“Have you ever considered co-parenting with God?”
Karen Holford, Trans-European Division (TED) children’s ministries director, asked this question as she opened her presentation for ministry leaders in Dublin, Ireland. Holford and Linda Koh, children’s ministries director for the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, visited Ireland to lead an April 23-24 training session. Their stated purpose was to empower leaders to develop a “child-orientated, Christ-focused, and grace-based ministry.”
Petar Popivanov, Ireland Mission children’s ministries director, said that when he planned the event under the theme “Time to Hit the ‘Refresh’ Button,” his aim was that the quality of grace should be not just the golden thread running through the training sessions but the paradigm for children’s ministries as a whole.
Holford presented an eye-opening seminar entitled “Understanding the Teenage Brain,” which generated rich conversation that carried on long after the training was over and inspired Banbridge church member Joan Muldrew.
“This workshop was ‘spot on’ about how teenagers behave, and what we can do to support them and make those years as good as we can for them,” Muldrew said.
Holford pointed out how the teenage years can be difficult for both teenagers and parents. “We can always be guided by Jeremiah’s insight into God’s love for us: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,’ ” she said, quoting Jeremiah 31:3 from the Bible. “It’s God’s love for us that inspires us to show everlasting love with unfailing kindness to our children and teenagers.” She concluded by saying that teenagers need this kind of loving grace the most, especially when it seems they least deserve it.
Koh presented an informative workshop titled “Raising Emotionally Healthy Children,” noting in particular the importance of modeling healthy emotional relationships to children: staying connected; listening and accepting their feelings; spending time with them; teaching them how to handle negative emotions; allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions; and giving them age-appropriate responsibilities and independence.
Neidi, from Ranelagh church, expressed her gratitude for the workshop and said she was “eager to implement these new ideas in my family and church life.”
Another workshop called “Intergenerational Worship” was also popular. During this presentation, Holford explored ways to make church services appealing to all age groups, while allowing all to understand the spiritual concepts and themes presented at church. “This involves changing how we do traditional church, by enabling every age group to feel included in the worship service,” she said.
At the end of the workshop, these ideas were put into practice as leaders got involved in preparing “Bags of Hope” for children attending the Dublin Day of Fellowship and the Northern Ireland Evening Fellowship. With bags full of multiple activities for 2- to 5-year-olds and 6- to 10-year-olds, based on the theme of the sermon, the aim was to help children remain connected with worship. As positive feedback was received about these resources, the Irish Mission is committed to further exploring the concept of intergenerational worship in the coming months.
Participants described the weekend as “very positive,” “eye-opening,” and “a celebration,” because they felt refreshed and excited about newly discovered ideas and values. One person described it as one of those “explosion of Kingdom moments,” a succession of opportunities to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Leaders and participants expressed much appreciation and gratitude to the organizers and the speakers for their contributions. “We thank particularly Doctor Koh, as this was her last overseas event before her retirement at the upcoming General Conference Session,” they said.