Have you ever met someone who has tried to explain something to you, which they clearly understand near-perfectly for themselves, but what they are saying just doesn’t make sense?
Maybe they assume you have some prior knowledge that you haven’t been party to. Or, maybe they aren’t the best with finding the right words – something we can all be guilty of!
It’s one thing to grow in our own understand of something, but explaining and teaching it to someone else so they can grow too is a whole different ballgame. One of the things I’ve really had to challenge myself on recently is the need to put myself in the shoes of those I’m talking to – whether that be the child in an assembly, the teenager on the school yard, my friend I might have coffee with, the members of a church congregation I might visit and preach for – I need to stop, engage the old grey matter before I speak, and think: “Where is this person at?”, “What might they know (or not know) already?”, “Where are they on their journey?”.
Over the last couple of years we’ve been really excited to see lots of joined up thinking around this within organisations exploring how to develop their work with children, young people, or even generally with those society has left to become ‘unchurched’. Scripture Union in particular have launched their “Revealing Jesus” framework, which explores how we need to provide opportunities for children and young people at all stages of their individual journeys of discovering and growing in faith. They are committed to bringing the challenge and resource to anyone seeking relevant ways to:
- CONNECT with children and young people who don’t knowingly have any prior experience of Christians or the Christian faith
- help those children and young people begin to EXPLORE the Christian faith for themselves
- provide opportunities for children and young people to RESPOND to what has been revealed to them
- guide children and young people of this background as they continue to GROW in their faith communally in a culture so different to that which generations before have formed their traditions and religious style (myself included!)
Connect. Explore. Respond. Grow.
So much of what we consider “mission” work is about the ‘Connect’ stage – seeking out opportunities like Christmas shows in schools, Mission Impossible experiences, and alike – where we get to plant that initial tiny mustard seed of the Good News in hundreds and thousands of lives. Lots of big numbers and statistics to put in our newsletters! Some might say “it’s not all about the numbers”, but what I like to rejoice in is that for each one of those many numbers there is an opportunity for a seed to land in the right soil, to be nurtured and grow to bear fruit of its own. A chance to explore faith, to respond and to grow.
My starting point
I’m one of the 5-10% of my generation blessed to have grown up with an experience of Christianity. Lots of seeds sown along the way. But this last term I was given the chance to share my story of having Jesus revealed to me to the point of responding and starting out on my own journey of growth in faith at aged 15. What made this opportunity unique was that I was asked to share this story to almost the whole student population of the very high school I was at when I first made that decision.
It was Ash Wednesday 2022, our local Catholic secondary school were starting Lent, the journey to the Cross. In a liturgy led by the school chaplain and a handful of year 7 students, I was asked to share a few words about my own journey as a Christian. I shared a lent message about making decisions to let go and create space in our lives for the things that matter, making decisions of faith, to respond to Jesus’ call to “come and follow me” regardless of knowing where he might take us on that journey. When was point where the whole atmosphere changed, you could’ve heard a pin drop, and every face seemed fixed on what I was sharing? When I started speaking of the invitation Jesus gave his first disciples to set off on a journey with Him and how I first set off on that journey myself when I was a student in their school. Exactly where they are now. And, now I could share all these years later that despite my many imperfections and lack of understanding, it was the best decision I ever made, and one that has led to so much growth.
The school Chaplaincy also provided the option to all students and staff to receive the traditional sign of ashes should they wish as a symbol of response, with lots of other great opportunities in the following weeks to explore Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the impact on our world today.
We’ll never get to see the growth from every one of the hundreds of thousands of seeds we sow. (Perhaps if there were more of us, strategically placed, we’d see more?) What’s important to us is to celebrate the opportunities where we do see growth in the individual lives of the “ones and twos” of young people who have responded to Jesus.
The teenage girl who is still faithfully coming to church after coming to faith at the Higher Tour, regardless of whether her friends have kept up with it all. Seeing her serving in the church’s outreach programmes, often behind the scenes, growing in character and purpose.
The Year 7 student who has battled with physical disability his whole life (or at least all the time I’ve known him throughout primary school). He inspires kids and adults alike with his God-given aspiration to play football, already playing for Everton. Yet he’s still the most committed attendee of our Safe Space with Churches Together in Ainsdale (Impact Youth), giving us all pep talks about living with the same drive that the early Christians had when they fully expected Jesus to return in their life time.
The two year 6 boys who help us run Sweaty Church in their school every week. I will always remember that one week this last term where they stepped in to lead my discussion group of 5 younger pupils because I had to step out to handle a behaviour issue on the other side of the hall. I came back to find they had already discussed all the questions about “Who is Jesus to me?” and had led the group in a spontaneous time of prayer.
All individual lives with individual stories of growth that each started from their response to connecting and exploring faith with ourselves and others, when we bothered to go to where they were at and sow a seed. It’s a privilege to watch and I can’t begin to describe how much I feel they’ve each helped me grow in my own faith too!
My biggest hope and prayer right now is that other Christians would be enabled to have this experience of seeing Kingdom growth in the lives of children and young people too. That many more of those hundreds and thousands of seeds sown will have harvesters ready to receive them and guide them on life changing journeys of growth. If you feel prompted at all, please get in touch! And if you feel prompted to join us in that prayer, please see our prayer page.