How to stop the child exodus from church-2

Should Sunday Schools and Youthworkers be scrapped?

Regular readers of this blog will know that for a while now we have been exploring how to turn the child exodus from our church gatherings around. The term “it takes a whole church to raise a child” has been coined in a bid to help every member of the church play their part in the spiritual formation of young people. We have spoken about the key role parents have in this. At our recent Evangelical Alliance council meeting to stir up the debate we put on a debate and asked four youthwork specialists to argue a case. The proposition was “This house believes Sunday schools and Youthworkers should be scrapped.” Those arguing did not necessarily personally believe in their positions – they were asked to present a case. The result was a very lively debate which brought out some of the key issues facing our children’s an youth ministry. Take a look at the video then case your vote….

Benedict Mwendwa is the Salvation Army’s children’s advocate and argues a strong case for abolishing sunday schools on the basis that the encourage segregation and help parents abdicate responsibility.

John Kee argues when something is broken you fix it you don’t abolish it.

Jason Gardner argues that we should scrap youth workers because they stop the rest of the church and parents from building relationships with the church’s young people.
Sarah Wynter argues that specialism is valuable so we should keep our youth workers.

Interview with Kenda Creasy Dean

Why we need a new model of youth ministry

You may not have had time to read Kenda Creasey Dean’s excellent book “Almost Christian.” The video below gives a fantastic insight into her thinking. Now that we live in a world where there are once again a myriad of competing narratives – we need to find a way to do youth ministry in a way that doesn’t assume our young people will be enculturated into the kingdom. In what some would call a “PostChristendom” context – where the Christian faith may be the foundation of our culture but it is no longer the predominant worldview of our culture how do we equip young people to work out and live out their faith?

Creasey Dean highlights the significance of the family as a place where young people either see the Christian faith lived out or not. The benchmark she sets is not that high – if adults simply talk meaningfully about their faith at home and stay connected with the life of the church this will have a significant impact on young people. Now of course Creasey Dean is speaking from a US context, for me this means we have an even more urgent task in the UK where there is so much less church attendance and we are still borrowing a lot of our models of church life and discipleship from the US.

Three observations:

1. We need to find ways to empower, encourage and work alongside parents to help them take up their role as those with primary spiritual responsibility for their children.
2. We need to help young people understand what it means to live as “aliens and strangers” recognising that they will feel like an isolated minority – it means the relationships we develop as churches is even more crucial.
3. we need to help young people have sufficient apologetic understanding of what and why they believe and how to develop the practices and community that will sustain them in their faith into adulthood.

What did you make of the video?

For more like it check out the “it takes a whole church” sub site of the Evangelical Alliance.
You may also enjoy the article I wrote for youth work magazine on this subject.

PS Russell Shaw originally created this for the GO! Conference. It is taken from a phone conversation between Brad Montague and author Kenda Creasy Dean. The audio was difficult to hear so we recorded a new voice over the top, but the words belong to Kenda. You can view the original video here:


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Books worth reading on Fostering and Adoption

1. Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How traumatised children impact foster and adoptive homes by Jayne E Schooler et al
(Very good book written by Christians that helps explain attachment theory with stories and science useful for adopters and foster carers)
2. Bubble-wrapped children, by Helen Oakwater
(says its about adoption and social media, but actually very good introduction to the effects of trauma on children removed from their birth families. Useful for adopters and foster carers)
3. Hurting Too Much - Shocking Stories from the frontline of child protection by Harry Keeble
(this is harrowing reading – but useful to see the wide variety of situations that lead to children being removed. Useful for foster carers)
4. Another place at the table, by Kathy Harrison
(Personal and honest account of a foster carer in the US juggling birth children and several foster placements. Easy read. Useful for foster carers.)
5. A mother like Alex, by Bernard Clark
(an inspirational biography of a single lady who adopted nine children with Downs Syndrome. Useful for those considering adoption.)
6. The trouble with Alex: a child too damaged to love, by Melanie Allen
(a very sad novel – true story – about how an adoption broke down. Useful for adopters and foster carers.)
7. Primal Wound: understanding the adopted child, by Nancy Newton Verrier
(controversial book about the impact on children removed at birth. Useful for adopters and foster carers.)
8. Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father by Dan Cruver
(a Kindle book that relates our ‘vertical’ experience of adoption as Christians with our ‘horizontal’ responsibility to adopt orphans and children in need. Includes articles by John Piper. Useful for adopters and foster carers)
With three birth children and three adopted Chinese orphans, the Chapman family undergo a terrible tragedy. This story is a real tear-jerker, wrestling with some of life’s biggest questions. And through all this, they have inspired hundreds to adopt, and helped to increase awareness of the orphan crisis around the world. A must-read for adopters.
I have been to a seminar that Kathy was running and she is outstanding. She knows what she is talking about when it comes to understanding traumatised children and how to care for them. Kathy is is the director at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development
There may well be lots of books we have missed out, please feel free to add your own recommendations below, thank you.


