Last week as term ended we paused to reflect. This week we continue in our series thinking about discipleship. We began by thinking about how people come to believe and now we continue by considering how we nurture that belief and help them to grow in discipleship.
The key way we can do this of course is by having age appropriate groups for discipleship. All types of groups which function across the Diocese can serve in this way; Messy Churches, Parent and Toddler Groups, After-School Clubs, Children’s Groups, Youth Groups, Sunday Schools etc. All of these seek to function by offering teaching and fun to our children and young people which will help them learn and grow in their faith.
But it is this balance that we sometimes struggle to get right. The balance between fun and teaching in our groups. Many groups that meet will have a small ‘God slot’ as part of the session and the rest will be made up of games, drama or other activities. Some groups have no Christian input at all and others have many ways of helping to teach the faith through stories, craft, games etc.
Of course our groups should be fun, children and young people need to want to be there otherwise they will not see any longevity. However if we are seeking to grow disciples we need to consider how we can have teaching slots within our groups and how this balance can work for us in our own circumstances.
Here are some thoughts on this balance between teaching and fun using the new craze of Pokemon Go. This is a really huge thing for children, young people and young adults! This is a perfect example of how our groups should incorporate things which children and young people are really interested in but also how to keep that balance.
- Fun but reactive
Firstly then our groups need to have fun at the centre. This is definitely the most important way to keep children and young people engaged and enjoying their time together. However it’s important to keep up to date with what constitutes fun. There are always crazes that churches would do well to latch on to and Pokemon Go is one of those. I would really encourage churches to look into this and see how they can react to the craze and work it into their work with children and young people.
- Fun but safe
Secondly of course whilst we all want our children and young people to have lots of fun in our groups there are things which need to be in place to ensure that fun is also safe. This is of course relevant to any activities we run but here is particular guidance in relation to Pokemon Go
With thanks to the NSPCC for this article, this explains the safeguarding concerns, highlighting the fact that churches may attract young people playing the game.
- Fun but focused
We need to remember of course that in all of this we are seeking to build the kingdom and grow disciples. Whether we choose to have specific Christian input or not – how can we use fun to help children and young people think about values, about the importance of friendship, about who they are in the world and how they relate to one another. Pokemon Go is a great way to do this – it’s a shared experience, it encourages teamwork, it encourages children and young people to get out and about walking.
- Fun but structured
In all of our groups whilst keeping fun at the centre, keeping safe and focused a structure is also important. Children and young people respond well to structure and enjoy knowing what is coming up, what time they will get to have a snack or play a game. It’s also important as well to remember that when a craze like Pokemon Go is happening they are likely to get a little distracted. This is also the case generally with smart phones, apps, texting and the rest. Think about having a tech slot – 10 minutes where they can play a game, send a text or whatever they want to do. then you can ensure that the rest of the time they are listening and doing what you ask them to do.
- Fun but Gospel
Again, surely we are keen for all children and young people we are in contact with to hear the Good News of the Gospel.
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
How are they to hear unless we speak the Good News of Jesus Christ to them? And so I would encourage all groups to have some Christian input and again to make this fun, to use various crazes or what the children and young people in your group enjoy. If they love craft then teach them through that, if they enjoy games there are all sorts of ways you can weave teaching into every day games, if they like drama then use that to tell a Bible story in a fun and interesting way.
Here are some ways Pokemon Go can be used to teach the Christian message.
Enjoy being with your children and young people! React and use the things they enjoy, remember of course to keep safe and keep focused, give them a structure which works and finally please teach them.