‘Five cultural shifts’ needed for children, young people and families ministry

It’s time for the Church to re-engage with children, young people and families says a new report published by the Diocese of Oxford today. The Diocese says that there has been a growing gulf between the work of churches and the reality of life for young people and in the culture at large. The new report, Disciples Together, explores how parishes can ’embrace change for the benefit of God’s work in the world’ and outlines steps for future ministry.

“Research has shown that one in four adults have engaged with online religious content during lockdown. Interestingly this figure rises to one in three among 18 – 34 year olds. Our experience is that young people are also interested in lived spirituality, but there are some shifts in understanding and practice we need to make; shifts with children, young people and families at the heart,” says Ian Macdonald, Diocesan Youth Adviser.

Ian was speaking at Diocesan Synod on Saturday (13 June) with Yvonne Morris, the Diocesan Children’s and Family Ministry Adviser as they highlighted the need for the Church to connect intergenerationally and in new ways.

“Age segregation has been the norm within our faith in recent times. Added to a disproportionate emphasis on information teaching, it’s led to approaches that are ‘directed at’ children and young people rather than ‘with’. We’ve not sufficiently engaged with their spirituality and lived experience,” says Yvonne.

Disciples Together highlights a growing gulf between the work of the Church and the reality of life for young people and our culture at large. It is written in the context of a culture were many children aren’t connected to a faith community after primary school, and where the majority have disconnected completely by 15.

“The Church should, of course, celebrate all that is good in its work with children, young people and families, but it needs to look hard at its processes, policies and practices and be realistic about the changes required for the future good of the Church – and of the world,” say Ian and Yvonne. The new report highlights five cultural shifts (see notes for editors, below) to address these and recommends small, one-degree changes to help make a difference.

They also point out how young peoples’ attitude to knowledge, relationships, creativity, possibilities, the world, and so much more is radically different from the generations that preceded them. “We have to ask ourselves, how do a very visual generation of creatives, who usually participate in their own learning, fit with a Church that is broadly built around words and largely passive attendance?” The well-documented mental health epidemic is addressed too: “…our gospel vision promises us life in all its fullness, and there are deep resources within our Christian tradition to enable us to make a positive and healing contribution to the well-being of children and young people.”

Disciples Together is available to download from the Diocese of Oxford website from Friday 19 June. Launch materials include a video from the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, and a discussion guide for PCC’s, based on the principles of the popular Parish Planning Tool produced by the Diocese last year. Registration opens today for a series of webinars to explore the themes of the report and a detailed guide to intergenerational church is expected next month.

Notes for editors:

  • The report, together with accompanying materials, is available at
  • An image of the front cover of the report suitable for media use, is available here.
  • To arrange a media interview, or to request further images, please contact Steven Buckley on 07824 906839 or Jo Duckles on 07880 716761
  • The Disciples Together report calls for five cultural shifts in the church:
  1. Viewing children and young people as active participants and pilgrims
    A shift from viewing children and young people as a problem/deficit/challenge to children and young people as active participants and pilgrims.
  2. Engaging with children, young people and families intergenerationally
    A shift from running separate programmes to living intergenerationally.
  3. Being intentional disciple makers
    A shift from ‘vague influencers’ to intentional disciple makers.
  4. Enabling those engaging with children and young people to be ‘called’, ‘formed’ and ‘equipped’ ministers
    A shift from pressed volunteers and workers to called and formed ministers.
  5. Being the change we want to see
    A shift from an ‘adults-only’ Church to an ‘all-age community of grace’.


Firepits for everyday faith

Firepits are a new initiative from the Diocese of Oxford. They’re a space where real life and issues about everyday faith can be shared. A Firepit can be an existing small group or a temporary group… and anyone can start one.

Macro and Micro


Local campaigner wins national volunteering award

Janet Rogers, a passionate local volunteer for the Children’s Society, has been presented with their national volunteering award. In this story, Charlotte Tyler, 15, who joined our communications department for a week of work experience, tells the story of Janet’s tireless campaign. 
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Children’s Everyday Faith

A walk with a toddler, if you are prepared to let them meander as they wish, can be the adventure of a lifetime. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Demand soars for inspiring RE lessons as children discover church isn’t scary


Berkshire-based schools project REinspired has seen demand for its work with schools and young people soar.

