CHILDFRIENDLY CHURCH ON THE
To mark this passing of the baton we held a wonderful celebration event, looking back on what Viva has accomplished in its 16-year life and recognising Patrick and his wife Emily’s huge contribution to that work. On Saturday, 28 April, 270 adults and children gathered in St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford for an afternoon of laughter, memories, tea and scones! Several different speakers provided an overview of Viva’s history, from its beginnings in an English telephone box to its international presence now; and various staff and friends of Viva gave tributes to Patrick and Emily’s inspiring passion and vision, reflected not only in their formal work but also in their personal lives which have been dedicated to demonstrating God’s love for children.
But it wasn’t all looking back: we had a chance to pray for the McDonald family, asking God’s blessing on them as they begin an exciting but challenging new ministry. (You can read more about Patrick’s latest ventures to help children at risk at oxfordventures.co.uk) New CEO Andy was also interviewed, reminding us in this time of change that the heart of Viva is about a mission not a person, “I absolutely know that this is God’s work, has always been God’s work and will always be God’s work. It’s not about a personality or an individual” and sharing his passion for Viva’s commitment to unity, “It’s not just about networking for the sake of networking we have to work together for the Kingdom of God”.
IMAGINE A PLACE WHERE GOD’S CALL TO SEE CHILDREN VALUED AND CARED FOR GOES UNHEARD. IMAGINE THAT IN THIS PLACE CHILDREN ARE IGNORED, EXCLUDED AND TREATED AS INSIGNIFICANT. NOW IMAGINE THAT PLACE IS A CHURCH.
The day was summed up by Patrick as he thanked and encouraged Viva’s many faithful friends and supporters: “I want to say ‘thank you’ because we have, between us, found a shared calling in helping children at risk… and even though there is change, this shared calling continues, and that obedience continues, because the need remains.”
God’s heart for children, his heart for the vulnerable and the oppressed, leaps off the pages of the Bible. Yet cultural traditions, confused priorities, or sometimes simple ignorance of the need, mean that in many churches across the globe children are not loved or included. Enter the child-friendly church programme. Across Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania,Viva is helping church leaders and congregations to better understand the needs of children and involve them in their churches. As a result they are seeing incredible growth, as increasing numbers of children come along to church and bring their families with them. Here, members of our network in Kisumu, Kenya, share some of what they’ve learned…
5 Children lead the worship at church in Kisumu
Betty, who recently enjoyed one of the network retreats
to make your church more child-friendly
Give children a voice Children know their own needs better than anyone, and can often communicate them much more powerfully than an adult could. So we must create opportunities for them to speak out their ideas, share their worries and suggest solutions. Last year 700 of Kisumu’s children were involved in leading a procession for Viva’s World Weekend of Prayer. They marched through the city declaring to hundreds of people that “it is God’s desire for children to be loved and protected” and already we have heard reports of changed families as that simple but powerful message hits home. Recognise children’s talents Taking an interest in the things that children enjoy doing, and are good at, shows them they are valued. We also need to give them a chance to use and grow those gifts. Churches in the network have encouraged children to express their worship through art and dance, to sing and play instruments in church services and even to write their own songs. We have seen the children’s confidence grow, and as a result they are more excited about playing an active part in church life. Empower children to lead Our church families should be great places for children to learn how to help and guide others. We must support them in leading both their peers and
Want more ideas for your church? Info on prayer resources, child-friendly events and Viva church speakers can be found at viva.org/involveyourchurch
adults. Many churches in the network are now inviting children to take more of a leadership role in their weekly services; saying the prayers, reading from the Bible and helping to lead the sung worship. As one church found, “It is increasing their potential as ambassadors for Christ, in the church and in their communities, meaning that they are inspiring more of their friends to come to church.” Dedicate a whole day to children It is key to provide teaching, prayer and worship that is relevant and meaningful for a child’s stage of life. We should not only offer church activities that include children but also activities that are designed for them. In the last year seventeen churches in Kisumu have held a ‘children’s day’ involving craft, drama, music, teaching and games. These days have encouraged and educated the children, shown them that they are important to the wider church and also been a great way of reaching new children in the local communities. Invest in children’s workers Looking after children’s workers is just as important as looking after children themselves.Young people’s voices can only be heard, and their talents recognised and used, if there are well-equipped and supported people to make those things happen. Churches in the network have joined together to offer retreat days for their children’s workers, so they can receive fresh teaching, share their challenges, exchange ideas and be emotionally and spiritually refreshed for their work. The churches have seen that their children are much more involved in church life when there are adults with the time, energy and ability to 05 engage with them.