I have asked the Children and Families Missional Network group to answer a few questions that will illuminate us all as to their work…. Thanks so much to all of them in their great and good work.
Q. What is a Children & Families Missional Network?
A. Missional Networks are groups within the BUWC ministry structure that gives focus to a particular ministry area. Such groups represent the interests, needs and hopes of these ministry areas within the wider Baptist Union and speak into the denomination about issues, concerns and opportunities. The Children & Families Missional Network is a newly formed group of people passionate about how our churches help children and families (both within the church and in the neighbourhoods around our churches) know about, and respond to, God’s love and plan.
Q. Who is involved in the new CFAM Missional Network?
Representatives from each of the Areas and who also reflect a variety of church sizes and locations. Some are full time paid ministry staff, some part time and some volunteers. The individuals at this time include:
Jennifer Dietrich – Regina, SK – Chair
Carey Lynn Tyndall – Souris, MB.
Pam Borchert & Sue Julien – Summerland, BC
Nola Dibski – Vernon, BC
Sharon Harris – Lethbridge, AB
Mike Engbers – Sherwood Park, AB
Jo-Ann Matiachuk – Vancouver, BC
Glenn Rabuka – BUWC
Paul Pearce – BUWC Staff
Q. Why is it needed?
A. There has been a tremendous cultural shift in our world during the last 30 years or so but many churches have not thought about how these cultural shifts have impacted the children & families in their congregations and neighborhoods. Some churches are wrestling with how to reach children and families who do not normally show an interest in “church” as we know it. Some churches are experiencing diminishing Sunday Schools but have other unique opportunities for outreach and service. Some churches have thriving Sunday Morning Children’s Ministries but have chosen not to do mid week groups or summer programs. The variation in ministry approach is wide and many people are seeking to learn from others. The CFAM Network will be a forum to help leaders connect with other churches, to promote working models, to connect with other leaders for encouragement and support and to connect with resources that they are looking for. It will also be a voice and an advocate for the needs of children & families at the wider denominational level.
Q. Has Children’s Ministry changed because of the cultural shift you referred to?
A. The answer is both a “resounding yes!” and a firm “no”. Yes it has changed (or should have changed somewhat) in format and approach in response to the contemporary interests and needs of the children in our communities and the way contemporary culture has affected the family. But NO it hasn’t changed in content – the good news of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! Churches who have figured out the equation of how cultural shifts are shaping the family and what that means for their church’s ministries are able to respond and build relationships with families that result in growth.
Q. How will the new CFAM Missional Network help with these issues?
A. We want to raise the value of and enhance the effectiveness of Children & Family Ministries in local churches (both large and small) by promoting vision and providing resources and support. We believe it is possible to make a difference in the lives of children and families when we understand the value that Jesus placed on them and how they fit into the whole congregation and wider family of God. The network has representation from a wide variety of churches across the three BUWC Areas. We do not have “magic solutions” to the issues or problems of each church as they seek to figure out how to become more effective in ministering to children and families, but we want to walk the journey with them and encourage and resource them along the way as much as possible.
Q. What kinds of things will you do?
A. To start with we are compiling contact lists of the primary leadership working with children & families, or working with the volunteers in this area. Some churches have paid staff; most churches have volunteer leadership. We need to first know who is out there and how to connect people up with one another. (Please contact Shelby Gregg in Vancouver at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604 225 5903 if you have not yet received a form). Another short-term goal is to identify denominational resource persons, local or regional conferences, and healthy working models of ministry in particular locations that others might want to learn from. We want to find ways to help resource each other. Much of this kind of information will go on the BUWC Website.
Additionally we want to advocate for and partner with groups to provide denominational resources, training events, and mentoring or coaching relationships for emerging leaders. For example, we hope to have an event in conjunction with Assembly 2007 to help churches emphasize children & families as an integral part of their congregational life.
In the long term we expect that many new models of working with children & families will emerge and be strengthened through the encouragement and resources provided this network. We hope our increased presence will lead to advanced training and ongoing inservice education for volunteer leaders and paid ministry staff. Along the way we would love to see some of our own people developing resources that honour our Canadian Baptist traditions and experience. Child and family dedication materials, Baptism Information & Preparation classes for students and summer urban camping (day camp) materials are just some of those ideas!
Q. So, whether I am a volunteer in a small church somewhere, or a leader in a larger church in a city, how would you help me?
A. First we would encourage you to contact the CFAM Missional Network through your area office. They will direct your email or phone call to your area or regional representative who will then be in touch with you. You can also ask a question on our yahoo group (BUWCkids@yahoogroups.com) and several people may respond to your enquiry.
Second: check the BUWC website for resources that may be a help to you. We expect to be adding to that material as we find new items to add.
Third, make sure your area representative knows your questions, needs and any materials that you can share with others, so they can bring these items to the Network’s attention. This will help us all become aware of the issues that we face and work together to help one another.
Q. How can churches and local pastors help you to get the network established and then benefit from the work you are doing?
A. First become aware yourself of the importance of children and families in your congregation and community, and the vital role of the pastor in supporting their involvement. Read a book that helps you understand the issues that contemporary families are wrestling with in relation to faith. My three recommendations would be Ivy Beckwith’s book, Postmodern Children’s Ministry or Marva Dawn’s book: Is It A Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children. or George Barna’s book entitled Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions.
Second, make sure that any information your receive about the CFAM missional network is passed to someone in your church working directly with children or working with the volunteers who are working with children. This will help us have effective contact with your church.
Third. Attend an event that emphasizes the role of children & families in your church. Better yet, go with your primary leader who works in this area as a way to affirm and encourage them and let them know that you want to see it flourish. Support your leadership to attend a CFAM Missional event, or go with them! We hope to see you at Assembly 2007!
Q. What would you say are some of the most challenging issues we face as local churches and a denomination in getting a handle on this ministry area.
A. In answer I would like to leave you with some of the issues that many of us in CFAM ministries have been thinking about for a long time.
- Issues of Spiritual Formation vs. Christian Education
- The challenges of an intensive volunteer driven ministry requiring high ratios of committed, mature servants.
- Demands of a shifting culture that is not well understood by the church.
- The lack of healthy working models within easy distance of most churches.
- The issues of family ministry vs children’s ministry where children are not seen as a separate subset of family life but the whole family unit is considered together.
- The needs of Christian parents to understand how to parent Christianly in a culture largely opposed and even subversive to Christian values.
These are just a few of the issues that our churches face and that the Children & Families Missional Network wants to tackle in partnership with our denomination!
Thanks again all.