Annual Report 2018: Chapter 1

During the two weeks leading up to the APCM, we are presenting an overview of the activities of the church throughout 2018 over four chapters. Printouts will be available to view in both churches and please ask in the church office if you need your own copy to take away.

Children & Young People’s Ministry

Tot’s Praise
Revd Natasha Brady

Tot’s Praise continues to thrive: we have about 20 adults and 40 children attending each week.  We meet every Monday in term time and the atmosphere has a lovely buzz about it. The format of the session sees the children playing with the range of toys that are set out by our lovely volunteers each week.

Parents, carers and grandparents are welcomed and offered refreshments, as are the children. Near the end, I shout ‘tidy up time’ and then, once the toys are away, we settle down for nursery rhymes and play musical instruments.

Our team of volunteers grew by one this year, as we welcomed Barbara Botcher in the new year.  Sadly two of our team have had to lay this ministry down for a while due to ill health, the parents have missed them immensely. But it did give us a chance to witness to God’s healing grace.

The highlight of the year was the Christmas party.  More willing volunteers came to make this a really special time.  With party food, Christmas music and a copy of the Nativity story for each of the children to take home and cherish. It really helped cement some good relationships and introduced God back into the mix, after a short absence due to parents’ dismay at me mentioning Him in stories and songs.

This brings me to the low point of the year.  After I arrived, I had hoped that we could introduce some short, simple bible stories and a weekly Tot’s Praise news sheet … but the parents voted with their feet and left!  After a month of trying this new format – I decided that it was not working.  Numbers had gone down to only 6 or 7 attendees.  So I announced God would not be mentioned for a while, and suddenly the parents came back.  If you could pray for this aspect of Tot’s Praise, as it is so sad that the bible is not heard in this place.

Our future hope is that we will grow a bit more, that the parents and carers will become more open to hearing about Jesus’s love for them and their little ones and that another leader can be found to replace TJ.

Junior Church
Nicky Parry, Janet Cottrell and Karen Perez
Junior Church Leaders

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

I think these words sum up our year in Junior Church (or “Kids in Christ” as we branded ourselves many years ago).  While some of our leaders come and go, and our children grow and move on, we continue to reach out to the children of our church, to offer them a place to discover and grow their faith in a fun environment. 

At present we have few, if any, infants and babies who regularly attend church so we are not setting up a crèche. No doubt this may change in the future. I wanted to mention and thank two of our long serving leaders – Anne Bunce and Kate Holliday – who have stepped down this year.  Anne has contributed to Junior Church in Stoke Poges for many years, and more recently both she and Kate have been instrumental in running the crèche.

We continue to have a dedicated group of KiC leaders and helpers, without whom we could not run KiC.  We are deeply grateful for the service they offer every week. We also thank our occasional helpers who fill in at short notice to ensure we properly safeguard our children.

The challenges we face in KiC can be summed up in one word – unpredictability! From week to week we have a different number of children (ranging from none to as many as twelve); the duration of the service varies (meaning that we have always planned too much or too little!) and the nature of working with children means that quite often lessons can take a very different direction from the one intended.  As ever though, it is in God’s hands, and His plans always work out!

We hope that our children feel welcome and happy in KiC and, as leaders we pray that we can help them grow and develop their faith at their own pace.

Simon Edwards

In 7Up we provide a space for our young people to connect and build relationships with each other and God.  We welcome visiting young people who choose to join us; friends of 7Up members, visiting relations of church members etc.  We aim for our young people to increasingly shape the group in direction, content and pace.  Enjoying fun and food together, (particularly Malteser spread!), are key ingredients of our times together.  

Over the past 12 months we have built on the firm, relational foundations established by TJ and her team.  The group is growing.  Our young people have led sessions on their favourite Bible passages.  We have journeyed with each other through some major life challenges, and we have gone deeper into topics of interest to our young people, e.g. paths to God, is forgiveness always good? creation, and heaven & hell. 

This is what our young people and their parents say about 7Up:

“Highlights are the general friendliness and opportunity to speak your mind”

“Hopes are just that 7Up carries on. It’s a good size of group, makes you think and makes coming to church worthwhile but doesn’t expect homework or lots of extra time commitment.”

“As parents we are very grateful our children get a ministry that they appreciate and want to engage with. Whatever they are exposed to elsewhere, it is reassuring that there is a group of peers and supportive adults who will balance this towards God.”

On the team front, the blow of losing TJ and Hannah Halford from the team last summer has been made up for by Jamie Brady joining us in 2019. Jamie brings many years of experience of youth ministry.  Tara Purcell, Susanne MacDonald and Simon Edwards make up the rest of the team.  We feel privileged to facilitate and witness the growth of these wonderful young people.  We are looking forward to acquiring and applying wisdom and practical hints and tips from a LICC workshop in May – ‘Reimagining Youth & Children’s Ministry’.   Look out for 7Up updates in the church blog posts.

John Wheatley

Once again this year, volunteers from our church and some of our children will be attending a Lighthouse club.

Lighthouse is a holiday club for children, run by Christians from local churches working together, bringing churches and communities together around the children. A local Lighthouse is not just a church summer holiday club, it’s an investment in the whole community with long term results!

Lighthouse is passionate about seeing children from all walks of life and abilities encountering God in a fun-filled week with teaching, prayers, sport, craft, performing arts and music. Each year our teaching is centred around a specific passage in the Bible. This year’s verse is Matthew 28:18-20.

Lighthouse is staffed and run entirely by volunteers of all ages, 0 to 100+. At Burnham Lighthouse, 200 teenage and 150 adult volunteers care for 750 children aged between 4 and 12. They are all are registered on site at 10.00am each morning and stay on site until 3.30pm. During the day they will move from tent to tent in age groups to ensure their day is full of various activities.

All of our volunteers will attend a child safeguarding course and, once they reach the required age, will have an appropriate DBS check. We do not charge Children for attending a Lighthouse but rely on local fund raising and Parents Donations. It costs approximately £45.00 per Child per week to fund this event.

Many people describe Lighthouse as ‘the best week of the summer holidays!’

Revd Natasha Brady

Stoke Poges Church continues to take safeguarding very seriously. Our safeguarding policy was reviewed and updated and approved by the PCC at the April PCC meeting. It is on display in the St Andrew’s Centre and on St Giles’ noticeboard.

A few new people now have a DBS and several more have renewed theirs.  As a church, we are working towards having all our volunteers that require it, trained and certified, as advised by the Oxford Diocese Safeguarding Team, and have therefore introduced the new C0 & C1 safeguarding training.  We have one new C3 and Safer Recruitment certified volunteer.

Before moving to her new post, TJ completed a Safeguarding Audit and all those who need further training have been contacted.  Natasha will continue to monitor their progress as the Interim Safeguarding Officer. Anyone requiring a new DBS should continue to contact Margriet Wells, as she deals with this area of Safeguarding.

Our hope is that everyone will feel enabled and safe within our Church and when necessary confident to share any concerns that they have, knowing that we all have ears to hear and the heart of Jesus to act appropriately to all.

Key message from the Oxford Diocese:

  • The welfare of the child, young person and vulnerable adult is always paramount and takes precedence over all other considerations.
  • The Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser must be consulted whenever a safeguarding concern of any kind arises in your parish.
  • Safeguarding is part of our core faith and an integral feature of Christian life in our parish churches.

The next instalment of our Annual Report will be posted in a couple of days – so much to fit in before the APCM on 28th April!