From what I am hearing, five days into an unplanned project to home school the nation, it seems to going better than anyone could have imagined, but there are many, very real, challenges as we walk into these uncharted waters.
Over this last week I have been recalling a time in our family’s life when we were in a totally new world, isolated from everyone we knew, living in an apartment that we later measured and discovered was only 75m square. We were together 24/7, and as parents we were fully responsible for the education of our 3 children, who at the time were 9, 11 and 13.
We were no experts then and are still not now, but as a family we still like each other and learnt a few things through our experience which may help you now.
I have wracked my brain for some things that helped us and which may help you. Take the ideas that you think could work for you and ignore the rest.
- Involve your children in decisions that affect them – you’re all in this together and their perspective can be helpful and is often insightful.
- Read, read, read. Read to your children, read with your children and have them read to you. Expand your reading your beyond your usual genres, borrow books from friends, read fiction and non-fiction, but read, read, read.
- Be the most encouraging person in your child’s life. Let’s face it, their world has just got really small too. They aren’t seeing their friends, many things are uncertain, they may be grieving the things that they have lost, and your words of encouragement are needed more than ever.
- Don’t try to be your child/teen’s teacher. They have teachers and they don’t need an extra one who lives with them! Instead be the ones who provide the general structure to the day (start time, drink and snack at break, lunch, after school cuppa etc) and let them grow into their new routines.
- If your child gets into something new at this time, encourage them go with it. They willl learn valuable skills as they research what they are interested in and are more likely to enjoy what they are learning. In those days for us it was British History, and today the same child is learning to juggle.
- Work with them to make a timetable which fits their school schedule and don’t micro-manage their work load. We discovered that even quite small children can manage their own school work with guidance, and most become very effective self-learners within a matter of weeks. This won’t happen overnight, but keeping our mouths shut whilst they work it out will pay dividends for years and years to come.
- You are all at home now, therefore you are all making more mess, using the toilet more and eating all your meals at home. That is a LOT of clearing and cleaning. Sharing out meal preparation, cleaning and tidying is a must for harmonious living in lock-down. There are lots of ways to do this; tidy up time every day – all hands on deck with loud music is one way, making a rota is another. Decide together and encourage each other to stick it. Review it in a week and make adjustments according to what works for your family, but don’t leave it to one person – that’s just not kind.
- Respect the needs of your child for alone time or time away from the rest of the family. Introverts find it hard to be around people all the time and need time to re-charge. We often found our introvert in the wardrobe playing with her playmobil and knew we needed to leave her there until she was ready to come out! Our son said 2 hour bike rides were the key to his sanity.
- Make meal times an occasion, especially the main meal of the day. Take your time, play board games or card games at the table afterwards – you’ve got no-where else to go and this is precious family time that we can endure or enjoy, the choice is all ours.
- Good enough IS good enough. Be kind to yourself
None of this is rocket science, and it is certainly not intended to be expert parenting guidance, but hopefully there is something here from our experience of home school life that will help you in this time (I bet you never thought you would have a ‘home school life’ – crazy days!).
Topics: Children, Youth
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I have been involved with youth work at Holland Road for 4 years now; the time has flown by and the journey to where I am now, leading Youth Thursdays, has been awesome and full of surprises. Often it is said that the young people are the future of the church; they are not. Christ is the future of the church, but what are young people are, is the future church. So young people are deeply important, in that they are the future missionaries, leaders, pastors, doctors, teachers, bin men (no joke here, we all remember what it was like when the bin men went on strike) of the church.
Our heart at Youth Thursdays is to give every young person in Brighton and Hove the opportunity to serve Jesus. We do this on a Thursday by creating an environment where young people can know a real sense of belonging. This in turn opens up the possibility for them to be part of the wider Youth work at Holland Road, namely Youth Sundays, Encounter Extra, and Encounter. We want to help young people to belong, even before they believe. In reality, Youth Thursdays is part of the bigger family, namely Holland Road Youth, which is made up of amazing young people, awesome hard-working leaders, and is all driven by the belief that we are made to have and know a relationship with Jesus, to see His kingdom built on earth as it is in heaven.
