On Pilgrimage

The journey itself has always been as important to pilgrims as its destination. Conversations along the way, stories shared over meals, tales told by those joining the travellers, and moments of silence and song in each other’s company, all make a pilgrimage memorable and possibly life-changing. This year’s CGMC Spring conference contained all of these elements for our pilgrim band of children’s ministry professionals during the 48 hours we spent together in north Wales. The sun shone brightly on us too and by the end of our time, we had assuredly all heard new things and had had fresh experiences that gave us much to reflect on and which will help shape and reshape us personally as well as professionally for our particular areas of ministry.

Our three days together based in Bangor at the Eryl Môr Hotel (which ‘overlooks nothing except the Menai Straits’!) were busy but also refreshing, as we explored the particular challenges faced by workers engaged in rural children’s ministry, the tensions of faith and doubt as expressed in the poems of R. S. Thomas, the importance of hospitality within intergenerational worship and the opportunities and pressures of working among families in a locally deprived community. And, because we had plenty of time as we walked, ate, travelled and just sat alongside each other, there was space to digest what we heard and push the boundaries of our thinking in ways that our day to day ministries back in the office, on the road or at events do not easily make possible.

Helen Franklin is a very experienced children’s ministry professional who is now working with Scripture Union in Wales and running particular projects in the north. She helped us understand from the inside what it means to be a child growing up in a small village on the Lleyn Peninsula, with poor transport, few contemporaries at church, speaking two languages and with quite possibly limited employment prospects; while at the same time that same child does often enjoy a rich extended family and a degree of freedom and security that many in our cities have lost. It is however a significant challenge for churches in the countryside to find enough people to run appropriate clubs or Sunday groups to nurture such children in their faith journey and one related danger too is that the ‘national resource solutions’ offered are often simply impractical. How to contextualise these materials is always a challenge for any of us, but especially for workers in a rural setting where most definitely one size does not fit all. This opening session was insightful and prompted lots of discussion as so many of these issues can be found in other parts of the UK within the dioceses and districts we work. It must be a case of local solutions for local situations rather than templates and models from on high. This introduction from Helen also prepared us well for our next day’s rural pilgrimage.

The church at Clynnog Fawr, dedicated to St Beuno, is the traditional starting place for a pilgrimage along the Lleyn Peninsula, and so this is where our happy band of CGMC pilgrims were taken by means of an unforgettable ‘vintage’ bus the next day. Here the Rev. Lloyd Jones treated us to a mini- version of his retreat talk that took in the site of the oldest stone church in north Wales, an ancient sundial from Ireland that challenged us how we spend our time, the burial place of St Beuno himself, the new chapel with its three significant chairs (for a preacher, a poet and a royalist prisoner), the medieval church with its wooden prebendary stalls, the High Altar and…. some dog tongs! The church also had amazing acoustics which these visiting pilgrims put to the test by singing ‘Guide me O thou great Jehovah’. Gareth Malone would have been impressed!

Our next stop was St David’s church, Nefyn, where Richard and Naomi Wood minister and who welcomed us with a warm drink and a slice of bara brith! Richard has 9 churches in his benefice with a total Sunday congregation of 100. The challenge is to find a practical and economic way forward, while still respecting people’s loyalty to their tiny rural churches in this beautiful part of Wales. One way must of course include working together, perhaps a partnership between church and chapel – though each, it seems, can still be slightly suspicious of the other in some places – and also more happening outside Sunday, although that too is something that many find a bridge too far.

We stopped for lunch at Aberdaron, where we met Susan Fogarty who is an R.S. Thomas expert and who would be taking us on the next step of our pilgrimage together. The setting for our lunch was glorious as we looked out on a bay bathed in bright Spring sunshine. We could hear the sounds of the waves on the shore that had inspired R.S. Thomas as he wrestled with faith and doubt during his ministry here. Inside St Hywyn’s Church we listened to more of his poems which expressed his struggle to hear a God who is so often silent and to feel the presence of One who can seem so absent. Each reading was followed by a profound silence in which each of us had time to reflect on what we had heard as well as on the special place we were in; each of us in our own way were also striving to hear God’s voice amidst all that we were experiencing on this particular pilgrimage day. Perhaps, as R.S. wrote, ‘the meaning is in the waiting’.