The Church and Adoption…

Take your child to work day worked out well for my son...

Today I was invited by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering to be at a consultation with Prime Minister David Cameron to talk about how we see adoption become faster and fairer across the UK. Over the next week we should see some announcement regarding an action plan of changes in policy and practice on issues such as setting a limit on how long a child will have to wait to be adopted, re-examining the relative importance of ethnic matching for adoptive parents and exploring the relationship between local authorities and the national adoption register. As someone who has adopted across racial lines and as an adoptive parent who has seen one of our foster children have to wait over 3 years for a placement I am delighted by the way the government is championing this issue and making some real changes. After talking about the the challenges and opportunities for inter racial adoption I had the opportunity to ask one last question…

I asked the Prime Minister to make better use of the church as a fantastic network of potential adopters and as a community that can provide help and ongoing support to those that do adopt. I explained that I thought the Big Society was a big opportunity to work with the church (and other faith groups ) to help meet the huge need for adoptive and foster parents. Part of my role in the Evangelical Alliance is to work out a way to change the culture in our churches to make adoption and foster caring more normal. As I have been travelling around the UK I have come across so many Christians that are doing an amazing job as adopters, foster carers and social workers. I have met some amazing people and heard some incredible stories. Working with Care for the Family we want to try and learn from all the years of experience the church already has in this area and to talk to church leaders about what needs to happen to see a culture change in our churches to meet the need and see both the church and our culture transformed as we follow the example of our great God who is…

a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalm 68

Together the churches across the UK can make a serious dent in the number of children waiting for a home. We will soon be revealing plans for a nationwide consultation on how we can make a difference to the thousands of children in the care system waiting for a home.

At the moment if you are an artist, a film maker or a writer and would like to get involved in the early stages of this project that will make a difference to hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable children in our country please drop me a line…



Jesus HD – Evangelism in the 21st Century

How do we share the gospel effectively without feeling awkward, preachy or embarassed?
Its a conundrum I have been working on for a while as it feels like we are losing our ability to articulate our faith with words, just at the time when we the church are getting better at demonstrating our faith with actions. I am a firm believer that we need to do both: doing good works and explaining the good news ought to go hand in hand.

What do you think are the main factors that cause us to struggle with sharing our faith verbally?
If you have a moment please feel in the quick poll below. Let me know the number one reason you find evangelism difficult…
(there’s only space for 200 entries so get in there quick…)


In light of these struggles i am delighted to be speaking at a cross church initiative in Ealing on March 18th.

It would be great if you could be there: I’ll reveal the findings from the survey and much more..

Krish will be helping us with fresh new ways of sharing our faith with people at work, school or in our families. He’ll help us to answer really up-to-the-minute questions:

  • How can we make sharing our faith a totally natural part of our lives?
  • Can we debunk some of the myths and misunderstanding of what it takes?
  • How can we make our whole life an open invitation to know more about Jesus?
    This is an evening of worship, ministry, interaction and film clips.
  • It is ideal for all Christians – young and old.
  • It will leave us all much better able to connect with those around us and to share our faith.
    St Stephen’s Church, St Stephens Road, W13 8HB


Like millions of people around the world yesterday I was gripped by the powerful and compelling video STOP KONY 2012. It is posted here below:

It’s 30 minutes long and it is worth taking the time to watch.I have shown it to everyone I can – including my children. I retweeted the link to my friends on twitter.


1. Powerful film making

- Jason Russel has put together a master piece. Through compelling story telling he makes some undeniably powerful claims about the value of evert life, the injustice of Child soldiers, the corruption of the Ugandan situation with Joseph Kony and his cronies. To make a viral video that is not 2 mins long, not 5 mins long but 30 minutes long is unheard of. The quality of the film making is so high – it as compelling a short film as I have seen. It is inspirational, educational, media literate, beautiful and breathtakingly sad.

2. Inspirational vision

- there is a very clear call to action. Using our social media opportunities we can call others into this fight against the tragedies of child soldiers. We can make use of the opportunity of the US election to stop fighting petty personality politics but to do some real good to fight injustice. Its a fantastic big hearted vision and I love the vision of it.

3. Movement

- the call is to get involved with a clear movement for change – to get stuck in and become part of something global and significant – definitely something I want to sign up for. To use your voice and your power to help others – clearly a right challenge to all of us.

