We speak to Sue Mitchell, Children and Families Missioner, who’s organising this year’s Bishop’s Headline Conference on Saturday 7th October at Select Stadium, Widnes, where we will be “opening the box” on engaging with children and families in your churches and communities. She shares with us why it’s so important to engage with families successfully so they can develop their worshiping communities.
Why do you think it is so important to engage with families in churches and communities?
I recently heard something which struck a real chord with me and which I found very exciting! It was about the importance of looking to the horizon and seeing beyond it.
It made me aware that within family and community ministry, we are often guilty of not doing this; instead we are busy caught up in dealing with life within the confines of our buildings. We fear looking to the horizon, as it usually brings with it, reasons, obstacles, or stumbling blocks which then stops us hearing the call of God and moving forward, therefore we choose to stay in our comfort zone …….Church!
With numbers of children and families in church on the decline, we can no longer afford to do this; we need to look beyond our horizon more than ever - past the walls of our churches. We need to make connections with the families in our communities in the many different places they are, build relationships and be a real presence.
So, in the words of Author Brian McLaren, we need to be: “People of courage, who approach faith with hearts to embrace everyone and be passionate and committed to make a difference. To be advocates for finding a way to teach people how big God is!”.
I don’t think there is a better reason to for engaging with families in both our churches and communities.
What would you like people coming along to take away from the conference?
I would love people to go away with a renewed sense of purpose, and importantly to feel challenged. What is the one small thing they could do to enable them to better connect with families in the community, how can we build stronger lasting relationships with the families we come into contact with?
Put simply, “How can they find ways to equip adults and children to confidently follow Jesus in every walk of life?” After all it’s about making a bigger church, making a bigger difference, with more justice in the world and more people knowing Jesus.
You’ve got some interesting key speakers, tell us some more.
Obviously Bishop Paul will be headlining the conference, but we’ve looked for people who can give us a spectrum view of the different aspects of engaging with families in church and in the community.
For instance, Rev Mary Hawes is the National Children and Youth Advisor for the Church of England. She is passionate about the importance of engaging with children and youth, creating communities of faith that love them, but more importantly, that need them! Mary will be presenting the latest research and thinking, so I am really excited about that!
Baptism is often the first step in engaging with families in your community and Revd. Canon Dr Sandra Millar Head of Projects and Developments: Life events, a lively and gifted motivational speaker, will be sharing useful easy tools for doing this. She will also help us to consider how we can further build on this important day in the life of both the child and their family.
Then we’ve got internationally acclaimed author and much-loved performance storyteller Bob Hartman. Renowned for his dynamic, energetic and interactive performances; Bob has entertained audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Bob loves to help children and adults understand the power of storytelling. He will be sharing tips on the importance of passing on Bible stories to the generations in his own inimitable style.
I am also looking forward to our market place, which will offer a wide range of resources for people working in these areas. So they’ll be plenty of inspiration for those who come along.
Who should come along to “Open the box: Engaging with Children and Families in your Church and Communities”?
We would encourage clergy to bring children’s and family workers, Baptism teams in fact anyone who has a real heart for reaching out to the families in their church and community.
So what should people do if they want to come along?
You can book through Eventbrite
and places are free. You’ll get brunch to make sure you’re fed and watered too!