Our pilgrimage with poetry continued with a visit to the poet’s retirement cottage where we heard more about his life and ministry in this part of Wales as well as about his remarkable wife whom he grew to love very deeply. Finally our faithful old bus crawled its way up the big hill at the end of the Peninsula, from where we could look out towards the island of 20,000 saints – Bardsey Island or, as it is known in Welsh, Ynys Enlli.

So, was this the end of our pilgrimage or perhaps, as R.S. Thomas reflected in the poem we heard here, the beginning of an inner pilgrimage that we are all invited to make? Before we left this beautiful spot, a few of us scrambled down the headland to make an extra pilgrimage to St. Mary’s well with its healing waters. It turned out to be much more of a challenging descent than we had imagined and we almost added to those 20,000 saints that afternoon!

The pilgrimage dimension of our conference wasn’t however all about being ‘out and about’. Later that night and the following morning, we held our regular CGMC Business Meeting whose minutes are recorded elsewhere, but we also spent time discussing a chapter written by Karen Marie Yust entitled ‘Being faithful Together’ and from the book ‘Understanding Children’s Spirituality’. In this she explores how we might become a better intergenerational community when we gather together on a Sunday for worship, with ideas for preaching, praying and singing that really can bring all age groups together. Good children’s ministry can only truly flourish within an intentional, intergenerational community of faith and though this may be obvious to us, it isn’t often so to the churches with which we work. Together we worked on some small steps that could be taken, particularly in the area of hospitality towards children in worship, and these are recorded in Appendix 2 of this reflection. In a similar way on the previous evening, we had each shared some of our best-kept website or resource secrets, including a bargain printing website that only Aled could have found, a book of paraphrased lectionary readings for use in worship with children present, and a number of useful blog sites that people have found inspiring – all these are recorded in Appendix 1 following this reflection.

Our final session of the conference introduced us to one further and important aspect of ministry in this part of north Wales. Mererid works at Eglwys Noddfa on a housing estate on the edge of Caernarfon where there are a number of families facing challenging circumstances. It was a good example of both family ministry and family support working hand in hand and which has been built on trust and a good deal of faith and determination by the leaders, especially as many of the problems among the working poor are not easily or even ever solved. Many of us could recognise the circumstances within which Mererid was working and we were interested to hear her story of how she had been called to this family ministry and of where she finds support both locally and from the wider church networks, to which he belongs.

And with this, our CGMC pilgrimage officially came to its close. It was a privilege for all of us to have time and space in such a lovely part of the world and to be able to step back from our work and reflect on so many different aspects of our ministry. Whether it was during a leisurely walk along the Victorian pier or following the coastal path towards the University and the near-by Bardic stone circle, we enjoyed many deep and supportive conversations together which will be vital in the months ahead. CGMC is far more than just a conference theme, a business meeting or even a grand project together – important as each of these are; it offers its members a safe place to listen to each other across the denominations and organisations, as well as to each other’s pilgrimage stories of faith, all of which in turn can only but enrich our work and ministry.

Working with children in a digital age

There was no doubting Dr. Bex Lewis’s enthusiasm for all things digital.  She is not only an expert on the web and social media, she is a dedicated user!

The CGMC Spring Conference this year had chosen to focus on how technology is impacting our ministry with children and families and, to borrow the subtitle from Dr. Lewis’s recent book on this for parents, on how we can ‘enjoy the best and avoid the worst’ of all that is available at the press of a button on the keyboard or the slide of a finger on a screen. This is the digital age within which our children are growing up; and they are natives in this world while many of us who have responsibility to train, lead and inspire those who work among these children are merely digital visitors.  There was a lot to unpack and discuss over our 24 hours together.

Dr. Lewis began by introducing us to some of the facts and figures about social media and its use – although these are already out of date as they were being given!  All this raised many interesting issues for our work.  The afternoon presentation was a free-flowing conversation between our guest speaker and us as a group as each new slide prompted thoughts, reactions and more questions.  Like browsing the web itself, we soon found ourselves following trails far from the path we started on and stumbling across new challenges and possibilities as our Internet search led us from one reflection to the next!  Today’s social media revolution is the new reality for this generation and just as for the missionaries of old who were eager to share the gospel, we too need to get to know this new culture if we are to engage with it and find ways both to receive and share God’s love appropriately among those we work with.

