Sunday’s Reflection: 19/5/2019 Stats, Stats and ??

Not only does the Northern hemisphere seem to be warming up with conferences interesting anyone involved in Child and Family Ministry. In the past few weeks we have had Orange, http://orangeblogs.orgin the USA, though generously available to anyone “upside down” who is able to be sleep deprived with live internet sessions; Messy Church, in the UK, and InterGenerate 2019

USA, about to start. Such a collection of people and ideas involved in Children’s or Intergenerational ministry, is indicative of how important Ministry with children is now.


But there is something else emerging with the warming weather, a collection of long needed statistics.


were the first stats out of the northern winter, followed by the publishing of a paper in the Journal of Research on Christian Education on the Impact of a Paid Children, Youth or Family Worker on Anglican Congregations in England ://, and then the publishing of the data from the Gen On questionnaire completed by congregations, worldwide.


Before we hurry, and we should with great excitement, towards the statistics, we should also stop and ask a few questions. It is important to be aware of the aims of the studies and where they are from. Does data coming from the Northern Hemisphere reflect the social realities of the Southern Hemisphere? What of these statistics is universal, and what are cultural? really must be one of the first questions we ask ourselves in the Southern Hemisphere. Also, we should ask ourselves Who produced the statistic? under what conditions? and we need to ask ourselves if we believe we would get similar results in our own culture.

Unfortunately, Australia lags with statistical research around Child and Family Ministry and there would appear to be several reasons for this. The first is that getting research trials involving children through values committees is harder, more complicated than in any other time in Australian history. Second, We don’t have access to data banks with the types of statistics required, though you can put in a request to to see, but as many Uniting Church in Australia have not replied to their questionnaires, there is little, especially Victorian data available. Also, to access what is available requires money.

When we combine with the Northern hemisphere our data is minute and makes no difference to the statistics. For example, only 32 Australian churches and 5 New Zealand churches are represented in the Gen On data, less than 3 %.

But it is Data, and I have been asking for data for a few years now, primarily because Ministers and congregations have been asking for proof of the need to move away from the Sunday School model that most church council members grew up with. Until now, all I and others involved in Child and Family Ministry, have had available to us is Theory, primarily borrowed from educational and spirituality theorists, and Biblical basis grown out of the Child Theology Movement. A form of theological analysis not encountered in the traditional form and structure exegesis.[1] and Child Theology a Theological Response by Francis Young in  Anvil Vol.35 Issue 1

Asking congregations to trust, to have faith in a new structure has been difficult for many. It has worn out many involved in Child and Family Ministry. I am not saying that the incoming statistics will solve our capacity to sell change, but that it is another resource available to congregations to help guide social and structural changes in the education of our young. But we also need to be wary of using data without due consideration and which may not reflect our cultural experience. And may I encourage more garden variety data of our own. And we have had some

Dr Vivien Mountain, Children’s Prayer: Multi-faith Perspectives (2016, Christian Research Association, Nunawading)



Wendy L.

[1]Bunge, Marcia J. (ed), The Child in the Bible, (2008, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids)


Open Your Eyes through the child in the story.

I so love it when the children realise that one of the readings has a child in it. Suddenly the “penny drops” that these things we talk about each week might actually be valid for them too. The eyes light up, the mouth becomes excited and then the ears grow, ok, not really, but they want you to be quite so they can hear. I so love these moments, and in this weeks RCL readings there may very well be that excited moment for someone. The Loaves and fish’s story, this year from John, may well provide one of those moments.

What a mixed bag of readings in this weeks RCL! Not only do we have the loaves and fishes story, and Jesus appearing to the disciples while they are on the water, we also have the story of David and Bathsheba.  I would imagine that most congregations with children will err towards the Gospel readings, while more elderly congregations may venture into the more racy issues of David.

This form of age discrimination, or censorship happens in many congregations.

Age appropriate issues aside, because we can retell a story such as the one of David and Bathsheba, without the detail that a 2 year doesn’t need to hear, we might all miss out on the underlying themes if we don’t share the bible stories. I’m not just suggesting that children might miss out on the understanding that the ultimate authority is God’s, as in the David and Bathsheba  story, but what about what the adults get to hear.

There are many ways of engaging with the text, through the original words, the metaphors, the senses, the positioning of the story the comparison with similar passages, etc. But how about through the child in the story. In the story of the loaves and fishes. What do we see though the child’s eye? What does this story tell us about the Kingdom of God? Why is it that the child is the only one with food to give? As adults do we share as readily this child? If we are reading the child as pointing us to the Kingdom of God, especially as John deliberately refers to Jesus’s followers as the children of God, then what is the child showing us about how to live in the Kingdom? But by putting the “child in the middle” we are looking at the passage in the way the Child Theology Movement would have us read theology.

It is not just the children that should come alive in recognition of the stories, no we still have much to discover, through the child in the story.

Oh and by the way, there is a child, 2 in fact in the 2 Samual reading. What do we see of the story when we look at it through their eyes?

Maybe there is still much to learn, to make the adults eyes widen in the excitement of discovery.


Wendy L.