Last week, Mark Griffiths (St Padarns Institute), Clare Williams (St Davids Diocesan Children and Youth Work Coordinator), and Rachel Bunting (Bishop’s Officer for Family Ministry, Swansea and Brecon Diocese), represented the Church in Wales at the Global Children’s Forum in Budapest, Hungary.
Here, Rachel explains how we can, and should, make a significant difference.
GCF has been running for 10 years and is made up of a group of people from around the world who are passionate about sharing the gospel with children, young people, and families.
They include local practitioners, denominational leaders, national leaders, academics and global leaders and organisations. In all, over 45 nations were represented on this occasion. The aim being to bring these people together to look at the world perspective, share good practice and find ways to work collaboratively to best impact the lives of the 2.4 billion children in our world today.
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘children everywhere walking with Jesus’. Our sessions together focused on each of these words, and we explored together what they really mean to what we do.
We began the week by thinking out the place of children in the world. We mourned the history and culture that tells children that they are not valuable but recognised that they are infinitely valuable to God. He seeks to bring them from the brokenness that they suffer in so many places, to a place of shalom, of wholeness. We also acknowledged that a child’s ability to understand God is impacted by the lens through which they see the world.
When they are surrounded by destruction, alienation, anarchy, deceit or neglect, it is difficult for them to see God through any other lens. As children’s ministers we need to not only be people of truth and light who show God up close to children, but we also need to provide spaces of security for them to encounter who God really is and bridge the gap to the God the child sees. By joining them in the midst of pain, we show that God is there with them too.
When Christians work together we have a collective power to move from changing individual children to changing the situations of children and creating space for them to discover the loving, living God.
During the week we heard stories of incredible things that are already happening around the world. For example, in the Philippines, children between the ages of four and 14 run a weekly radio show which has 500,000 child listeners hearing Bible stories, prayer, and testimonies. It gives a voice to children silenced by abuse, poverty, or exploitation.
We heard of children in Ugandan slums being given the opportunity to learn chess, and through that relationship to hear the gospel. Many of the children in the programme have been released from poverty and enabled to go to university.
There is also a global young person’s forum running in 10 countries around the world, giving young people an opportunity to communicate what life is really like for them and to talk about their relationship with Jesus. They are also working together to run their own projects. Children in Madagascar have started a YouTube channel with programmes for children.
Alongside this thinking altogether, we also spent time in focus groups thinking about what we can do when we return home to live out these conversations in practical ways. Many groups committed to supporting each other through communication and prayer, while others plan to compile resources, initiate further global gatherings, and enable training in good practice around emerging issues in youth work. There was an exceptional willingness to share resources to support the parts of the church who are not blessed with the same opportunities as others.
We came away with a growing toolkit of resources that we can translate into our Welsh culture, new links with faith communities around the world, a support network which reaches every part of the globe, and an exciting new perspective of what God is doing around the world and a recognition that the Church in Wales has an opportunity and responsibility not just to impact Wales, but to share its resources and talents with the worldwide church.
We really can, and should, be making a significant difference across our global village.
Rachel Bunting (Bishop’s Officer, Swansea & Brecon Diocese)