Children at the Baptist Assembly
What does it mean to love your neighbour on Minecraft? How do you notice who’s alone in the playground on Monday?
These were some of the responses of the children at the Baptist Assembly as they joined the adults in exploring the refugee situation. Led by Arise Ministries, they did this by focusing Jesus’ commands in Luke 10:27 to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
It was day full of encouragement, said Ed Jones, who was leading the programme for the last time having recently left Arise for the local pastorate.
‘The challenge was: how do we grapple with this in a way that’s not telling them what to think?’, he said.
‘Giving them the space to explore, there is so much depth. They understand these issues. And that’s a challenge for the church as a whole, how do we ensure that our children are growing up wanting to engage with it?’
In the morning the programme looked at the first part of Jesus’ command, to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’
‘We were asking the question quite bluntly – is he your God? What does it mean to love him with everything?’
There were a number of different stations where the children were able to explore that. ‘We really wanted them to explore, rather than spoon feed them.
The afternoon unpacked “love your neighbour” part of the passage. They broke into smaller discussion groups.
‘We had some great discussions,’ said Ed. ‘Some were almost not quite sure what we were asking – of course they knew they should be kind to their neighbour, but why? For it’s not just the command, but something that should be naturally happening.’
Ed and the team attempted to tease out practical responses – what does loving your neighbour look like on a Monday morning? One group talked about the gaming world – for instance, what does it mean to be a good neighbour on Minecraft?’
Others spoke of the playground, looking out for those on their own, or new to the school.
There were also discussions about random acts of kindness, doing things to simply bless people. Ed said it was particularly fascinating on this point to watch the children begin to understand, as they spoke with another, that such random acts of kindness shouldn’t have an ulterior motive.
‘They were questioning the idea that you’ve got to do this to get people to come to your church,’ he said. ‘You just do it because you love them.’
In addition to the reflection and exploring there was plenty of time for some typical fun and craziness.
‘We really wanted to emphasise that. Some had just had their Sats last week, and maybe didn’t want to be there initially. But taking part in some of the crazy stuff got them going, and it was great to see them opening up as the day went on.
‘Everyone did the toilet roll challenge – it was mayhem! We always try to push the line at what they think we should be doing.’
This was Ed’s last event with Arise Ministries, and was crowned with a face pie! (below) He joined as its director in September 2009, and has led the team at Baptist Assemblies ever since. (His first Assembly was as a volunteer with Arise in 2009.) In March he returned to the local pastorate, as minister of Battle Baptist Church in Sussex.
‘I was walking around with a t-shirt that the kids had signed,’ he said. ‘It was an emotional day!
‘But it was also a great day.’