“REinspired exists to help groups of Christians from different backgrounds work with their local schools to support the Christian elements of the Religious Education curriculum (RE),” reports project director, Julia Jones. REinspired started in 2003 with one primary school asking churches if they could help improve RE lessons.

Since then the project has grown to deliver Christian RE lessons to every child, in every school in the Earley and East Reading areas. “We have other REinspired projects up and running in Reading in Woodley, Caversham, West and South Reading, Southcote, and in other areas, in Guernsey, Headington, Bristol, Houghton Regis and Chinnor. Every year more and more schools are looking for the sort of support REinspired can deliver. This year demand has quite literally soared. It’s been fabulous to work with churches in West and South Reading where four new schools have recently asked REinspired to come into their schools. And there are requests from Bracknell, Wokingham, Theale, Pangbourne, Aylesbury and more. Interesting that our most recent requests have come from school teachers themselves as they value what we offer and how we can enhance and enrich their current RE work. Most have learnt about us via internet searches and by word of mouth.”

So, what lies behind this Religious Education success story? Last year Tim Burdon reported in Inews that 26 per cent of secondary schools were failing to deliver even a basic level of RE lessons. Added to this is the view among many that young people are simply not interested in religion. Yet when it comes to Christianity it appears that young people are far more interested than might have first been thought. And it appears that a visit to a local church can really ignite that initial interest.

“Many of our sessions take place in schools but we also invite the children to come and visit us in our churches,” says Julia. “The excitement of time away from the classroom makes such visits a memorable day. Yet there’s also a distinct spiritual element as children, their teachers and adult helpers enter together into our Christian holy and sacred spaces.”

Vicar of St Nicolas’, Earley, the Revd Neil Warwick, said: “Each church visit is quite unique. We love to see the children enter in and enjoy learning about beliefs and practices that are so special to us. The conversations that occur during a visit are incredible and these continue as the children go to school and then home, sharing what they have learnt with their families.”

Writing in The Telegraph Olivia Rudgard reported that more than one in five young people between the ages of 11 and 18 would describe themselves as active followers of Jesus. Many others want to explore those big questions of life that RE lessons provide an ideal opportunity to investigate.

What happens when we die? Where have we come from? Is there more to life than material possessions? How should we treat our world?

“Big Questions demand that Christians seize this opportunity to add their voice to the debate,” says Julia. “At REinspired we work with children from primary schools all the way through to the sixth form. Our sessions use volunteers from local churches to provide engaging, interactive and creative approaches to the big issues schools and their young people want to explore. Schools love our approach – as do the pupils. The result has been soaring demand.”

The Revd Keith Wilson, Chair of Trustees, said: “The REinspired model is about sharing what we believe in supporting the Christian enquiry on the RE syllabus, enabling young people not only to ‘learn about’ but also to ‘learn from’ this belief. As with every line of enquiry, there comes a moment when inevitably one asks, what does this mean for me?”

“We would love to see the REinspired model replicated elsewhere,” explained Keith. “All you need is a group of churches who have a passion to serve their local schools through RE. It’s then a case of building relationships and getting ready to host a session. At REinspired we’re passionate about meeting this demand and provide training, mentoring and other resources to get new groups off to a brilliant start.”

Seasonal signposting in the greatest story ever told

Yvonne Morris, our diocesan children’s adviser, provides a way for families and children’s workers to have chilled out conversations about the Christmas story.

Use the wonderings and questions as a springboard to share together your stories, thoughts and experiences.

There are no right or wrong answers – this is an invitation to be and talk together. All these things are signposts pointing towards an event called Christmas.

Did you know that in God’s big story, written in the Bible, there are many signposts pointing towards Christmas? They don’t involve Christmas jumpers, writing cards or watching Christmas movies.

Around 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote about his coming. Isaiah wasn’t the only prophet to know that Jesus would come. Jeremiah, Daniel and Micah are just some of the prophets who were so close to God they knew what he was saying.