4. Media Savy

- by targeting 20 media influencers – Rhianna, Bono, Mark Zuckerberg the INVISIBLE CHILDREN group behind the video have been incredibly clever. Rhianna and Bono don’t seem to have a lot of choice but to get on board. They wouldn’t want to be seen as being against a campaign that wants to free child solders would they.

5. Justice

As a Christian I am moved by the passion and commitment to try and do something about the poor and vulnerable. I want to support and join in with the fight for these invisible children. Caring for the needy, defending the rights of the vulnerable is a core part of what it means to be a Christian.


With that said sometimes its important to to ask questions. Not just to go with the media flow or the viral current. After spending a short time in Kenya speaking with Kenyan pastors about the Aid and development industry I have come to believe that people with good intentions can sometimes do harm as well as good.


1. Politics

I am not as well versed in Ugandan politics as I ought to be. But reading around the blogosphere questions have been raised around working the Invisible Children’s willingness to work with the Ugandan army who are pretty notorious for the way they operate. For example you may have read the shocking stories about the rape of DRC men in the guardian last year. Indeed the following blog have raised similar concerns:Liferemixed – reflections on KONY. It seems the group is for direct military intervention and with dubious partners.

“Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong,” said Javie Ssozi, an influential Ugandan blogger.

2. Ugandans?

Another problem is that there are very few Ugandan voices in the film. We hear the heart rending story of one escaped child soldier. But very few Ugandan leaders backing the campaign or agreeing with the analysis of the problem. This could appear to be white westerners trying to solve Africa’s problems. Some have criticised the analysis of the problems made in the video. STOP PRESS – thanks to a friend I have this link from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper where prominent Ugandans are very critical about the campaign:

Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.


3. Finance

It struck me that if this is all about the campaign, why didn’t the invisible children just give away free posters to download rather than have me pay for them to send me a pack. Comments have been made about the financial transparency of the organisation:

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee.


Thanks to helpful comments I want to link to Invisible Children’s reposnse to questions about their financials. Here’s the breakdown they provide.


Friends tell me that this is not outrageous for a non profit. But it does seem disappointing that so little of money raised goes to on the ground projects just 37%.

So what should you do?

1. Dig Deeper – lets take a closer look at the campaign and what funding it would actually mean. (watch this space as I try and find out more).

2. Stay Connected – just because there are questions and things are more complicated than they seem – don’t lose heart and duck out. Lets engage with the Invisible Children movement as there is so much common ground so much to commend in what they are doing – but lets not be afraid to ask the awkward questions.

3. Make a difference – we need to find effective ways to help the poor and needy and to end moral horrors such as the use of child soldiers, people trafficking etc. but it might take a little bit more work than a RT.



3 Things to do on World Women’s Day

It’s international women’s day. In some parts of the world this is a national holiday. For example when I lived in Albania this was a day that was recognised and children would give flowers to women they knew and weren’t necessarily related to- often their school teachers. Why have a day to celebrate women? Some men even get all sulky and demand a men’s day.(STOP PRESS – just been told there is a world men’s day ). Well the simple fact is that around the world women are more vulnerable to violence and abuse than men, women enjoy less power and opportunity than men. Yet women take more responsibility for the needs of others than men. The statistics in the UK and globally are shocking:

Over two women per week are killed by current or ex-partners in the UK

One in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in their lifetime

One incident of domestic violence reported to the police every minute in the UK. (Stanko, 2000)

Globally at least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

12 000 women die in Russia alone from domestic abuse each year.

Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.

When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

Women do 66% of the world’s work yet make only 10% of the world’s income.


3 Things you can do:

1. Watch and Share

This is a powerful and compelling video about the impact of investing in girls in the developing world. Its 2 minutes long and well worth a look. Why not think about sharing this video on your Facebook wall right now.

2. Act

We all have opportunities to change the way that women are treated.
Sexism is not someone else’s problem.
Sadly in our country there is still a pay gap between men and women. (Women still earn 15.5% less than men).
There are still sexist jokes and conversations in the workplace that cut women out.
In our entertainment industry its still difficult as a father to find films that don’t have a patronising view of women.

You may be aware of the Bechdel test for a movie:

The Bechdel Test:
1. Are there at least two named female characters in the movie…
2. Who talk to each other…
3. About something other than a man?

There are very few films that meet these criteria. ( Thelma and Louise, Black Swan come to mind but both of these films feature abuse against women and have been written to help correct the sexist imbalance in many films.)

