Starburst 2018 – the Diocesan Children’s Ministry Conference – took place on Saturday (16th June), with over 90 people attending.
The event took place at All Saints CEVA Primary School in Northampton, and the theme of the day was ‘What roots children in the church, so they continue to engage as they grow older?’
The event began with an introductory talk from Bishop Donald on Luke 14:25–34, which can be heard here. The call of Jesus to discipleship expressed in the passage was described by Bishop Donald as “how we can become child-like in the right ways”. Bishop Donald stated that Jesus “wants to call us to an intimacy of discipleship” and compared it to how a little child gives its total focus and attention when talking to a parent or another adult. “A child needs all of you. Jesus wants the same – all of you … He wants your total devotion – that’s what it means to be child-like”. Bishop Donald also stated that children are good at asking for help, and that adults can learn from their example.
Bishop Donald was then followed by Revd Mary Hawes – National Children and Youth Adviser for the Church of England. Using www.menti.com, she presented an interactive talk where attendees were encouraged to answer questions on their phones, which then came up on the screen in the school hall. The results made interesting reading – 67% of people in the room started their journey of faith between the ages of 0 and 10. Other telling statistics were read out from Rooted in the Church – a recent report from the Church of England Education Office:
- 76% of all practicing Christians begin their journey of faith between 0 and 18
- Half of the churches in England have fewer than five under 16s.
- 55% of those who leave the Christian faith do so between the ages of 11 and 24.
Mary said that the young people who leave the church “are not rejecting God – they’re rejecting a place to express/explore their spiritual yearning”. Research from Dr Rebecca Nye (author and lecturer in child psychology) also showed that “spirituality is innate in each child”.
The evidence was clear – making the church a place where children can feel included and equal is vitally important. They also need the right space in which to worship, and to be led well – it doesn’t have to be hip or trendy!
To hear Mary’s inspiring talk in full, please click here.
In addition to the talks, attendees had a choice of two workshops to choose from. They were:
- After School Clubs/Assemblies (led by Sheila Robertson – tips and ideas for children’s teams going into schools)
- Bible Study (Bishop Donald – a further exploration of Luke 14:25–34)
- Children and Communion (Mary Hawes – looking at how churches can change their approach to the question of communication)
- Intergenerational Church (Becky Wills – exploring how the church can adhere to the needs of all generations: Rooted in the Church states that children and young people thrive in these sort of churches)
- Tiny Disciples (Victoria Goodman from Roots for Churches – an introduction to a new resource for work with small children)
- Welcoming and Including Young People in Church (James Yates from Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC) – looking at how churches can give a full welcome to children, and can make them feel safe)
- Welcoming Children with Additional Needs (Mark Arnold from Urban Saints – exploring how the church can be an all-inclusive and empowering place of belonging for all)
- Working Well with 5 to 11s and Their Families (Becky May from Treasure Box People – looking at ideas and resources for working with 5 to 11s)
There were also exhibition stands in place from the following organisations:
- Baby Basics
- Manna House Bookshop
- Mothers’ Union
- Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC)
- Roots for Churches
- The Treasure Box People
- Urban Saints
After the workshops, there was a Q&A with Mary Hawes, and an introduction to the Diocesan Certificate in Children’s Ministry. The event finished with a sensory worship activity – led by Chad Chadwick – and a closing rendition of ‘It Is Well With My Soul’. It was a fitting end to an inspiring day.