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Intergenerational rather than children’s ministry alone is essential

Children’s Ministry Network Spring Conference, Waterford

Delegates at the Children’s Ministry Network conference with Bishop Michael Burrows and the Reverend James Mulhall.
Delegates at the Children’s Ministry Network conference with Bishop Michael Burrows and the Reverend James Mulhall.

How to work with children who haven’t heard the Christian story and the necessity for focusing on inter–generational rather than children’s ministry alone – these were the main issues discussed at a recent UK and Ireland Children’s Ministry Network Conference in Dungarvan, County Waterford.

Organised by the Reverend James Mulhall, the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory’s Children’s Ministry Officer, this major three–day conference focused on how the challenges of nurturing children in the Christian faith could be met.

It was attended by 17 people involved in children’s ministry from different faith traditions in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.

Ireland has it easier, the conference heard, in that it hasn’t yet ‘lost the generation that knows the story’.

“You’ve still got a bedrock of knowledge,” Martin Payne of the Bible Fellowship Society stated, “whereas in England we’ve lost some of this. That’s why have to think much bigger than children’s ministry. It has to be about intergenerational ministry – working with parents and grandparents as well. The grandparents’ factor is huge.”

The term ‘intergenerational ministry’ cropped up repeatedly as did the value of Messy Church and Godly Play in engaging with families.

The need for ministry ‘to be more hands–on’ was also focused on as well as communicating with young people in a way that engages them.

Well–being of children was the focus of another workshop led Penny Fuller of the Methodist Church who spoke of a call in the UK for churches to do something about children’s mental health and to be in schools in some role to help.

Training college lecturers to be better able to communicate the Christian message to generations who ‘haven’t heard the story’ was also deemed vital.

The still–strong link in Ireland between school, church and parish was seen as a great asset by the assembly.

Delegates also visited the Cathedral centres of Kilkenny and Waterford to witness children’s ministry there.

“We were challenged at this conference to explore new perspectives and ways of working,” said James. “It came across that we are still looking at Sunday school ways of interacting with children whereas the emphasis is now on intergenerational faith contexts. It’s obvious that while we may not know exactly how to get there we now have the vision of where we need to go.”

For more information, please visit the Church of Ireland Children’s Ministry website: www.cm.ireland.anglican.org

Contact Details

Dr Ken Fennelly

Secretary, Board of Education (Republic of Ireland)
Church of Ireland House
Church Avenue
Rathmines
Dublin 6
D06 CF67
+353 (0)1 4125 609

ken.fennelly@rcbdub.org

Dr Peter Hamill

Secretary, Board of Education (Northern Ireland)
Church of Ireland House
61–67 Donegall Street
Belfast
BTI 2QH
+44 (0)28 9082 8860

edunorth@ireland.anglican.org