I can hear your question coming: “that all sounds great, but how’s it going?” To answer that question, I’m reminded of how Jesus explained how the Kingdom of God grows. “How should we describe how the Kingdom of God grows”, asks Jesus, “well it’s like a seed, not just any seed, but the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed. And when it is sown it grows up to be bigger than any of the other plants (kingdoms). A seed only grows when it is sown; we are not to miss this important bit of the parable.”
At Holland Road Youth we do a lot of sowing, and what I’ve learnt over the last four years, is the Kingdom grows in the most unexpected, unexplainable ways. It just grows! Is that numerical growth? Yes and no; we don’t want to grow in size for the sake of size, but rather we want to make more disciples of Jesus. Often on a Thursday I get asked at the end of the night by another leader, “how many young people did we have today?” A valid question, but I now choose to answer it in this way: “I cannot believe that she or he was here tonight, we were praying that they would come tonight, or, isn’t it amazing to see her here tonight without her usual friends, she came because she wants to be here!”.
May you join us in giving young people the opportunity to serve Jesus in this city, why not come and help out on a Thursday night, or a Sunday morning or afternoon, in creating a place where they can belong before they believe, and when they do believe journeying with them.
If you would like more info about how you can help out then email me at email@example.com
Topics: Magazine, Youth
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One Saturday evening in October, just over two years ago, we held a worship event for our young people at Holland Road. We turned the music up and the lights down and set the young people free to worship in their own way. It was a great success, and the beginning of an exciting journey.
That one-off event became Encounter, our twice-a-month Sunday night event where our heart is for young people, as well as anyone else who wants to join us to encounter God for themselves. It gets bigger and better every time, and we recently acquired a haze machine! But most importantly, over the past months there’s been an amazing sense of freedom – of meeting with God, of celebrating, of looking at the Bible together, and even doing a conga line.
One of the things we’ve been talking about a lot at Encounter is joy. As we approach Christmas, ‘joy’ is a word we hear all over the place. In fact, there’s so much pressure to have a ‘merry’ Christmas, that we actually end up more stressed than joyful!
As we’ve explored this theme of joy, we’ve found that our struggle is often because we’re looking for joy in the wrong places. This is particularly hard at Christmas, when it’s all about stuff, people’s expectations, and doing it right. So we pour everything into those things, picturing that perfect Christmas from the John Lewis advert, trusting that that will bring us joy. But trouble comes when the turkey gets burnt or you don’t get the present you really wanted… Anxiety begins to creep in, and anxiety is like anti-joy.
So what can we do? Well, at Encounter we’ve been learning that the only place we can find true, lasting joy is through God. He never changes or lets us down. He created us to enjoy Him! And so we looked at this wonderful verse: “In Your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). We discovered that actually, Jesus coming to earth as a baby, which we celebrate at Christmas, was so we could have a relationship with God – so we could be in His presence and find joy, and hope. Another name for Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘God with us’.
This is why we love to spend time worshipping God at Encounter. In fact, it’s why we’re called Encounter in the first place! Our deepest desire is to spend time really focussing on Him – who He is, what He’s done for us, who we are in Him – and experiencing that joy in His presence. We believe He wants to meet with us; He made that clear the very first Christmas!
So this Christmas, amidst the busyness and the pressure, take some time out to encounter God. You might just find real, lasting joy.
Encounter is on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, 6.15-8.00pm, starting again on January 11th. You can listen to previous Encounter talks at hrbc.org.uk/media/talks.
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Halloween is a big part of our culture. Nic and Jason, youth leaders at Holland Road, discuss Halloween, and how we as Christians can engage with it in a positive way.
(in black & white as little nod to the gospel coalition videos)
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For the last few years, Holland Road Baptist Church and Portslade Baptist Church have taken a group of young people and youth leaders to Soul Survivor. It is always an amazing time away! Soul Survivor is a five-day Christian event aimed at young people – full of worship, teaching, camping, seminars, barbeques, dancing, fellowship, laughing, games, football, fun and so much more.
