“Have you ever considered co-parenting with God?” This was a question Karen Holford, director of Children’s Ministries for the Trans-European Division (TED), asked as she opened her presentation to Dublin Children’s Ministries leaders. Holford and Dr. Linda Koh, Children’s Ministries director for the General Conference (GC), were visiting Ireland to lead an April 23–24 training session. The purpose was to empower leaders to develop a “child-orientated, Christ-focused, and grace-based ministry.”
When Peter Popivanov, Irish Mission (IM) Children’s Ministries sponsor, planned this event under the theme “Time to Hit the ‘Refresh’ Button”, his emphasis was that grace should not just be the golden thread running through the training sessions, but the very paradigm for children’s ministry.
Holford presented an eye-opening seminar entitled “Understanding the Teenage Brain”, which generated a rich conversation that carried on long after the training was over and inspired Banbridge member Joan Muldrew. “This workshop was ‘spot on’ about how teenagers behave and what we can do to support them and make those years as good as we can for them.”
Holford pointed out how the teenage years can be difficult for both teenagers and parents. However, “we can always be guided by Jeremiah’s insight into God’s love for us: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. It’s God’s love for us that inspires us to show everlasting love with unfailing kindness to our children and teenagers.” Holford concluded by stating that teenagers need this kind of loving grace the most, especially when it seems they least deserve it.
Koh presented an informative workshop on “Raising Emotionally Healthy Children”, particularly noting the importance of modeling healthy, emotional relationships to children, staying connected, listening to and accepting their feelings, spending time with them, teaching them how to handle negative emotions, allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions, and giving them age-appropriate responsibilities and independence.
Neidi, from the Ranelagh Church, expressed her gratitude for the workshop and said she was “eager to implement these new ideas in her family and church life.”
Another workshop on “Intergenerational Worship” was also popular. During this presentation, Holford explored ways to make church services appealing to all age groups while allowing all to understand the spiritual concepts and themes presented at church. “This involves changing how we do traditional church by enabling every age group to feel included in the worship service,” Holford shared.
At the end of the workshop, these ideas were put into practice as leaders got involved in preparing “Bags of Hope” for children attending the Dublin Day of Fellowship and the Northern Ireland Evening Fellowship. With bags full of multiple activities for two-to-five-year-olds and six-to-ten-year-olds, based on the theme of the sermon, the aim is to help children remain connected with worship. As positive feedback was received about these resources, the Irish Mission is committed to further exploring the concept of intergenerational worship in the coming months.
Participants described the weekend as “very positive”, “eye-opening”, and “a celebration” because they felt refreshed and excited about newly discovered ideas and values. For one person, at least, it was described as an “explosion of kingdom moments”—a succession of opportunities to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Much appreciation and gratitude were expressed to the organizers and speakers for their contributions, particularly to Dr. Koh, as this was her last overseas event before her retirement at the upcoming GC Session.