect instant results from the youth and children's work.”

I echo this strongly. We care hugely about the children and young people in our care, so we long to see them respond to the gospel message and grow in their own relationship with God. But we need to remember that they are in God’s hands, and that He loves them far more than we ever will. So we can trust Him to be at work through His word, at the time and in the way He knows is best.

If we look for instant results from “our work” we put needless pressure on ourselves, and forget that the Lord is sovereign. We have a responsibility to teach the Bible as well and faithfully as we can, and to model what it means to know God as our heavenly Father. But changing a child’s heart is His work, not ours - 2 Corinthians 4 v 4-6; Acts 16 v 14.

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