On Tuesday 12th August this year’s group of 19 young people, nine youth leaders and two toddlers departed on the four-hour journey to the Bath & Western Showground in Somerset, where Soul Survivor takes place. Tents were assembled and our home for the week was constructed. Our first delicious dinner was eaten and we headed off to the first ‘big top’ meeting. These meetings happen in the morning and evening, and are powerful and special times – over 8,000 young people and youth leaders gather in a massive tent to worship and learn more about Jesus.
The singing worship at Soul Survivor is always an amazing Spirit-filled time. Rend Collective were definitely a highlight for us this year – ‘My Lighthouse’ and ‘Praise Like Fireworks’ are destined to be youth group anthems for many months to come. The young people are always visibly moved during the worship times, where they powerfully encounter Jesus afresh. Please pray that the joy and freedom they experience in worship at Soul Survivor can be enjoyed back home too.
The teaching at Soul Survivor is incredibly relevant and scripture-focused. This year’s theme was relationships and no topic was out of bounds – dating, marriage, celibacy, singleness, purity and pornography were all discussed. Speakers including Beth Redman and Tim Ross challenged our young people to embark on romantic relationships that honour and please to God.
Our five days away were full of special and memorable moments, and God blessed us with great unity and fun together as a youth group. Seminars took place throughout each day, and there were also many opportunities for us youth leaders to meet and plan, pray and reflect on all God has been doing and will do through our young people.
Colour Chaos took place on day four – this involves gallons of paint, loud music and crazy dancing – always a highlight for teenagers! And the final night at Soul Survivor is a celebration of all God has done during the week, and also involves a fancy dress party! This year’s theme was film characters, and our young people really went to town on this… seeing Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, the Milky Bar Kid, Tinkerbell and Superman worshipping and dancing together is a truly memorable sight. The worship leader and band were dressed as Darth Vader and Stormtroopers respectively, which was a personal highlight!
We’d like to share some of the highlights from our young people and leaders:
Jacob – ‘Becoming closer as a church youth group’
Max – ‘UV Party, Colour Chaos, ghosting this guy for 15 minutes straight (don’t ask!), the last Big Top’
Sam – ‘Rend Collective’s awesomeness’
Sophie – ‘Tim Ross all the way from Dallas giving a few amazing talks’
Please continue to pray for the young people and youth leaders at HRBC and PBC as they adjust to life after Soul Survivor – pray that they remain close to Jesus, and that commitments and resolutions made at camp are followed through and embedded into everyday life back at home. Following Jesus is an amazing adventure and worshipping him with over 8,000 other teenagers is an incredible experience – please pray for each young person to grow in their love for Jesus and to continue to serve Him with joy and faith.
If you would like to be involved with any aspect of the youth work at HRBC then please do speak to any of the youth leaders – they would love to chat to you!
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I have just finished my first term studying English Literature at the University of Kent, in Canterbury. My brother said recently that going to university gives you a chance to be an influence, be influenced and be under the influence… He may have been joking, but he has a point: university is without a doubt a poignant stage of life, where it is a challenge to make sure you are being an influence, rather than being influenced. Although I haven’t always got it right, God’s been teaching me about how to be an effective witness and influence the people He has placed around me.
At the start of November I went on a weekend away with the Christian Union. One of the speakers, Michael, gave a talk about living for God at university, focusing on the need to be in the world, but not of it. These words had become familiar to me and so had lost some of their meaning. You may have heard these words so often in church that you too have become desensitised to them, or perhaps you never really understood what they meant in the first place…
Michael summed it up with this catchy one liner: “We need contact with the world, but we need to be a contrast to the world.”
Contact and contrast
This is God’s plan for all of our lives; no matter what stage of life we are at. Whether you’re at school, college, or in the workplace, the Great Commission is for us. Jesus sent His disciples out into the nations to spread the good news. As Christians, Jesus has also sent us out into the world. He has a purpose for your life, and it is to make Him known. He has put you where He wants you and He has given you the opportunity to be a witness and influence on the lives of those around you. As your home is ultimately in Heaven, Jesus’ other desire for your life is holiness. That’s where the contrast bit comes in to play. We are called to be set apart, as His holy people. As a result, because you love Jesus your life starts to look a little different.
