Saturday, 16 October 2010

Rewind to the summer

Let’s rewind to the distant summer that lies behind. One weekend in July, one field on the south coast...of Wales, a few hundred kids and teenagers and a bunch of Christian charities all working to make the Good News of Jesus a reality in lives.

Last year, our first year was WET, soggy and a little bit of a wash out. So after taking the plunge to change and add a new thing to our calendar I was now feeling like that was a mistake. I thought that the children would not want to return. I hesitated to book again mainly because I thought the children would remember water pouring into venues, sogginess, gale force winds, been woken in the middle of the night by loud speakers warning of possible evacuation of the site – sounds dramatic? Well it kind of was for an unseasoned camper on a new venture. My presumptions turned out to be wrong, because as soon as we were back they were at me, when’s spree, are we going again? And that wasn’t just the young people. So I did it, I pre-booked, got my early booking discount, reserved the minibus, rallied together some leaders and cooks (who conveniently have a camper van) and waited on the kids to see if they could get their parents to put their money where their mouths were. And they did, complete with new recruits!

So two minibuses, one campervan, one car, seven tents, ten leaders and 30 young people headed off with trepidation to the well known holiday destination of Llanelli, Wales...

Our weekend and timetable was filled with activities from hot tubs and archery, hover crafting and zorbing, workshops and football to worship and teaching, prayer tents and practical seminars – not to mention the leader’s tent, in which I would usually find my leaders hiding! Want to see what they do look at the link

So what did I think, what did my group think and how did it help our young people? Well let me address the latter first, our young people loved it. There was fantastic relationship building across the children and youth that we took, as well as with the leaders. It was so encouraging to see the children we took. All of the youth had come through children’s work whilst I have been in my position, incredible to see them still attached to the church even if it is tenuous. Two of our youth became Christians at the weekend and have since made incredible steps in their faith, not only personally but in witnessing to their friends. We took a kid with us who has a disability – although I’m not sure any of our group really thinks of her as having a disability because she just fits in so well. She was well occupied and as usual charmed most of the people on site. Meal times saw incredible questions raised and a desire to know answers. It was great.

What did I think...? Well I loved it and yes we will go again but there is a but! Unfortunately I am a little passionate about how children are taught the Bible and am quite militant on VISUAL and INTERACTIVE. Alongside these traits I have an application monster which wants to see the Bible being taught in such a way that the children can see it as applicable to their lives. And as if that wasn’t enough it has to appeal to all learning styles (ideally this happens in all presentations, adult/youth/children). SO, this is when all the group leaders dread me walking through the door, well if they don’t to start with they do when they get their anonymous feedback forms back! Luckily for me they don’t really know who I am by that point, so I am safe in the knowledge that I can return year on year and not be banned from entering the 8-11’s tent.

Let us go through this in a nice methodical way

1. I walk through the door and I am already board because as a visual learner there is nothing for me and I’m in my late twenties (shudder, that sounds old). A puppet theatre, two blank flat screen TV’s and a drum kit do not do it for me. Also flat screen TV’s are just actually not that good, especially when the sun shines on them and you’re right at the back with heads in the way.

2. I was faced team leader who did not listen to me when I explained that one of the kids in her group from my group would need an eye kept on him. I found him later wandering around the outside of the tent bored (luckily the site is fenced in). The team were an improvement on last year because this year they knew a little more what they were doing.

3. There was a points system was lovely and exactly that. It was all to do with the discipline which when I first heard that I was impressed, until I realised that the ‘red’ of the traffic light ribbon that each team had was pointless! Kids are not stupid they know if you have no ultimate punishment. And sure enough my ‘need to keep an eye on boy’ cottoned on to this and asked me “what happens if my name gets put on the red ribbon?” So I enquired and do you know what? No one ever answered my question all weekend! If you’re going to have a points system use it, flaunt it, let the children know that they can have fun but also let them know just who is in charge without being a battleaxe.

4. Time and time plans! In the middle of the session one of my children’s leaders from our church was asked by one of the people leading the session “What time does this session finish and how long is it meant to be?” Need I say any more? Well I heard from the front in the hearing of children – “what are we doing next?” I feel that if you know what you’re doing, you look like you want to do it and the children then on the whole (not always) will then want to join in.

5. A short but literally sweet point. They randomly decided to serve squash and chocolate during a session, without having any allergy information from any of the children. I had with me a fructose intolerant child (and there was no water around for her) and a kid with a nut allergy (and the chocolate had traces of nuts in it). But it was all ok, there were no disasters and the leaders were made a aware

6. I think I shall make this my final point, the talks. Two were videos and two were stories with actions. I am sorry, I have seen them before and I could do that at home with the kids. I feel quite strongly that the Bible CAN be applied to children’s lives and we are scared to do it. God is as applicable to a small child as an old lady or a great thinking academic and we need to remember this. And yes I forget in some of the stuff I do with kids to apply so I am just like the rest, but we cannot hinder young people from understanding the bible whatever their age.

And I am stopping because I do actually dread the phone call, I hope that no one is ever stupid enough to ask me to lead it because I know that in the leaders that will come in from outside will be a me and they will write a reflective blog on their experience and put everyone off ever going to spree. BUT STOP!

I have respect for the people that ran the children’s work (this was the element I saw, I didn’t see any of the youth stuff really), because its hard work, there is so much to remember and the resources and the budgets are limited. And can I redirect you to the positives that I mentioned earlier and say I do recommend this weekend and I will be the first to book up as soon as I can.

Well done guys, for putting up with the people like me who appear on the things you run. Keep up the good work and I pray that you will continue to seek God and honour Him with your whole life ; )