I’ll hold my hands up and say…

 

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I’ll hold my hands up and say that when I first began working as a children and families worker at a large city-centre church I had little to no experience of working with under 5s. Having been a junior school teacher, I kind of knew what I was doing with the 7-11s, but anyone younger stumped me slightly. In terms of the under 5s, I spent my first year in the job pretty much blagging my way through and learning on my feet, but it was in the flying by the seat of my pants scenarios that I truly started to make a connection with the amazing spiritual capacity of the youngest children in our churches.

If we’re going, to be honest, the under 5s in our churches can be something of a neglected group. In a lot of churches we often don’t have the volunteers to provide even a basic crèche facility and, when we do, there is sometimes very little spiritual input. As a church leader, I understand completely how hard it can be to know where to start to include our youngest members in a meaningful way. However, when I started to engage more with the under 5s, I realised that there is so much depth we don’t give them credit for and many easy ways of including them in what we do so that they can truly be part of the whole body of Christ. And that is the key. If we truly believe that children are part of God’s family and have as much of a place as adults do, then we can’t allow them to be excluded from our most important Christian rites. If we want our children, from the earliest age to be part of the story of our community, then we need to find more than token ways in which they can participate. It was believing this that got me started on the journey towards what eventually became
We All Share.

As I learned more about play techniques and the spiritual journey of the under 5s and listened to the stories from churches across the denominations and across the world, I became more and more encouraged. There are so many examples out there of children being drawn into the symbols, actions, words and story of Holy Communion. As well as my own experiences of working with children, I heard stories from others of under 5s showing deep understanding of what the bread and wine represented, of families being taught some theological truths by their youngest members and of children acting out in detail what they had seen week by week from their own vantage point. I learned, most importantly, that Jesus belongs to all of us, irrespective of age!

So if you are used to working with under 5s, or you have no idea where you would even start; if you are a church leader, a children’s leader or a parent; if you have children’s groups or no volunteers whatsoever; if you want something you can use at home or something you can use on Sunday morning with very little preparation, there will be something here for you. Have fun, be inspired and let me know what you are doing!

 

Buy now at Kevinmayhew.com 

Available as Book or eBook – £6.99 

 

Written by Mina Munns:

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A question of Blame

Currently, I am quite busy writing a book on fear and anxiety, called ‘Be not afraid’. In my head, it’s a sort of follow-up to my book on happiness, called Happy Talk. Whether the new book actually ever gets published will be up to others. I can but hope.

The intention is to look at general fears that are around in society at the moment, things like fear of violence, economic collapse, ecological disaster and those fears that particularly hit us as individuals like fear of a lack of worth, isolation and embarrassment, fear of growing old, illness and death. There’s also a chapter on fear in the Bible and the most frequent phrase ‘Be not afraid’.

One of the things that I’ve picked up on is the anxiety created by our society’s ‘blame culture’. I feel to me as though this has become toxically pervasive. Its roots appear to lie in the increasing individualism that we are experiencing that focuses so much attention on ‘me’ and ‘my’: my wants, my happiness, my rights, and the growing willingness to go to the law to claim compensation for someone’s mistakes.

Blame is a protection ploy – protecting me from getting the blame by pointing to someone else, usually, it’s actually the wrong person. Blaming someone else seeks to get us off the hook. The bad workman blames his tools, the employees blame the managers, the salesman blames the customer. It’s a contagious virus. In a company, someone starts blaming someone else for mistakes made and gradually others join in over totally unrelated matters until a whole culture of blame is established. It undermines trust, diminishes efficiency, breaks down a sense of teamwork, and stifles innovative creativity. If mistakes always end up with some form of retribution people fear making mistakes, don’t own up to them, blame others. But everyone makes mistakes, and everyone can learn from them. A learning and forgiving culture undermines a blame culture.

How easy it is even for congregations to harbour a blame culture. Church numbers are in decline – it must be the vicar’s fault, or the bishop’s, or the general assembly. Three children have stopped coming to Sunday school – it must be the new Sunday school teacher’s fault. The hall was left in a mess last week – let’s blame the youth club.