And herein lies the difficulty: living a life that is God-honouring, whilst being immersed in the world. If you’re anything like me, it doesn’t sound all that easy. The balance of contrast and contact is hard, and of the Christians I’ve met at university, I think they tend to choose one or the other. But I believe they are intended to work hand in hand. As always, Jesus is our perfect example: He spent most of His time with sinners, yet He never sinned. How’s that for contact and contrast?
As you can imagine, or may know from experience, university life is definitely not short of opportunities to be in contact with the world. You’re suddenly surrounded with an entirely new community of people, and by being a Christian you are immediately placed in the minority. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also your experience at work or school. You may not just feel like the only Christian, you probably are. At university I quickly realised that it was going to be hard to live my life in contrast to that of my friends! But I also recognised this as a unique opportunity to be an influence. You may be the only Christian in your class, or in your office, but God has a plan for you being there. You may know the song about letting your light shine, well they’re not just nice words we sing, they’re a reality. Jesus has placed a light in you, so you can go to dark places and make them that bit brighter.
So what does this look like for me at University?
I think it involves just sharing life with the people I live with, my other friends and my course mates. Spending time with them (contact) and letting them see the difference Jesus makes in my life (contrast.) A few examples of the kinds of things that have been cause for conversation with my friends over the past few months include: the fact that I don’t swear, drink to excess, smoke or stay in the same room as my boyfriend, etc.
As a firm believer that Christianity isn’t a list of don’ts, I’ve tried to actively do things to show the difference Jesus makes in my life. For instance, I’m still the hard-working nerd I’ve always been, and people notice that I actually do all of the set course reading. I do go on nights out with my friends and have a good time. If they need me to, I take them home and make plenty of tea and toast. If they’re sick, I hold back their hair and mop it up. Sometimes I do the washing up or tidy the kitchen. I listen to their problems and am often a shoulder to cry on. I’m honest about my weaknesses and I tell them I’m praying for them. I invite them to CU and invite Christian friends over so they can meet other Christians and see we’re normal people, and even fun to be around! Things like this seem to have had the biggest impact on my friends’ lives and their perceptions of Christianity.
Clearly these are all really student specific- sorry! However, your relationship with Jesus does affect the way you behave and how you mark yourself as different to the people in your class or from your colleagues. You may be the only Christian your friends ever properly meet. Be an influence in your school and place of work. Be involved and be different. Don’t be ashamed to live a life that contradicts what society says is normal, whilst constantly moving towards people and loving them. Break down the stereotypical views of Christianity and show people what Jesus is really all about.
Topics: Students, Youth
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September saw the relaunch of our youth work at Holland Road: a triple-threat of Youth Thursdays (our regular night for young people to hang out and have fun), Encounter (a monthly Sunday evening service specially geared towards them) and Encounter Extra (food and general madness just before the Encounter service kicks off).
One of the main changes has been the introduction of ‘options’ on Thursday nights – each week we have two or three different activities for them to choose from, including baking, band, tv club, Youth Alpha and even a rowing machine challenge! Or, if they fancy, they can just hang out in the hall where we have a great set-up including table football, pool, table tennis, a dance mat, a Nintendo Wii and comfy sofas. The tuck shop has also proven popular, and not just with the young people…
It’s been a crazy few months but we’ve seen amazing growth, with around 30 young people coming on a Thursday evening, great friendships developing, and a surprising amount of egging.*
But don’t just take it from me – here’s what some of the youth have to say about it:
- “Good place to meet new people and have fun.”
- “I love the disco, because you can go bonkers and just be yourself!”
- “It’s really great to have the freedom to choose what you want to do on a Thursday – you can just relax if you want.”
- “Konnichiwa! I love playing Ninja at Encounter Extra!”
- “It’s awesome!”
So if you’re in years 7-13 and you want something new for a Thursday or Sunday night, come along and join us! Find us on Facebook or Twitter, or check out hrbc.org.uk/youth for more. Looking forward to seeing you there!
*Of the leaders, obviously. Health and Safety.
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