There’s a time for everything, and this was the time for members of CMN from all four corners of the UK to gather at Shallowford House in Stone for our 48 hour conference and retreat day. There were a few newcomers and a few ‘old hands’ (a politer description than the one actually used!), together representing well over 100 years of experience, and the gathering also marked a farewell and thank you to Mary Hawes (convenor) and to Rosie Nixon (secretary) for their invaluable contributions over the years to the network and to the CMN exec.
It was a time to share and encourage. The organisations and denominations represented were given time to share news and resources. There were many similar threads – news of changes of emphasis within some denominations to a more generalist approach, with the associated fears of children’s work getting lost in the mix; moves towards promoting faith in the home and a more intergenerational way of working; concerns about church sizes and lack of volunteers and how best to equip them and build mutually supportive networks. It was good to share stories of both struggles and successes, helping and supporting each other and sharing resources, which is what CMN is all about. Some working partnerships emerged where interests coincided. Coming together makes us greater than the sum of our parts and the collaborative nature of CMN strengthens children’s ministry in general.
It was a time to plan and develop. There was exciting news about Ministry Essentials* (*working title) as the plans for the course were laid out and people started volunteering to help with writing the material, as well as looking for links between this and education, knowing that schools play a massive part in the day-to-day experience of our children. A small working party was set up to look further into the practicalities and possibilities presented by the digital world in hosting the material and making it accessible to groups and individuals.
It was a time to organise and communicate; A business meeting saw new appointments to the exec and a chance to think about future meetings, including ECCE (European Conference on Christian Education) which will be held in May 2023. We heard of developments with the website and the creation of a new Facebook page.
It was a time to reflect, retreat and re-treat ourselves. Highlight of the conference was the chance to spend some time in retreat, ably facilitated by Mary Hawes. Having spent some time looking at the influences on children’s ministry over the last 100 years – books, events, people and more that have been movers and shakers in this are – everyone was given opportunities to consider the people who have had an impact in nurturing our faith. We considered where we are now, both personally and in a work capacity, and looked forward, with plenty of time given to reflecting and respond in the way most suited to our needs and preferences. Some chose to walk in the beautiful surroundings, some chose to take advantage of the plethora of craft materials, some chose to relax in the extremely comfortable sofas and drink coffee together as they chatted, some may even have chosen to have a much-needed nap!
All too soon it was a time to pack bags, leave rooms, share a final meal, and pray that our taxis arrived in time as we said goodbye and travelled off in every direction, refreshed and resourced for the next step of the journey in children’s ministry.