A bit like a jigsaw puzzle, each prophet had a piece that in time would come together to make a picture, pointing to when God’s promises would come true.
Read together your favourite version of the Christmas story. You can find it in the Bible in Matthew Chapters 1 and 2, and Luke 1-2:40 or in your storybook Bible. The Christmas Journey by Susie Poole (published by Pupfish) and My Very First Nativity Play by Lois Rock (published by Lion) are both great for primary school children and pre-schoolers.
As you read the story, can you find ‘signposts’ that point towards Bethlehem? I wonder what signposts you found? I noticed that angels are like signposts to different people throughout the story.

Like the prophets, Angels point the way to Jesus across time (but not so many years as Isaiah!). An angel foretells the birth of John the Baptist and the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to prepare her to be Jesus’ mum. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (three times!) and many angels appeared to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth.

Did you notice what the angels often say to the person they are speaking to? I wonder if being told ‘Do not be afraid…’ helped them feel less frightened. What helps you when you feel scared?

Did you read the part of the story about the Magi? (they may have been called Wise Men in your version). They had a brilliant signpost showing them how to get to Bethlehem! Can you imagine following a star? I wonder what their journey was like. Do you think they talked and joked and got cross with each other on the way?

I just love the Christmas story. There are so many things to be curious about. Keep wondering about the prophets that point to Jesus across many many years. Keep wondering about the Angels that point to Jesus and show the way to Bethlehem. Keep noticing the things that point you to Jesus and the signposts showing you his way of loving and living.

Offer these things to God in prayers using your own words.

Wonderings and questions

I wonder how you know Christmas is coming?
Have you written in Christmas cards?
Have you been to a carol or Christingle service?
Have you watched a Christmas movie?
Have you worn a Christmas jumper?
Have you been opening an Advent calendar?
Have you been lighting an Advent candle?
How else do you know Christmas is coming?

Youth club and café a huge success

donutsA Youth Club and Church Café are going from strength to strength in Longworth.

The Church Café provides a family-friendly and welcoming environment for everyone in the village. Since it opened in February it has provided a place where the local community can meet on Sunday morning. The response has been extremely encouraging as families have flocked to enjoy the event.

Children, accompanied by their parents, take part in activities on a Christian theme, whilst others have a coffee and bacon roll. It has also been a way of allowing people to use their gifts e.g. welcoming, catering and working with children. All in all it has been a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all those involved.

Meanwhile a Youth Club that started four years ago caters for youngsters aged from 10 upwards and is led by one of the parents who enlists help from others. Each time up to 20 young people attend. They provide a varied programme of activities – crafts, quizzes, films and short talks as well as organising trips for roller-blading, ice skating, and swimming. They have also done car washing to raise funds for the African Children’s Fund charity.

Giving parents the chance to talk

Parents are getting the chance to relax and unwind after dropping their children off at school thanks to an initiative in Stanford-in-the-Vale.

Vicar, the Revd Paul Eddy, was inspired to set up Oasis and Parent Talk by his wife, who pointed out that after spending a weekend with their four children, then doing the school run on a Monday morning, the chance to socialise with other parents would be welcome.

So from January Oasis has provided a space for parents and carers to meet, have coffee, bacon butties and a chat. “We advertised it through our CofE primary school and 12 mums came along. We have a number of women who do part-time jobs, one is a part time GP and one is a child minder,” says Paul. “They are mums who might never come to the church for a service and it is run by four women from the church who see it as their ministry.

“As a result we have helped in all sorts of practical ways in family situations and from that have felt it was right to support families in parenting.” The church is now planning to run parenting classes especially giving dads the chance to join in.

“When I arrived I asked the question of how I can reach out to families and support them. There are 200 children in the primary school and we have helped families with all sorts of problems. We have helped mums with hospital appointments,” said Paul. “We have a couple who are on the Christians Against Poverty course to train to give debt advice and support. The contacts we have made has allowed us to help our community with health problems, marriage problems and all sorts of other issues.

“It’s also allowed people who may not regularly attend church to think about getting their children baptised, or holding a thanksgiving service for their youngsters. Some parents can’t make the commitment of weekly church attendance so they don’t want to make the Baptism vows but they are delighted to have a thanksgiving service,” says Paul.