This is a generation that even before birth already has a digital shadow; a generation that is using fewer and fewer words but communicating more and more; a generation that has already abandoned texting and is using other platforms to create communities; a generation for whom images and messages are important in the moment but then instantly lost; but it is also a generation, as Dr. Lewis observed, that in many respects is not as media-savvy about the commercial dangers of the web as we might have imagined.

All of us need help to be more confident about how and why we use the web and how we manage for example ‘the long arm of Google’ and don’t just look at what the advertisers want us to see.  Because something is free doesn’t always mean it is helpful and we need to be alert as to who and what is driving our interest in what is out there online.  However Dr. Lewis didn’t want us as Christians to retreat from this world but to be ‘present’ in a whole-life way, not segregating our digital and spiritual lives.  The Internet offers so many new and positive ways to engage with a wide audience and share our faith story.  She cited for example the website ‘sayinggoodbye.com’ as a recent example of one set up by Christians for those whose babies had died, offering them a safe space to grief and find support.

Many of us in CGMC face very practical questions around the use of social media in our ministry.  Should we for example insist that phones be turned off or do we encourage tweeting etc. when we work with children and young people?  Much is made of this generation’s ability to multi-task although as Dr Lewis commented, there are two ways in which this can happen: one which adds to the conversation and one which distracts.  It seems it’s not always easy to spot the difference.

Another dimension to this whole debate is the way in which this web revolution is redefining what we mean by a ‘friend’ or a ‘neighbour’.  Both of these are precious words within our faith tradition but now might well mean someone far away whom we have never met face to face but with whom we share something in common; and in some cases these may one day even become ‘face-to-face friends’.  Throughout history every new technology has generated a moral panic of some sort about its negative potential and even corrupting influence, but we should beware joining in with this popular outbreak of paranoia; far better that we model best practice in the use of the web as a tool for good and help others to hear the voices of common sense that will encourage them to find their own way through the sound and fury of some of the current safeguarding debates.  It is important to remind ourselves that it is human beings at the end of the fingers that are using these new tools and that the same rules of how we should respect and care for each other apply whether it is face to face or tweet to tweet.  We are in control of what we share and we want to see and although of course there is ‘bad stuff’ out there as in all walks of life, there are in fact more safeguards around the web than is ever possible within the routines of our everyday lives.  There may be new risks but there are also new ways to manage and think about these risks.

Technology makes many things possible but not necessarily inevitable.  We do not have to be, as Dr. Lewis reminded us, victims of some sort of technological determinism.  In fact social media and the web have opened up all sorts of important debates for us as Christians about the nature of church and the way to make contact with communities for whom church attendance for all sorts of reasons is either difficult, unattractive or impossible.  At the heart of our faith the incarnation teaches us both that God understands what it means to be human but also that as Jesus God can show us how to be the best humans we can be, both person to person in the flesh and face to screen online.

This first session raised lots of interesting lines of thought which we continued to explore and develop in one to one conversations and the next morning.  The world of social media has added many positive dimensions to our ministries, helping children to connect to a wider world, giving them a voice, enabling them to explore more creative responses in learning, and even, as one member pointed out, reducing vandalism on our buses because the children now have something else to do on the journey home!  As a church we must not be scared of what is new but help each other to use it well and not let it use us.  There are of course some worrying issues, for example, the digital divide between the developed and developing world and the part this has to play in the growing global tensions between the rich and the poor; the way it may be re-wiring brain patterns for very young children who are engaging with this digital world too quickly and too soon; the way it may well be affecting our understanding of friendships in depth; and perhaps even in the area of possible web addiction by some.  All this is part of the fascinating debate that could have continued.  We are all caught up in the new digital age in some way or another but seeing it as part of a new and exciting tool box of learning is perhaps the healthiest and most positive way forward.

On the second morning we took our theme further by sharing with each other the range of digital communications that we received within our ministries, with the challenge as to how we might practically filter these more effectively both for ourselves and for those we serve.  We need to help others distinguish between what is worth reading and what is not.  We also reflected that we need to be selective in our sharing of resources according to the different audiences with whom we are communicating and as ‘guardians’ be careful about what we recommend.  There is also an issue about keeping a wise balance between our personal and our professional roles in this context. Finally, Mary then helped us compile a list of recommended websites – which she deftly called up on the web even as we spoke! – and she will send this list around the group following the conference.

