Reaching the next generation
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that 95% of children across our nation don’t go to church. That bothers me. How else will they hear about the transforming power of God, or that God who loved them so much he sent his Son to die for them? How will they discover the hope a relationship with God offers for this life and beyond? How will we fulfil Psalm 78:4 – that ‘we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done’? How can we tell the next generation if 95% of them don’t come near us?
For the last 14 years, I’ve been grappling with that question as I worked for CCSW (Christian Council for Schools in Wales) and now Scripture Union Cymru.
Searching for opportunities
Often the answer is to engage with children in their school by taking assemblies, RE lessons, after-school clubs and Christian groups. But sometimes, it’s about finding opportunities for them to be brought to us!
And what better opportunity than Christmas? Primary schools are so busy with productions, special assemblies and parties, that they often value the opportunity for their children to be taught about Christmas from a Christian point of view by those who know it best – the Church!
That’s what ‘Christmas Wrapped Up’ is about. Over the last decade, about 25,000 Year 2 children have visited more than 100 different churches across Wales to learn about the importance of Christmas. They’ve interacted with puppets who talk about the nervous excitement Mary must have felt waiting for the birth of her son. They’ve acted out the Nativity, playing the parts of the shepherds, wise men and angels. They’ve made mince pies and Christmas cards, used literacy skills to re-tell the story, and even sung. As one teacher put it, ‘a whole term’s work in one afternoon’!
Sharing the good news
Most importantly, churches have told about the ‘praiseworthy deeds of the Lord’. They’ve shared how Jesus was no ordinary baby because he was God’s Son given that we might have eternal life. As one of the puppets tells the children, ‘If Jesus hadn’t come to earth, there’s no way we could have a friendship with God!’.
The response is always encouraging. Children leave the church with broad smiles, saying things like, ‘this is the bestest day of my life’, ‘this is better than the cinema’, and ‘I wish I could come here every day!’ Staff too, love the event. It’s not unusual for teachers to comment on the warmth that they’ve received from the team. At the end of their first visit, one teacher said, ‘We’ve been made so welcome. Please invite us to anything you’re doing in future!’. The teams love it too! One volunteer commented on Facebook, ‘this is the best evangelism I’ve been involved in for years’. (I prefer to think of it as an ‘educational resource that teaches about the Christian faith, suitable for all faiths and none’, but I know what he means.)
In my own church, we’ve had families at our Candlelight Service who we’ve never seen before. One dad explained why, ‘the kids came to Christmas Wrapped Up, they were desperate to come back’. And my favourite story? A Learning Support Assistant who returned to school with her Year 2 class at lunchtime, asked the Head if she could attend with the second class in the afternoon, then visited the church over Christmas, became a Christian and was baptised by the following Christmas! All because a church wanted to tell the next generation, the 95% who don’t usually go to church, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord!
Christmas isn’t the only opportunity to share these stories of God’s power. We have resources available for Year 6’s moving to High School, church visits to learn about Easter with Year 5’s, materials suitable for World Book Day with Year 4 and lesson plans on the life of Jesus with Year 1.
Are you interested in reaching the 95% who weren’t in Church this Sunday? Then get in touch. We’d love to help!