GROWING FAITH

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Bishop Paul at Auckland Castle. (Picture: Keith Blundy)

The Growing Faith report and General Synod motion agreed on February 22nd are hugely welcome. They are the next step on a long journey bringing the churches work in schools, it’s own work and households in much more harmony.

in 2010 the Growing for Growth report called for every child and young person to have a life enhancing encounter with the Christian faith and the person of Jesus Christ. Thankfully this was picked up as a phrase for all people. We want all to have such life enhancing, indeed life transforming encounter with Jesus.

I simply offer 7 headings to help us take Growing Faith forward into action.

TELL GOD’S STORY

In the research undertaken into the huge amount of work under taken with Toddler groups based in churches one point that stood out was the strength of feeling expressed by parents, grandparents and carers about why they come to church based groups. They expect and want God’s story told and shared. They want the groups to be clear about God. (www.going4growth.com/downloads)

So in all aspects of our work let’s tell God’s story. Let’s talk about Jesus.

EXPLORE THE BIBLE TOGETHER

Howard Worsley undertook some really good research into reading and talking about the Bible with children. The core of this is to simply read the Bible together and explore it. Parents and children reading and talking honestly about what they make of the text; sharing what God is saying; sharing the struggles and discovering together. We need to do the same in our schools. Help children and young people actually read the biblical text and explore it together, in all its delight and in all its complexity. In our churches we need to also openly handle scripture together. If in all contexts we read the Bible openly together we will grow together.

PRAYER

Prayer Spaces in Schools have been one of the best developments in the Diocese of Durham in recent years. They help children and young people learn to pray creatively and engagingly. They also develop their creative and leadership skills. We will do well to take the very best of creative praying into how we pray in our homes, and in our churches. Praying creatively grows faith.

ACT TOGETHER

Young people and children are passionately concerned about climate change, homelessness, poverty and all kinds of matters of justice. They want to do things to make a difference. So let’s help households act together. Let’s find ways of schools, churches and households acting together in our local communities for their blessing, and in wider matters of justice.

ENCOURAGE LEADERSHIP

I am proud of Durham Diocese’s Children’s Council. They decided to undertake a year of reaching their own peer group with the good news of Jesus. They called it Mini Missionaries and gained some funding from Scripture Union. They didn’t not invite me to join in the trampolining event, wisely. When they presented their work to our Diocesan Synod some of the adults noted, ‘They are leading us and showing us the way.’ Indeed they are. We must encourage leadership now amongst our children and young people.

GO AWAY TOGETHER

Residentials and camps are hugely valuable. CPAS Development of their School  entures alongside their long history of Ventures and Falcon Camps is an exciting development. Going away together really helps people of all ages explore and grow in faith. School trips, SU Camps, events like Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest,  Walsingham, Taize and the like are all hugely valuable. At a local level we need to develop more ways of people of all ages going away together to discover faith.

All of these help grow faith. When combined together they become even stronger. The Rooted In the Church (www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/2016_rooted_in_the_church_summary_report.pdf) research reveals the importance of all these factors.

In order to grow faith better we need to see the households as the primary place for where faith is discovered, learned, and nurtured. But this is hugely enhanced by what happens in our churches and in our schools.

We need to be

Generational – Peer Group Learning and work matters

Cross-Generational – grandparent / grandchild etc

Inter-Generational – discovering together across all ages

We all need to Grow in Faith. I believe these factors will help us do so.