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Re-thinking Children’s Work in Churches

Set of essays which provide a great opportunity to step back and reflect on the what, how and why of being with and working with children 


RethinkingRe-thinking Children’s Work in Churches
Edited by Carolyn Edwards, Sian Hancock and Sally Nash
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN: 978-1785921254
Reviewed by Andy Goodliff

Many of our churches will be involved in children’s work and if so, they should read this book. It provides a great opportunity to step back and reflect on the what, how and why of being with and working with children. Often we’re so busy doing, that we don’t step back and ask what’s the big picture, what’s the trajectory, what’s the dream we have for what we are doing.

My hunch is much of our children’s work needs a refreshment, needs a re–think. Our model of working with children I surmise needs to think more imaginatively and with a much more up-to-date view of the child, of growing up and of how we pass on faith. (Simon Oxley has done some excellent research into models of children’s work in churches in the 20th century, which should be published soon and says something similar).

Re-thinking Children’s Work in Churches is a set of essays that offer some of the imagination we need through a set of different metaphors — train driver, Facebook friend, gracious grandparent, clown and fool, favourite teacher, etc. — which give a broad set of approaches and will help those engaged with children’s work, which needs to include those in ministry and leadership of the whole church, to reflect on what they are doing well and some possible ways of doing things differently. Each chapter helpfully ends with a set of questions to get that reflection and discussion going.

One of the editors and contributors to the book is Sian Hancock, a familiar name to some of us, as she has worked for Bristol Baptist College for many years training children and family workers and is a member of our Baptist Union’s Children, Young People and Families Round Table. She writes about the importance of play, and the children’s worker as clown or fool. We think perhaps of clowning as being about entertaining, and so we think children’s ministry needs to be entertaining, but Sian wants us also to see the sense of clown or fool, as one who speaks prophetically, who opens up opportunities for learning that are surprising. There is the tradition of the wise fool or the holy fool that perhaps we need to recapture, not just in working with children, but in working with the whole congregation to see children differently,

As a parent of three children, I want them to have the best experience of church, the Bible, faith that allows them to wonder, play, respond, grow. If those who lead, in lots of cases volunteers, are open to re-thinking, this book will be a great place to start.

Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend

Baptist Times, 25/10/2019
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