‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity’. 1Timothy 4:12
Adults often presume they know what children and young people want or need and forget that they have views, opinions, ideas and concerns of their own. When adults fail to listen to children and young people, they may miss out on things that can help to shape children’s ministry, youth groups, the church and even the world for the better.
Many schools have school councils where children are encouraged to represent their peers and have a say in the running of the school. Our children are growing up in an environment where they are used to being involved in decision making … until they come to church!
Participation in children’s and youth work means listening to children & young people so that they can be involved in:
- Decision making
- Evaluating impact
especially in the things that affect them such as new buildings, appointment and induction of incumbents, employed children’s or youth ministers to name but a few.
It is even enshrined in Article 12 of the UN Convention of the rights of the Child, 1989 which says “Every child has the right to say what they think in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously”.
Why should your Church engage with Participation?
- Enables Children/Young People to have a greater sense of ownership and belonging
- Offers Churches a different perspective and fresh ideas
- Offers the possibility of generations listening to each other and shaping a different future together
- Helps all to feel values for who they are and what they bring.
But how, you might ask, do we engage with participation?
There are endless creative and fun ways of encouraging children and young people to express themselves and enable adults to hear what they are saying. However, it is important that you choose age appropriate resources that best suit those you are listening to.
To encourage active participation in the decision making process by children and young people, the Church of England has developed a dedicated website called Learn to Listen. This site offers a wide variety of resources, ideas, suggestions and practical advice to help adults take the first steps towards listening to the children and young people in your church.
Within Transforming Church, Transforming Lives is an expectation that every parish will pray over its mission priorities and produce a Church Development Plan which will be widely-owned and regularly reviewed. This presents an exciting opportunity to hear what children and young people are thinking and enable them to be involved in the vision process for the future of the church in which they are growing up.