There are things we can chose to say, do or watch that will fight against this.You might want to

3. Pray

If you are a Christian then we believe all human beings are made in the image of God and we have the responsibility and the privilege to demonstrate our love for God through the way we treat other people. If we do not respect women then we do not respect God its as simple as that. Jesus demonstrated a revolutionary respect towards the women he came across -

1. Jesus often used women as role models in his illustrations (Luke 21:1-4)

2. Jesus believed women ought to be taught alongside the men (Luke 10:38-42) rather than just do domestic chores as was the custom.

3. The first person that Jesus told clearly that he was the Messiah was a woman (John 4)

4. God chose the first witnesses to the resurrection to be women (Luke 24:1-8) even though at the time a woman’s testimony was not seen to be as valuable as a man’s.

Pray that all churches whatever their denomination or tribe will demonstrate the same respect, compassion and honour towards women that Jesus showed. That we would model to the world the truth that:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Pray that the church would model a way of relating to women that will be a taste of the kingdom of God in the world today.
Pray that the church would get involved in fighting against violence and injustice against women.
Pray that the church would play its role of following God’s lead in being a protector of widows and orphans.

You might also want to get involved with Restored an excellent christian charity seeking to end violence against women.

iPad 3 Concept Features - YouTube

I have seen the future

There has been so much speculation about the iPad 3 since before even the iPad2 came out but as March 7th approaches the volume of speculation has been cranked up to 11. As a long term tech lover its hard not to get caught up in the information frenzy. My school yard conversations centred less around the relative merits of the first division football teams of my day and more around the relative merits of the latest tech. I had a Commodore Vic 20 and all of my friends had ZX Spectrums and we would enjoy banter centred around which computer was the best. I defended valiantly but I knew I was onto a loser when “full size keyboard” was all I really had to offer in support of my computer’s superiority.

So nowadays when tech is not restricted to the geek squad in the playground but is increasingly the landscape in which we spend most of our time. I spend more time on my iPad / Macbook Air than I spend in my car. A lot of my working hours and leisure hours are spent utilising these devices so the innovations in tech do make a significant differences to the way we spend our time. So watching this video is more than just about what is “cool” or “neat” there will be implications if this future comes to pass – both good and bad.

How about you try and respond to the video below by offering a suggestion of both a good and bad implication. For some of us technophiles we can only see the good for some of us technophobes we can only see the bad. So drop me a comment.

Here’s a starter for you:

The Good – more opportunities to communicate – 3D projection could be allow more effective person to person communication.
The Bad – always on tech may be more difficult to resist so that there is room in life for rest and sabbath in the rhythm of life

Now over to you…

Just another Manic Maunday

There I was loitering with intent on the red carpet. I had been invited to my first, and only royal premiere performance, and there I was, camera in hand, ready to grab a picture of the movie stars, or even the Queen herself. It was to be her first 3D film, so I was sure a snapshot of her Majesty in black glasses would be worth a small fortune.

Despite looking quite official in a borrowed black tie and dinner jacket from a teenager in my church, it was not long before two men wearing shades and sporting CIA type ear pieces, gently ushered me away from the arriving celebs and royal dignatories. I may have been an invited guest, but I still only held riff-raff status and was not good enough to be in the same space as Her Majesty.

How different it was at that first Maunday Thursday event. The King of Kings dresses himself as a servant and takes up the job that only the lowliest person would perform – foot-washing.

The last few hours of Jesus life are being recorded here, and it serves as a trailer for the main feature when Jesus will show the full extent of his love for the world by dying in their place. This trailer picks up on the theme and offers us a picture of what it means to look out for the needs of others before our own.

When the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee arrives, we will see her finely dressed processing through the streets of London to the adulation of the crowd. Imagine the shock if she suddenly picked up a piece of litter, blew a child’s nose or offered CPR to a dying drunk.

Sometimes even we feel too important for those jobs. But Jesus shows us that no matter who we are, we need to treat others with more respect than ourselves, and go out of our way to serve their needs.

You can listen to this as a devotional reading thanks to premier radio.

Guardian open journalism_ Three Little Pigs advert - video | Media |

The whole truth?

Love this video from the guardian – its an interesting reminder of the fact that our access to world events is mediated.

Christians are not immune from this process. We are being discipled by the media we watch, the newspapers we read – the personalities we follow on twitter. Its often easy to see how someone else’s cultural location shapes their thinking – for example my long standing frustration with Wayne Grudem’s reading of scripture through a Capitalist, Republican, Climate Change Denying cultural lens (see here for review of his book on politics). But humility demands that I recognise that my own views are equally susceptible to my cultural location. Its why I am grateful to have friends from across different theological and cultural barriers who can help me be more aware of the cultural filters that shape my reading of the Bible and my approach to life. Thank God for courageous journalists, honest friends, the challenge of those who hold different views to me and the opportunity for generous conversations. Enjoy the video.