Restarting a work among children (1)

Michael Buckbridge, Grantham, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Editor’s Note: The assemblies at Grantham and Mansfield, like many others, found difficulties in maintaining a once thriving children’s work. As numbers declined, the work needed reappraising to see what might be done to reach the young with the gospel. These two articles are intended to give impetus to those who want to recommence or rebuild an assembly children’s work.

How we got started

We went where the children were.

We used the Ayrshire Bible Exhibition as our ‘launch-pad’. This gave us the opportunity to make contact with schools, and some agreed to come, and, through them, the children.

When the Exhibition had left we had something immediate and special to invite them to – a Holiday Bible Club the following week.

This holiday activity provided us with something to which we could invite those children with whom we had made contact. We held other regular specials, including ‘Christmas Parties’ and summer barbeques, to give the children something different to look forward to and as an opportunity to meet the families.

Issues to resolve

Choosing a time for a weekly meeting?

Every time will have its pros and cons. If we remember that ultimately it is the Lord who will bring the children along we can spend the time we use arguing about the best time for the meeting for praying that the Lord will send some along. Don’t be afraid to be different in your choice of day and time. We chose Saturday morning because due to work commitments that was the only time that I could guarantee to be there each week. More recently the opportunity to have it after school from 4:30-5:30 p.m., has arisen and the Lord has seen fit to bless this change with an increase in numbers. Practically, the time is going to be when the helpers can, humanly speaking, guarantee to be there, so set the time, pray and advertise.

What can we do to attract the children?

I’m no expert with modern technology so I don’t do anything spectacular. An overhead projector, whiteboards, flashcard books and flannel-graph are about the limit of my capabilities. Quizzes are always something they enjoy so we have a variety of them and do one or two each week. We have a points reward scheme where once a term the children can exchange the points for various ‘goodies’ in a ‘shop’. We do some craft activities now and again and the occasional colouring or other activity, but depending on the numbers coming and the help available this may not be practical. It should be remembered that the atmosphere of the occasion and the interest that we show in the children is far more likely to result in them coming along than anything fancy we do – after all, can we really compete with the entertainments of the world? One of the biggest encouragements I had was when a girl who struggles at school came along by herself to our family service and said simply, ‘I like this church’. She felt welcome and safe with people who would accept her for what she was and I think this is what is most likely to keep the children coming back.

Is it just the children’s meeting?

No. I include in the children’s work visiting schools and our monthly family service as they are ministries which have children at the heart of them. After the Exhibition there was a need to hand out prizes and this provided an excellent opportunity to maintain the contact that we had made. Almost as an afterthought we asked if they would like us to return to tell a story at another school assembly resulting, over time, in us being able to speak to around 1,300 children regularly. If at all possible, this is a great thing to do as you have the children there as a captive and usually interested audience. The family service affords the opportunity for the children to bring their parents along, so building relationships with them.

AUTHOR PROFILE: MICHAEL BUCKERIDGE is in fellowship at the Bethesda assembly, Grantham, England. He is married to Emma and they have two small children. He is a self-employed book-keeper.