24 August 2005

A new website gives children the chance to have their say in the Methodist Church

The 1st of September will see the launch of a website dedicated to the children of the Methodist Church, thought to be the first of its kind produced for 0-12 year-olds by a major British denomination. www.methodistchildren.org.uk seeks to give children a chance to have their say about what is important to them, both in terms of church life and wider social issues. There will be regular polls, finding out their opinions about issues such as what the government could change in schools and message boards so that they can discuss their experiences and beliefs with one another. Children can send in their pictures for display in the gallery, read an animated storybook, or explore 'the Methodist Story' online, but the website will also seek to address serious issues such as advice about staying safe on the Internet.

But it's not just for the children Ð the site also features an area dedicated to children's workers, providing links to resources as well as information about training courses and events. They too will have a message board and the aim is to build up a network of leaders, giving them the opportunity to express their concerns and challenges, share advice and benefit from one another's experience and new ideas.

One way that the Church hopes to enable better communication with children and children's workers is through two online surveys available on the website. The one aimed at the children asks them about topics such as their favourite worship songs, what they do in church and even why they go to church in the first place. The leader's survey aims to get a better idea of what kind of provision exists for children within the churches and what kind of training has been received by children's workers, but it also focuses on their needs, asking about what support is available to them and what more is necessary.

The results of these questionnaires will be brought to Methodist Conference, giving a clearer picture of what's going on in the Church's children's work and inspiring ideas for the way forward with Methodist children. It's all about letting children and children's leaders influence the evolution of work within the church. It is as much their church as it is any other age group's and these developments indicate a very real desire to connect not only with children's workers to give them resources, guidance and support, but also to connect with children about what is relevant to them.

Steve Pearce, Children's Secretary for the Methodist Church says, 'The riches that children have to offer often go unnoticed within the Methodist Church as elsewhere and this initiative gives a chance for children's voices to be heard talking about what's really important. The Church needs to listen to children, not just so that it is better able to meet their needs, but also so that it is better able to 'turn and become as a child' itself. The Church is dedicated to supporting both children and those who work with them and the website and new logo are just one of our resources for reaching and helping them. The website will grow and develop with time as we become more aware of the needs of Methodist children and children's workers, so let us know what you think."

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