Welcome to our new Children and Young People Development Practitioner –
I’ve been asked to write a bit to introduce myself which is never an easy task! I can quickly tell you I live in Hull with my wife and son and if I have a hobby of any sort it’s probably collecting comic books. The bigger story may take a bit more unpacking.
I became a Christian at the age of 15 thanks to a school Christian Union run by a couple of teachers. Until that point in my life I’d had no contact with church or faith apart from my Godmother’s faithful prayers for me. Actually, I think I had had contact with God, but I wouldn’t have been able to describe it as that at the time. I spent the next few years growing in faith in a village church (a free church) with the faithful and committed support of the adults there.
So the roots (and strength) of my faith lie in the commitment and work of adult volunteers – who lead a school Christian Union, ran the chapel youth group, lead the worship band of under-18s, and made me welcome in their home when I found it hard to be in my own. For me, the care, commitment, acceptance, welcome and example of adults in churches makes the real difference to whether a child or young person is able to grow and develop in faith. That was my own experience, and it is what I have seen in a great many churches I have visited and worked with over the years.
From my faith beginnings in the village chapel and school CU, I ended up spending 12 years working with young people on housing estates in Oxford. These young people had no experience or background of church and sometimes they wanted to know God. Together we tried to find ways that they could start to understand and explore faith. The results didn’t look much like what we might know as ‘church’ but they were spaces where young people met God and began to respond in their own ways. A living and growing faith will mean change in my life. A living and growing church will also mean change.
After working in Oxford we moved to Hull and I spent 12 years supporting churches in the East Riding to work with children and young people in all the many and varied ways that exist. There are many, many ways of working with children and young people, and none of them will answer all your questions. But whatever programme we might follow, or activities we might run, the important thing is sharing what we believe and showing God’s love and acceptance to all those we meet.
After years of exploring Jesus and faith with children and young people I am more convinced than ever that they are a vital part of any church. But they are not just there so we can pass the reins over to them in years to come. If we are willing to listen they can be a measure of our faith and worship, and if we are willing to learn they can inspire our spirituality and theology. Children and young people have faith that may not look like ours, but that is precisely why they are a blessing to us.
I have to admit, I’m new to the URC, but the ‘Charter for Children’ is still one of the most radical statements churches have made about children and young people. I am also very inspired by your commitment to unity that recognises the differences between congregations (and individuals). I think those two things fit together very well and I hope I can help as you work with, and include, children and young people in the life of your churches.
I look forward to meeting you,
Jon can be contacted:
Phone: 07522 220214
Megan Tillbrook – Children and Young People Development Practitioner
Megan can be contacted:
Phone: 07522 220213