We need to distinguish between being blamed and being accountable. Taking responsibility for my actions, including my mistakes, is a willingness to be accountable. That’s very different from blame. I don’t find Jesus blaming people.  What the Gospel speaks about is learning and forgiveness and transformation. These are what should be found in a community of trust and love – a church.

I’ll have to make sure that if the book does not get published I don’t blame anyone else but me.

 

*Written by John Cox – April 2018*

Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

During Lent, I’ve been leading a Bible Study Course in a small Suffolk village. Despite a less than warm village hall and freezing weather, a faithful group of around 14 people have met each week. We’ve been looking at the Beatitudes as found in Matthew but exploring why Luke had a different version and what different translations and other Biblical texts can teach us of their meaning.

It has always struck me as slightly odd that any number of people I have met who have little interest in the theological intricacies of Christianity and are very sceptical of the possibility that Jesus could be the Son of God, nevertheless feel that in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular, Jesus was saying things they think are good common sense. It seems to me that whatever else the Beatitudes are, they are not common sense – they are radical counter-intuitive challenges to the way we normally think. Why should the poor, those who mourn, or the persecuted be considered blessed or happy or, as Nicholas King has in his translation,* should be congratulated. There’s a shock to these sayings when you look at them seriously.

It’s the NEB and the Good News Bible, among others, that have ‘Happy are . . .’ And I find that interesting, not simply in trying to understand what Jesus was saying but in exploring what we think happiness is. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this recently and have written a little book called Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

Over the centuries and in different cultures and religions, the idea of what makes us happy, and what happiness is, has taken quite a number of different forms. To an ancient Greek it was only the gods who could be really happy – living beyond this world of work and trouble, of disease and death. It was only when you were dead, sharing the realm of the gods that a human being could be really happy. However, as in other religions, including the Jewish, it came to be felt that if you were wealthy, had fertile lands, and big herds, a position of power and lots of children you could count yourself happy. Lots of people see it the same way today – have the latest model of car, the biggest, smartest TV you can fit on your wall, all the gadgets you can think of and you will be happy. At least that’s what the adverts tell you. That’s what the consumer society and capitalist economics urge us to believe. It keeps the wheels turning.

But increasingly people are realising, as many of the ancients had already realised, that it’s a mirage, a con. Stuff, more and more stuff just doesn’t ensure happiness. Happiness is relationships, happiness is experience. And for the Christian believer, true happiness is ultimately not something we achieve but something we are offered as a gift – from others and from God.

If you want to know what else I think about happiness, how about getting my book when it comes out? That’ll make me happy!

* The Bible, A study Bible freshly translated by Nicholas King, Kevin Mayhew 2013

Written by John Cox March 2018

The dangers of social media

The dangers of social media have been highlighted by any number of recent items in the news. And as usual, there are plenty of people ready to blame someone, anyone, for what happens. The government should do more. The platform companies should produce more effective algorithms to filter out the grooming, the bullying, the abuse. It’s the schools. It’s parents.

New technologies have always produced their abusers as well as their users. Consequences are not always thought through or even imagined. People who are afraid of change have always been prepared to exaggerate what awful things will happen if you have cars, or railways or travel faster than sound. Those who embrace change don’t always take enough care to protect themselves and others from the dangers.

One of the problems with very rapid change, the kind of change we see in the world of digital communication, is that our common and moral sense sometimes takes time to catch up. Teenagers post a saucy photo of themselves, click the button and just haven’t thought it through that this will now go out to the world with all the potential for embarrassment and worse.

But there is something currently happening in one area of technological advance that is very interesting. While I am well behind when it comes to streaming the latest pop song I did get rid of my old tapes and replace them with CDs and I have gone so far as to download specific tracks both of popular and classical music. I’m almost ‘with it.’ But now I find that I should have kept all my old vinyl records. Technology has gone into reverse! The old turntable, amplifier and speakers hiding in a corner of my study gathering dust could be worth something after all. The music world is enjoying ‘retro’.

My daughter suggested the other day that perhaps the same will happen with social media – that it will decline and the older ‘face to face’ communication make a return. But I wonder. It would take more than a move to the ‘retro’. It would mean considerable changes in our social activity and social patterns. As a society, we are more’ instant’, more individualistic, less willing to take time in our relationships, more anxious about being liked – and the social media feed this.

