A question we often ask as we look to the future is how we can attract young people to give the Church new life. I also want to ask how we value and encourage the gifts of older people?
Church is a family of brothers and sisters in Christ and as such embraces all ages so young and old have equal value in the eyes of God. We ALL have our different gifts to contribute with the visions of the young, the dreams of the old and the prophesy of everyone giving life to the Church.
It is always a sadness when churches close and two, at Halesowen and Welsh Frankton, in the West Midlands Synod have made that decision in the last month, but I hope they will celebrate what they have done and not mourn the deaths. The ministry of the churches has been the scattering of seeds that must fall and die before growing to multiply. Our personal faith is the fruit so we can take it somewhere else to share where we can help young people grow.
That somewhere else can be another church, or a school, an activity or in your family, but the closure of a church is not the end of ministry because it can be the beginning of a much bigger outreach. It can bring brothers and sisters together to be stronger in the spirit with young and old of equal value for the future.
Churches are being invited to join a project, PRAY LIKE HANNAH, in September as we ask the question: Why do we have so few children and young people coming to church? As we ask the question I encourage us not to feel shame if we feel like a childless woman!
The story of Hannah is found in 1 Samuel. She is the loved wife of Penniel, but is unable to bear a child. In her culture this was a terrible thing — like a curse, the judgement of God and brought shame. Do churches sometimes feel like this today in some way? Children were seen as vital to secure the future of the family, the tribe, the nation. It is desperation that drives Hannah to prayer. Her prayer is so passionate that Eli thinks she is drunk!
We are inited to join together to pray passionately for children and young people during September so they may know they are loved and are a part of God’s family. It’s as simple as that. It is prayer borne out of a deep longing and love for children and young people and the sense of loss where they are absent from our midst.
The prayer of Hannah is answered, but we also have to be prepared for an answer that might be different from our expectations. We may want children in OUR Church on a Sunday morning, but it may be that something completely different comes into being. Visiting schools with Open the Book or hosting a youth club may be a much more fruitful ministry. This time of prayer can help prepare us for what happens next.
First things first, and we are invited to PRAY LIKE HANNAH during September as children finish holidays and face new beginnings. For many children and young people the pandemic has been particularly difficult and many will need support in terms of their mental health and general well-being.
We are invited to PRAY LIKE HANNAH with a 4-week prayer calendar attached that offers a different prayer topic for each day that you can use on your own or in a group. Please do pray with the passion of Hannah, but also be prepared for the unexpected answer because we could be asked to work with another church or in a different way to encourage children and young people.
Children and young people might not come to OUR Church, but as older people we are called to a never ending ministry that will build up a fruitful family. You can be eight or eighty and lead the church into the future so don’t neglect ANYONES gifts!
you hear us when we pour out our souls before you;
give us faith like Hannah, to pray to you for the life of the Church,
that we may be build a place and a people where your children are present,
welcome and valued as brothers and sisters in the family of Jesus Christ. Amen
Please see below the PRAY LIKE HANNAH prayer calendar and start using it from Wednesday if you can.
Kristina Urbinova is due to start work as the Community Outreach Worker on Thursday so please pray for her. Her focus in Broadway will be with families and young people so we need to support her if the ministry is to be fruitful.
Remember to come and find some treasures at the mini-fete next Saturday (September 4th). It starts at 10am and there will also be music on the Manse Lawn from Gospel Bell between 11-30 and 1.30.
GOD BLESS, RICHARD
PRAY LIKE HANNAH….i am away in Swanwick in the URC Holiday Forum and working from my iPad so if this attachment does not appear with the letter I will send it again when I am home. You should be able to just click the link at the start of this post though. Thank you.