Children and young people, we all acknowledged, will always be somewhat ahead of us in this digital world, but in fact, young people needing and finding somewhere as their own personal ‘secret’ space is nothing new and indeed is healthy for each generation.  Our job is to be responsible listeners and at least be aware of what is out there so we can be informed leaders who can be trusted and who set a good example of web use.  We are all ‘Bringing up children in a digital age’ as Dr. Lewis’s book is entitled, and in this respect, whether we are online addicts or not, we all need to help each other live with this new world of social media responsibly.  To this end we plan to post follow-up material from this conference to keep people informed.  Our website and Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/pages/CGMC/118971141446882  are the places to go to find information about what we discussed and in particularly the decisions taken at our Business Meeting, which includes information about our exciting partnership with the Methodist Church and the Family Ministry research.  We even talked about having a CGMC Pinterest board.  When it’s up and running, we’ll give you a tweet! 

Our thanks go to Mary and Gail who helped arrange this stimulating conference. Who will ever forget our creative ‘Bible verses of promise out of a cereal packet’ devotion on the second morning?!  Cheerio!

Family Matters!

In recent years the word ‘family’ has hit our UK headlines for good and for bad. We hear from those who lament the loss of ‘traditional family values’ and complain of ‘family breakdown’. We are all too familiar with terms such as ‘fatherless families’, ‘one-parent families’ and ‘blended families’. And to this we could add many more, such as ‘displaced families’, ‘dispersed families’, ‘abusive families’ and ‘networked families’; and all this is alongside what now seems the rather old-fashioned term, namely ‘the nuclear family’. At the same time as all this, organisations and voluntary groups, including the church, are aspiring to be ‘family friendly’, have a ‘family ethos’ and want to nurture ‘family well-being’. It’s clear that family matters; but it’s also obvious that defining family isn’t that easy.

The Christian Church is caught in this same culture of uncertainty. There is the constant rebranding of the ‘family service’; its own mixed understanding of the church as ‘the family of God’; and increasingly, we come across the re-naming of its traditional children’s work as ‘children and family ministry’. What is going on? What is ‘family’ in our western, industrialised 21st century world? What, if anything, is a theology of the nature of family? What does Christian tradition say about family? And what guidance does the Bible have to offer that might inform some of these questions?

Alongside all this, family matters are of current and on-going interest to both secular and faith-based research and the general public conversation; but how do families still matter? And more especially, how do they matter to the church and why? And how does all this relate to our traditional endeavour as Christian communities to nurture children for a life of faith? Should traditional children’s workers now have nurturing parents as part of their remit? And if they are to, how are they equipped for this task?

All these questions and many more lay behind our November 2013 CGMC conference, with its catch-all title of ‘Children and Family Ministry – where are we now?’ The first day of our conference at the International Mission Centre of the Baptist Church, in Selly Oak south of Birmingham, was open to day visitors and there were in total over 40 of us who gathered to explore this topical theme. This wider audience opened up a great variety of perspectives and a refreshing breadth of contribution, as well as allowing CGMC members to make new friends, renew old acquaintances and to share its actions and concerns with a wider audience.

Family is clearly a big word; and indeed it always used to be. Even the briefest glance at the Old Testament for example reveals that family includes a very wide network of immediate as well as more distant relatives. And even amongst immediate family, relationships could be complex – just pause to reflect on how each of the brothers is related to the others within Jacob’s blended family! Biblical families – and indeed many families in the developing world today – are not just a gathering of those connected by DNA but also by bonds of friendship, financial dependence, mutual concerns over territory as well as a shared faith. It’s only in more recent history that we have tended to limit ‘family’ in the west to two parents and their biological children, living in what we have called the ‘family home’. But in the 21st century things are very different and families now come in all shapes and sizes, drawn together by loyalties and commitments that don’t necessarily depend on promises made in public at a civil or religious ceremony.

The creation mandate to the man and the woman to become one and to have children is a biological one; however it is clear from the rest of the Old Testament that the mandate to nurture those children and help them grow into a life of faith is not the responsibility of the parents alone. It was a task for the whole community to raise a child and help her or him to flourish as a human being – to become all that she or he is meant to be. Exactly how this community of faith operates in our western world is hard to say and whether the family of the church can take on this role is debateable. Should its energies go into being this wider family for the children in its midst, or is its role to help the individual families within its membership – however those families are constituted – to do that job in the home? How does faith in the inter-generational village of the church relate to faith in homes? For many children’s workers this is a whole new dimension to their original job description and a challenge to a ministry, which up to now has tended to deal with the generations in age- related silos. Church ministry has been shaped by an age-related educational model and consequently this has meant that insights about human spirituality, that have come particularly from those with a specialism in children’s ministry, have been too easily overlooked and side-lined by the rest of the church.

