Reimagining Church with Young People

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Steve Leach, a Pioneer Ordinand in this diocese, has written on the subject of Fresh Expressions and young people in Premier Youthwork magazine.  Here’s what he has to say:

Lots of churches are great. Lots of congregations which meet to worship in buildings up and down the land are genuinely forming communities of equipped disciples who are working, together with the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the world. Many have a good spread of ages, are growing, and seeing the kingdom come in their communities.

Unfortunately, lots of churches are less great. Hopefully you are involved with and know of exceptions to the norm, but the general trend of Church decline and aging in the UK is both undeniable and devastating. There are a plethora of sad looking graphs confirming this.

The reality is that we live in a time of incomparable change. This side of the industrial revolution, the world wars and the digital revolution, the only thing for certain is that change is here to stay. In the midst of this turbulence we can take great comfort from the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever but this does not mean, as some presumably assume, that church should remain unchanged. A changing world needs a changing Church. The vast majority of the churches in the UK basically operate in a format that is hundreds of years old, with the best of them only achieving relatively minor cosmetic changes to service style, language and music. This might be a bold statement, but unless we re-find our story and discard the baggage unquestioningly inherited, which was designed by prior generations and is no longer fit for purpose, we are destined for extinction. Like David refusing to fight in Saul’s heavy bronze armour, a fresh look at a stalemate might just be exactly what the Spirit is requiring.

You can read the rest of the article on the Premier Youthwork website.

Contemplative Action: Winchester Lent course 2015

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Did you take part in the Lent course this year, concentrating on the Benedictine Rule of Life? We hope you found the Lent course, and its material, useful.

We’d love to know your thoughts about the course and we’d be very grateful if you could spare the time to complete our survey on this link.

Your feedback will be very useful to those who are already planning the writing of next year’s Lent course.

Charlotte’s Amens

Child praying

A Lutheran pastor shares his humble learnings, thoughts and reflections on the joys and challenges of forming faith in children, youth and families. Click here to find the Forming Faith blog.

Sometimes we lead our children in worship of God, and sometimes they lead us.

Charlotte is a two-year old girl who attends Sunday Worship with her parents and her older brother.  We have a children’s area up the front of our worship space, with a mat for younger children to sit on and age-appropriate and faith-related materials they can engage with during the Service.  Yesterday, like other Sundays, Charlotte was there with other children.  At one point in the Service I (the presiding Minister) shared a multi-sentence prayer on behalf of the congregation.  After each sentence, Charlotte spoke out a loud “Amen”, until finally her “Amen” was joined to that of the rest of the congregation.

Where and how did little Charlotte become an “Amen-er”?  She has been “Amen-ed” into the life of God’s people by experiencing and sharing in regular prayer times in her home and, by extension, in the weekly gatherings of her church family.  Over time the practice of prayer has become natural for her, so that she knows what it is to say “Amen”.  The message is simple.  Children learn to pray by praying.  Children learn to worship by worshiping.  In doing so they find their voice, and those who hear are blessed.

Charlotte’s “Amens” also remind me that while to adults it may seem they are not taking in the sounds and smells and movements of worship, young children are absorbing much more than we realise.  The Spirit of God is at work in them as the Spirit is at work in adults.  Even when playing in our midst they are participating.  We need not be anxious about children “being children” in worship settings.  They do not have to become “adult-like” to hear and receive and engage and respond.

The Message paraphrases Psalm 8:2 as follows:  “Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.”  Charlotte’s enthusiastic expressions of faith reminded all who were gathered that we too should say “So be it, Lord” over and over again in our lives and in our world. Her voice invites us and calls us to make use of ours.  Yes, Charlotte led us in our worship of God yesterday, and we were all better for it!

Exploring your vocation

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The Diocese of Winchester are looking to recruit four young adults (aged 18-30) who are excited about the possibility of exploring their calling and vocation through a year volunteering as Leadership Assistants with a diverse group of churches in Southampton.

This year will give you practical experience in parish ministry, church leadership, community engagement, pioneer mission and fresh expressions of church – while also offering you the opportunity to receive weekly teaching in Christian theology and missional leadership through St Mellitus College.

CEMES Southampton is a new programme funded by the national ‘Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme’ and supported by Winchester Diocese and Southampton Deanery – and is completely FREE to join! !

Click here for full details.

Stirring it up: are you not entertained?

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Thanks, Ben Mizen, from his Diocese of Portsmouth blog, for sharing the following observation:

I’ve been musing on the desire of many churches to “get young people in” and the, often mis-matched, methods used to attract. I think it is a constant challenge for faith communities to compete with activities that can be perceived as competition for the attention of young people. Sadly, the reality of attraction can lead to an entertainment model of youth work where you are only as good the last whacky big event  or fun trip you did. Once you enter into this model (and remember fun is part of youth work but not ALL of it) you can kiss good bye to all your big statements about relational youth ministry and discipleship. Where does faith nurture and Gospel feature???

Here’s a challenging quote from Kyle Lake that featured in a Youthworker.com article. I think it’s really useful…

Throughout my time working in ministry, I have come to understand I never will be able to capture and sustain a student’s attention if I try to entertain him or her. With the amount of time, money, talent and energy that goes into the myriad entertainment options, my hour-and-a-half offering on Sunday is hardly a blip on the radar. The good news is we don’t have to try and entertain students. Instead, we need to help awaken their imaginations and invite them to come along with the church on a journey full of adventure and discovery. Entertainment may occupy our students’ minds, but it never will occupy their hearts like the gospel. The gospel uniquely offers what entertainment cannot: a life full of passion, adventure and discovery. These three things invite life-long transformation and a journey compared with singular events offered through entertainment. The call of Jesus is to give up everything, follow Him, and create a whole new world. Adventure and discovery are elements of this call because they require commitment, courage and action; entertainment does not. The call of entertainment is to consume a product.

Read the rest of the article here (where Kyle uses the word student he means young person for our context).

Pilgrim’s Progress in Alton

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We’ve an exciting opportunity to see some quality theatre on our own doorstep in Hampshire!

It is happening this Friday 15th May 2015 at 7.15pm at the Maltings Centre in Alton (where the Harvest church meet).

Tickets are £10.00 each (plus booking fee per ticket online). E-Tickets can be purchased from Searchlight Theatre Company online: http://www.searchlighttheatre.org/box-office/4589142681

Alternatively tickets can be bought from the Alton Maltings Centre by cash or cheque – 01420 81966.

This production will be going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August – so we are getting a sneak preview!