Ponteland and Wideopen Children’s Work Review
Ponteland Church Projects
F.R.O.G. group has now been running for two years during which it has attracted a database of families. On average the project attracts 27 regular attendees with extra visitors per week.
These children range in age from 3- 8 years, relationships with parents and carers has also been developed during this time which has enabled the pastoral needs of our families to be developed.
The blend of activities offered at the table each week have allowed children to discover more of the Christian faith with a story, activity and craft, during this time liturgical celebrations have been shared, along with parables and heroes of the OT being explored. Where possible the children enjoy making and displaying aspects of their work. The frequent displays on the notice board provide not only a means for their parents to see a little more of what we have been doing but also enabling the church and visitors to share too. The children love to highlight their own contribution to others and it provides a good talking point for them too.
The group continues to run on donations, it was felt that not all families were aware of this and a polite notice has been displayed explaining this with the suggestion of a donation of 50p. At Christmas time the children were able to participate in some special craft activities to produce decorated wooden candle holders; in turn the donations reflected the quality of what was being delivered. There has been a steady increase in donations recently and once again I believe this is due to parents being very grateful of all that is offered for their children. It is intended that the children be encouraged to create a special gift for Mother’s Day, and a celebration at Easter. Parents stated that a fixed price for the group sessions would be reasonable (however I feel that accessibility for all children is the most important aspect). Parents also felt for special craft projects they would be prepared to pay more, this may be something to discuss.
The church approached the group re ‘Women’s World Day of Prayer’ and F.R.O.G. responded with a display on the notice board and many, many parrots for display in church as well, there was a good crossover with church, T.G.I.F. and F.R.O.G. group with this which was very encouraging to see and may be something that could be encouraged again.
Following the questionnaire completed by parents and carers it is good to know how highly this project is valued supporting far more than just the peace and space to have a coffee in peace. The opportunity to allow children to gather and engage together is highly praised, as one child stated ‘I like to come and ask questions about the Bible as my mum doesn’t believe’. There have been some very in depth faith conversations and I have found the responses on occasions very humbling. As Brendan Hyde in his study of children and spirituality states “One of the greatest gifts we can give children is space and time to discover and develop their own spirituality and faith bases”. I believe this is something that is encouraged along with the use of paint and glue that all so often children can no longer engage with for fear of mess.
A number of parents spoke of the need for playdough especially for younger children, I am aware that in order for that to be possible the group needs to be managed by two adults. This is not always possible but I would highlight the potential of church members assisting with this, as the project has a further twelve months to run, this would be a good opportunity for interested members to learn more of the group. I would like to record my thanks to those church members who have given of their time with a view; we’d love to see you again.
It is fair to state this project is developing well however it is noteworthy that its success is due to two important factors without which I am unsure how it would stand alone.
- The dance school, without which we would not have the families entering the building.
- The café, which provides a place for parents and carers to meet.
One interesting aspect may be to offer an event in holiday time that would be accessible for all F.R.O.G. attendees suitable for both boys and girls and see what the attendance is. This would of course necessitate the café for parents, or more adult helps should the children be dropped off for a session. During this year F.R.O.G. also engaged in a sunflower growing competition – this enabled a lovely link during the summer break between church and the group themselves, many participated and great fun was had by all and a helpful sum was raised to help with the purchase of new resources. I wish to once again record my thanks to Jessica Hannen, whose knowledge and energy helped to make the whole event a great success.
I have also engaged in regular assemblies at Darras Hall First School and Ponteland First School and continue to forge community links where possible. This has led to further visits from Ponteland First School for a Friendship Wedding ceremony which was a lovely occasion shared by all. Once again I wish to extend my grateful thanks for those church members which helped so willingly to ensure the event was the success it was. The same school also attended The Knitted Bible Exhibition held at St. John’s Church.
I found the preparation and joint leadership of the Christingle service at Ponteland very rewarding, it was very encouraging to meet so many families and church members sharing fellowship at such a special time of celebration. It would be very helpful to have some more willing hands for this year to assist with welcome duties; this also enables the church to demonstrate its genuine warmth which is available to all families throughout the year.
Wideopen Church Projects
Links and development with the community are continuing following the success of the knitted Bible school exhibition. Regular monthly visits to Hazelwood Primary School to lead assemblies have been well received. It is fair to note the school in undergoing a period of transition as the former Head Teacher has retired and a new appointment is taken up. I am currently working with the acting head and staff members which have ensured continuity. The strengthening links have been clearly demonstrated both within good school liaison for St. John’s knitted Bible visit and the school’s nativity service held in church, it was very encouraging to see some church members supporting this event but more are always welcome. It was very enjoyable to help with preparation with for the church Christingle service to ensure a creative approach was delivered at a busy time for all.
Links continue to be forged with the Beavers, and I look forward to working with the Brownies in March to ensure they to gain their ‘Faith Badge’; once again it would be very rewarding to see the Brownies receive their badges during a church service. I continue to lead worship on a regular basis and this has enabled me to think deeper and more creatively reflecting upon the theological aspects and making a message relevant for today. I find my T.L.S. studies are enabling this approach which has been commented upon by two members of my T.L.S. Support Group.
There is great enthusiasm for this year’s joint ecumenical service building upon all that was achieved previously where my role was to prepare an activity suitable for children and young people beyond the service (a copy of which I provided for display at St. John’s also). It is hoped to have more community involvement of all ages and groups in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday. It is hoped we shall have a poppy installation – possibly not quite on the Tower of London scale – which I hope shall enable a very visual reflection for all.
I believe there is potential for a possible church and agency collaboration to reflect upon ‘Holiday Hunger’ – the need for families and children to be fed when school meals are not available due to school holidays; this often means parents go without to provide for their children. I believe this would have to be a whole church project, given due planning, preparation and prayer however the opportunity to display faith in action would be very encouraging indeed.
H. Middleton 2016