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Starting again: a checklist for children's and family work

The summer break is over. It’s time to prepare your heart and mind for working again with... your toddler praise service, your Sunday group, your midweek club or your Messy Church. So, where and how do you start? Maybe the following checklist can help. It aims to be both practical and prophetic.

Check 1: Do the pencils and crayons need sharpening? How many of the felt tip pens have run dry?

And on that theme:

What will you be drawing on in the months ahead? How will you stay sharp and avoid running out of new ideas? In fact, just why are you doing this work?

God has called you to share his love with children and their families. The '4-14 window' is the age range when most people become committed followers of Jesus Christ; and you are sowing and nurturing seeds in young lives that will bear fruit.

Check 2: How many of the glue sticks are 'dead'? Have some of the paint brushes had their day? Have you got enough paints left to create a rainbow?

And on that theme:

What will help you stick at it in the months ahead? Are there new skills and brush strokes you need to try out? How will your time spent with the children and families bring colour to their lives and yours?

Those whom God calls, he promises to equip with all the gifts they need. He gives renewed strength to the weary, clear direction to the lost and new joy for those who ask. We love him... and the children... because he first loved us.

Check 3: What needs to be cleared out of the stock cupboard? What about those bits of old clay and unclaimed artwork? What clutter needs to go and what treasures need to be kept?

And on that theme:

Which old ways of doing things aren't working anymore? And which new ideas might you try this year? What went well last time and what didn't?

God is always doing a new thing and indeed makes all things new. He wants us to share in his work of new beginnings for ourselves and for those we work with. Often, it is as we take a few risks and attempt something different that our faith grows and we grow closer to God.

Check 4: Next, let's look through the stationery. Is there enough coloured paper, clay, glitter and bits and pieces for collages? What new craft materials could be introduced?

And on that theme:

How can you personally add to your stock of skills and ideas? And if you work with others, how might you help them develop and craft their God-given gifts?

God wants you to grow in your faith as your work with the children and their families. He wants you to receive as much as you give. God plans to grow your talents this year as you bring out something old and something new as good teachers in the kingdom of God.

Check 5: Now, what about the rotas and the number of sessions you need to cover? When are the all-age services and the special Sundays? Who is available and when?

And on that theme:

The good news is that once you get down to putting it all on paper, it's never quite as daunting as it was when it was just a worrying, unplanned mass of sessions in your head!

God promises to give us the words to say and his Spirit to help us; but he is also at work in us, moving us to use our God-given time and talents wisely. He inspires us to plan as well as giving us inspired, unplanned moments. And some of that inspiration comes from others who support you or work with you. God may have a word for you from others.

Check 6: Is it time for a new poster or even a new notice board? What should be on display? What do the children and families see every time as they arrive?

And on that theme:

What does the space you meet in say about the God you are talking about? What picture of God does it display? How does it help you and the children come close to God? What will they notice?

God's love and truth are passed on as much, if not more, by the unspoken messages people receive during your times together than anything we actually say. Children in particular discover most about God and the presence of Jesus through the silent witness of how safe and welcoming you have made your 'sacred space'.

Check 7: Have you prayed? Have you asked others to pray for you? This comes, as here, last on your checklist, but of course it should really have come first!

And on that theme:

Nothing of any value in your work with children and families is done without prayer. Prayer is the offering of all that we have prepared and all that we are to God so that he might work in and through us.

The vital necessity of others supporting us in our work by prayer is a mystery but a truth that generations of children's and family workers before you will testify to. Your year needs to start, continue and end in prayer. And who knows what great things God will do!