So our CGMC investigation into family ministry was both important and timely; a moment to rethink how we bring children and adult ministry into a more holistic togetherness as a ministry to people – people of all ages – and thus focus on what it means for all God’s children, young and old, to come to fullness of life.

The conference opened with a reflection on the sort of families that we come across in the New Testament and in particular the family experiences of Jesus himself. His own family was by no means typical and in his life he found safety and nourishment from being with all sorts of ‘family’ groups, both with and without children present. Perhaps his most telling statement was that his true brothers and sisters were those who chose to obey God.

And then to stimulate our thoughts, we watched a 10 minute video presentation that drew together a series of short interviews with a range of those involved with children’s and family ministry around the UK. There were also responses from parents and carers; from workers, students and experts, who reflected on where they experienced God, what church meant for them, how their roles have changed, and how they saw children and family ministry in five years time. This led to discussion groups focusing on a range of key questions:

  • In your contexts how do we equip volunteers and paid workers to enable children and families to meet with God and grow in faith?
  • What does church in a national context and local context need to do to gain a clearer understanding of the needs of families?
  • Where do we enable the voice of children and their families to impact and influence what we provide nationally and locally?
  • In the context of your setting, what does holistic support around children look like?
  • In the context of your own setting, what do we need to do or change to meet theneeds of families in the 21st century?
  • How can churches nationally and locally have a better dialogue with families?
  • And what are the gaps in training and provision of resource material?

A range of responses to these questions was captured on flipcharts as they were passed from group to group and a list of what was written will be published on the CGMC website. The overall effect of the questions however was to throw lots of thoughts up into the air and to get people thinking about the issues in the widest possible sense.

We then heard from four invited speakers who each presented a 10 minute perspective on children and family today.

1. Nigel Varndell of the Children’s Society kicked off with statistics and observations on the way in which issues of poverty, relationships and autonomy come to bear on children and families. Sadly it seems inevitable that the 27% of UK children who are living in poverty in 2013 will sharply increase by 2020 and yet these children don’t often realise they are in poverty as their parents and carers do a good job of covering up, to avoid worry and stigma. In any family it is the quality of relationships that matters, yet research has shown that the happiness of children declines as they grow older, particularly among girls, while at the same time it is clear from the research that all children look for boundaries to feel secure. Nigel left us with three stark but important questions:

  • How can the Church be good news to the children and families facing issues of poverty in 21st Century UK?
  • What is the quality of the relationships that church congregations are making with families in their community?
  • How are churches allowing children to have a say in the running of a church community?

2. Val Mylechreest, Families Officer for the Salvation Army, then took us on the next stage, presenting some of the stories of what these statistics look like in practice within the work of the Salvation Army. It is becoming difficult for many families to provide the basics anymore and the long summer holidays in particular can provide real challenges to family survival. In many ways these issues today are not dissimilar from when William Booth first started his work and wrote about the situation ‘in darkest England’ over 100 years ago; then, like today, eating or heating was the stark choice for many. This leads of course to an increase in stress and brokenness within families, with parents supporting multiple children and a generation of single parents relying on school meals. A number of Salvation Army Corps have experience of working with single teenage parents and providing much needed social support alongside the sharing of faith.

3. Mary Hawes, the Church of England Youth and Children’s Advisor, took us on an imaginary flight through 10 years of Children’s Ministry, mapping some of the trends and key thinking that have emerged during this time. Although there are some signs of new interest in trying to be church for the family in its various shapes and sizes, and also a growing concern for faith in homes, it seems that much that has been learned has yet to filter down and influence best practice in most of our churches.

4. Gail Adcock, who is heading up a families research project for the Methodist Church in co-operation with CGMC, shared some of her initial insights and findings from talking with children’s and family workers across the country. The aim is to gather an overview of what family ministry looks like today, to identify key trends and to explore the ways the church can best support what is going on. It is a big study and there is a huge diversity in what she has observed already. However what is being done is often very short-term, when long-term relationships are really needed. A more holistic approach is called for and a more joined-up approach from churches.

