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St Andrew’s Malvern children and families work thriving with 100 children

Published: 7th May 2024

Children, youth and family work is thriving at St Andrew’s church in Malvern with over 100 children and young people on their books and over 50 attending most Sundays.

Families sitting on the floor taking part in Early Birds New Worshipping CommunityChildren and young people are at the very heart of the vision for St Andrew's and the wider Chase Team. The team ensure there is an intentionality to all their activities so that, for example, there are stepping stones to take 'new to faith' families from the baptism preparation course to Early Birds, their New Worshipping Community, and onto their main Sunday service. 

To support their vision, St Andrew’s has a Children and Families' Ministry Team, led by Helen Attree and Ruth Wharton who are paid part-time, and a large group of skilled and dedicated volunteers. Just recently they have recruited a new Youth Ministry Leader, Nathan Shipton, who started earlier this month. Their work is expanding too with St Mary’s officially rejoining the ‘Chase Team’ so there are three churches in the group now along with St Andrew's and All Saints. This expansion has presented new opportunities to reach out to families in St Mary’s parish too.

Chase Team Rector, Dave Bruce, reports that although they have had a small amount of funding from the diocesan office to contribute to the Youth Ministry Leader role, the rest of the roles are paid for entirely from contributions from the congregation.

He said:

“I was fortunate to inherit a church which was already really passionate about young people’s ministry and so when I shared a vision of the extra impact we could have by employing a children’s minister and a youth minister, the church members were very keen to give generously to this vision. As this ministry has grown, we make it a priority to share the ‘good news stories’ and where we can, invite the children and young people to share testimonies and take part in our services, which embeds the culture further and encourages us all to see the fruit that has come from that generosity. And as more families have joined us, that means more people to give too, and resource, this ministry in the future!’  

One of St Andrew’s biggest successes, which is very popular with families, is their ‘Early Birds’ New Worshipping Community, originally started by Helen during the Covid pandemic via Zoom.  The 30-minute service happens 2-3 times a month starting at 9am on Sunday mornings in the church hall. It follows the same simple formatFamilies sitting on the floor taking part in Early Birds New Worshipping Community each time. They start by singing ‘Jumping for God’, then the children help to act out the bible story. Then they do a colouring activity while they have the two-minute ‘thought for the day’ for parents. Then they have a more detailed, themed craft and creative prayer activity, then they close by saying the grace together.

There was a period where they could meet in person again but had to socially distance, so families brought a picnic blanket to sit on together. They decided to keep this format as felt it was quite nice for families to sit and engage together as a family, though children are now free to roam around if they want to, which makes for a very relaxed and inclusive service.

Helen said:

“We have around 16 families coming to Early Birds, many of whom are new to church and faith. Sometimes it can be difficult to step straight into a main service where you might feel you don’t ‘know’ enough, so the informal and relaxed environment of Early Birds is much more accessible. It’s a place where we can all learn together and  grow in faith as a family. It’s lovely to have somewhere to invite families who bring their children for baptism or come to Messy Church as a starting place on their faith journey.”

Families are also invited along to services like the Pop-up Nativity and Mother’s Day All Age Worship in the main church.  Helen leads part or all of those services, to make it more familiar and comfortable for families who already know her.

Helen, Ruth, and the Children and Families' ministry team also run several different groups simultaneously for an hour during the main Sunday church service which starts at 10.30am, roughly split by age as well as understanding. They feel it is important to ensure that the activities undertaken in this time are helping our children to grow in faith and learn what it means to follow Jesus. Even the youngest children are told a story from the bible.

Helen talks to a family taking part in Early Birds New Worshipping CommunityIt's not just about Sundays though. With the rest of her time, Helen oversees and assists with the toddler groups that take place at the different churches. The team has forged links with the three local schools in the parish to provide lessons, workshops such as ‘Experience Easter’ and ‘Exploring the Lord’s Prayer’ and Messy Church at All Saints.

Helen also works once a week with the Octagon Community Centre on a nearby estate,  to provide a meal and craft activities for families. And St Mary’s community pantry affords further opportunities to serve and reach out to the local community in that parish.

Ruth also has some capacity in her role to invite individual parents to go for coffee with her or meet up separately for basic bible study if this is a barrier to joining the main service. Ruth is a Connected Families coach and runs various Connected Families courses at church, most recently an eight-week course entitled ‘Discipline that connects with your child’s heart’. Connected Families strap line is ‘Parenting with confidence, lead with grace’.

Ruth said:

“Connected Families is really big in America and is about parenting in a way that stays true to the bible and shows our children our unconditional love. Families are growing in faith together and it’s also bringing about positive changes at home. I love it when parents feel equipped to make positive changes in their lives!”

The Chase Team has a real heart to work in partnership with other churches and share resources and ministry together. Dave is currently exploring with the local Elim church how they could partner together in joint youth ministry – something they have done in the past through running joint Youth Alpha courses and a monthly ‘Youth Church.’

Ruth is also happy to share more about Connected Families with any other individuals or churches that are interested and Helen reports that other churches have come along to Early Birds and have gone on to create their own versions.

If you want to find out more please contact Helen via helena@chaseteam.org or Ruth via ruthwharton75@gmail.com.

Page last updated: Wednesday 8th May 2024 4:48 PM

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