Last weekend I joined the UMC children on camp at a great venue called the Farm (70km north of Umhlali). The grown ups were in tents (glamping – my first time in a proper bed with a bedside lamp, inside a tent!) and the children in giant tee-pees. We had such a happy two days – lots of fun, laughter and affirmation, with everyone working together to prepare food and plenty of outdoor learning experiences (from feeding farm animals to night walks, obstacle courses and inspecting crops). And we even managed to get everyone into bed at a reasonable hour!
On Thursday of this week I was at a meeting of ministers with our bishop and we heard feedback from Conference (the annual gathering of our Methodist leaders which was held in Cape Town a month back). One of the statistics that was highlighted was the fact that on average each circuit in the MCSA baptises 31 babies per year. That adds up to 11,000 Methodist baptisms a year which may sound impressive but in reality is a tiny percentage of our combined membership and the national population.
The question was put to us, “are we a child-friendly church and a church that is sensitive to the needs of young families?” We were told that one way to measure this is to look at our baptism statistics (I think we’ve had three baptisms at Umhlali this year), and then to examine what portion of our income we spend specifically on children, and how our church worship spaces are designed to accommodate young families.
We’re getting some of that right – we have a fulltime staff member working with youth and children (Ozzy), we’re finishing a building that will be used partly for children’s ministry and we’re looking at some ideas for a more family-friendly cryroom in the church.
Children are a gift and, Jesus reminds us, they teach us about God and show us how to relate to God. What do you think we should be doing as a church to “welcome little children in My name” (Mark 9:37)?
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