Once again the insights and information from these speakers opened up a number of avenues for conversation as conference delegates split into groups to identify key questions they would like to ask of a selected panel after lunch. This panel was made up of six of the delegates who represented a range of denominations and Christian experience of working with children and families. The following key questions were addressed:

  • What is the nature of a church? Is it like a football team or a brass band?!
  • What are the barriers people meet with when they consider multi-generational church?
  • Can the church be more prophetic rather just reacting to trends within society?
  • How can we get children’s and family ministry higher up on the agenda of churches?

The panel’s varied and insightful answers were captured on video and CGMC plans to make this available on its website, so that others can use this to stimulate further discussion in members’ constituencies. Some important practical and theological questions emerged, namely:

  • Where does authority lie within the inter-relationships of adults and children in a church community and how do we facilitate a shared ownership of the issues that face everyone? It was suggested that if we look at the budget allocation of most churches, this tends to reveal its understanding of itself as church.
  • The model for diversity within the Christian community, and its complexity, finds its roots within the Trinity. Within this understanding of the inclusive and diverse nature of God, we find our model for a church that must surely embrace all.
  • The term all-age is often unhelpful in our discussions and even the word ‘multi- generational’ tends to focus on the people involved in an age related way. Within the community of the church we should be modelling a variety that welcomes and values different styles and stages of faith whatever the age of those involved. Creating space for all to belong must be a priority.
  • Speakers drew our attention to the danger of churches being seduced by the current climate of consumerism and thus becoming product-orientated. Churches should also be advocating the importance of silence and modelling new ways of being together that are not measured by the market, particularly at a time when the welfare state is becoming the market state. Churches need to be thinking how and where they need to challenge the state because it is failing and where it can do it better and set an example.
  • Our Christian understanding of the nature of personhood is also vital in all these discussions. We need to refuse to be defined by what we own or by what we do or how busy we are. Our identity cannot be bought. The Christian understanding of identity lies in the quality of our relationship with God and with our neighbours.
  • Although the model of church as a brass band or football team opened up all sorts of interesting conversations, some of the panel preferred to return to the Biblical model of the church as body, with its gifts and strengths and interdependence. We should not talk about groups of people in silos but individuals, who in their own right are part of a church community that appreciates difference and knows how to say sorry.
  • There was general agreement among the panel that we need to celebrate what God is doing wherever the church is working successfully as a family and with families. We cannot engineer instant solutions but need to give processes space to work themselves out in God’s time.

After a full day, we were able to relax as ‘the CGMC family’ both with some space before and after our evening meal as well as coming together for a light-hearted presentation from Colin Pitt, who works for the Education Department of Cadbury World. This family business was begun with Christian values which have strongly influenced its care for its workers. Colin shared some amusing anecdotes and insights from the Cadbury history and we rounded off the evening with chocolate among other things!

On the second day of the conference CGMC members had time to reflect on what had happened on Thursday – the process and how it could be improved, and also where do we take things from here. The day had certainly been busy with discussion and information and clearly more reflection would be needed. It was suggested that perhaps a more intentional sharing of good family ministry practice could have been facilitated and also that the panel had been more of one voice than had been anticipated. Delegates looked forward to re- visiting some of the key questions which will be available on the CGMC website and to taking them back to be discussed within their various networks and organisations. Although no clear threads may have emerged, opening up this topic with such a wide and experienced audience had been welcomed and it was suggested that the planning group meet once again to explore how the discussions from the day could be made available as a toolkit for use by churches as well as church leaders.

Following the CGMC Business meeting, which looked particularly at future conferences, we finished our time together with some practical suggestions as to how CGMC might work more collaboratively and also be more effective in its role as a network and a voice of advocacy on behalf of children in the UK.

It was clear from the 24 hours that family matters are important but at the same time difficult to define both for society and the church. Exactly how family should matter to the church is something that is far from clear but as we approach the International Year of the Family in 2014, CGMC hopes that the discussions and unresolved issues from this conference may have begun to open a door to a wider and continuing debate that the church and its ministers needs to have with itself in relation to those with whom it works. Too often local churches are still thinking in stereotypes and want to put people into silos and thus deal with them separately rather than understanding how they might be part of a whole. It is hoped that some of the questions from this conference will facilitate further discussion about this and be part of ongoing re-evaluation of what it means to work with children, who are in turn also part of complex family networks that should make up a church congregation that believes families matter.