Changes too in the world of publishing. More online. E-books. Volumes of encyclopedias have given way to Wikipedia. With an iPad, you have whole libraries available without moving from your seat. Bookshops have closed, not least Christian bookshops. But I’d like to bet that just as vinyl has had a resurgence (at least for the time being) so too will good old paper books. In the meantime, publishers have to look for the signs of the times, keep up, even try to get ahead of the latest trend. And Kevin Mayhew Ltd is no different.

 

Written by John Cox 2018

Youth and Children’s work

Taken from the November edition of YCW Magazine (Youth and Childre’s Work

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 Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. Liz Edge looks at how we can encourage the children and young people in our groups to talk about these issues and seek help where they need it.

If the Bible tells me not to worry, then why am I so anxious all the time? It was questions like this that flooded my mind as a teenager after being diagnosed with anxiety.

I attended a loving church, but no one wanted to answer – or even explore – these sorts of questions. Church members would discourage me from thinking this way and unintentionally pour guilt into my mind for even contemplating these thoughts. Surely I couldn’t be the only teenage Christian living in the void? During my adolescence, I quickly learnt that emotional health and God didn’t mix. Over a decade later, after becoming a professionally qualified youth worker, I realised that young people were still asking similar questions. This void in conversation still exists, yet anxiety in the younger generations is on the rise. The responsibility is ours to help close this void and create a culture of resilient children and young people.

What is anxiety?
Definition: Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened. (Mind, 2015).

Anxiety is experienced by everyone at different times in their lives. It is often an unpleasant experience, but it is completely normal in most cases. Common times when a young person may experience bouts of anxiety are sitting an exam or starting a new school. After the exam is sat or the first few days of a new school have passed, the anxious symptoms usually stop and you can continue to normal life.

Signs and symptoms
There are all sorts of physical and physiological indicators that show a young person might be suffering from anxiety. Here’s a list which includes some of the most common factors to keep an eye out for:

- Muscle tension
- Nausea
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling ‘on edge’
- Restlessness
- Sweating
- Hot flushes
- Feeling a sense of numbness
- Pins and needles
- Fearing the worst/sense of dread

 

www.Liz-Edge.co.uk

YCW (Youth and Children’s Work)

Click here to view Liz edge’s new book Exploring Emotional Health, Available in Paperback and ebook formats 

 

 

Help! I’m a New Mum! By Pam Pointer

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Who shed more tears? My baby, or me? Probably me. I was pretty clueless on practicalities changing a nappy, for example. Could you fold a towelling nappy to fit a tiny bottom, then stick a giant safety pin in – to the nappy, not the baby…? The arrival of disposal nappies coincided with the arrival of my third baby, by which time I was a little more clued up and had less time to worry about whether I was doing things right. The toughest thing about being a new mum was probably the tiredness from interrupted sleep at night and not being able to interpret what my baby was trying to say through her crying. Hence my tears.

 
The thing is, it’s not the tears I remember now. I look at photos and dig into the recesses of my brain and what I see and recall are happy times – gummy grins, wobbly steps, first words. Baby isn’t baby for long. Her gummy grins evolve into hearty laughter, tentative steps into running and jumping, and from ‘Mumma’ and’Dadda’ new words are added and put into simple sentences. Before you know it you’re discussing climate change, space exploration, the best tennis player ever (Laver? Federer?) and whether the two pieces of a halved worm can grow into two new worms (no, in case you’re wondering.)

 
The first few days and weeks with a new baby may seem endless and exhausting at the time but are a tiny measure on the timeline of life. To some extent, I’ve relived my days as a new mum through the experiences of my daughters. On a shelf above my desk are photos of my five grandchildren. They range in age from 10 to 2 years and look at me with cheeky grins. Below them, on the desk, are photos of their parents who all look remarkably calm and happy though they’ve all had hair-tearing moments and testing times.

 
Two years or so ago I started writing down-to- earth prayers about being a new mum to give to one of my daughters. Scruffy scribbles were typed onto my laptop then sent as email hugs. My book, “Help! I’m a New Mum!” grew from there. If these short prayers encourage new mums to know that God is with them at every stage of life – when they’re confident and when they’re not, when they’re in tears and when they’re laughing, when they’re asleep and when they’re only half-asleep, then it’s been worthwhile. God gives life. He also sustains us through all the changing scenes. All we have to do is say, “Help!” My days as a new mum are long past. My days of calling, “Help!” to God continue. Hindsight shows that I can also say, “Thank you,” for his continuing presence in all circumstances.

 

Click here to view Pam’s website

Still Valued and Blessed Review

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This book is bursting with kindness. Its aim is to ‘highlight misconceptions about old age – from a biblical viewpoint’ and to ‘encourage older people, generally’.

Each chapter deals with a negative emotion – for example, regrets over past failures continues with relevant Bible passages and suggestions for addressing the situation and ends with prayer. The chapters are thoughtful and would help believers of any age. I found the title itself conflicting, because ‘still valued …’ has implications of ‘in spite of’, as with a car that has high mileage but is ‘still going well’. Yet God designed old age on purpose. His intention was that throughout our lives we would develop attributes and character that only come with a long life. God’s

purpose for older people was that they would become the elderhood of society. This is one of the reasons that we should rise in their presence (Leviticus 19.32). Pastor Coghlan acknowledges this when he writes: ‘Faithfully following Jesus will lead to acquiring great spiritual knowledge and wisdom. It is a call to respect older people. It is a call to value older people.’ So why do we not value old age and acknowledge the ‘elderhood’ of older people? Even worse, why do our seniors not see it themselves? Why the negative thinking
which this book so compassionately addresses? My research shows that it is ingrained, unrecognised, corrosive ageism. We have absorbed the world’s view of age, instead of the Bible’s. We look on the outer appearance instead of the inner and we do not give older people the position God intended. God’s design for older people and their purpose needs to be part of church teaching. All of us need to hear it. And seniors need to be intentionally released into the roles Pastor Coghlan mentions, such as mentoring, listening and teaching (see Paul’s advice to Timothy). ‘Look for the open windows,’ is the last sentence in the book’s narrative, but understanding God’s purpose means that, for His seniors, it is we who should be opening them.

Review was written by The Church’s Ageism

Louise Morse, media and communications manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian
charity caring for older people. She is also a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and author.

Exploring Emotional Health – **Review**

Review published in the August edition of  Life and ministry among young peopleLayout 1

How do you open up conversations with teens about difficult stuff like depression, emotions, self-harm or anxiety? More importantly, how do you support those who are experiencing these issues? Using creative workshops, Liz Edge gives youth leaders the tools they need to tackle some of the things young people face. She creates space where it’s safe to talk and develop the emotional literacy which will help build resilience in young people. Exploring Emotional Health isn’t the last answer, but it gives a very strong start to the conversation.

 http://bit.ly/2x014Zx

Still Vaued and Blessed (Review)

Still Valued and Blessed: Patrick Coghlan4 star

Kevin Mayhew In the growing number of books written to help those in their senior years, this will not be a standout addition, yet it does provide a useful resource for those who minister to this significant age group. Coghlan’s main purpose is to develop among seniors a mindset whereby they approach old age with a positive attitude and an expectation that God can still use them. Each chapter is short and to the point, with large-print text. There are many suggestions on how we can be used by God as we grow older: providing a listening ear and a word of encouragement, sharing our wisdom and experience setting a good example for our families, developing a ministry of prayer, and sharing our testimony. The impression given is that old age is not a time for slowing down or of losing focus because God can still use us. Coghlan seems to write for those who are still active, mentally alert and physically fit rather than for those who may be increasingly frail, in need of support and potentially housebound. This makes the book more suitable for the newly retired rather than for those who are true seniors. TH

Featured Composer of the Month

Heather HammondHH_2_picedit

 

Heather Hammond is a prolific and immensely popular composer whose work is published by Kevin Mayhew. She studied piano and clarinet at Leeds College of Music. Postgraduate studies followed in Education at Bretton Hall College, Wakefield and Music Technology at York University.

Heather currently lives in York where she divides her time between teaching and composing. She has a busy piano teaching practice and believes that it is important for young children to have fun in music and experience modern styles alongside the more traditional from an early age. She also teaches piano at Scarcroft Primary School in York.

Both The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and London College of Music have chosen Heather’s compositions for inclusion in their examination syllabuses.