Being Strategic!

Published 11th March 2024 by Jane Butler

Last Friday, I made my way to Church House in London to celebrate the ‘end’ of my cohort’s Strategic Leaders Programme (GFSLP). It was, as Growing Faith Programmes Lead Stephen Beamond put it, a ‘tank-filling’ day! We were led in sung worship by young people from St. Mary’s and St. John’s CE School and heard from participants on the impact the programme had on them both personally and in the contexts within which they lead. We had to present this in the form of a poster which was quite a challenge!

I began by reflecting on my original application to see whether I’d achieved my personal aims and wider commitments to the Growing Faith agenda. I expressed a hope for personal development and increased confidence as a leader which I think has been the main outcome of being part of GFSLP for me.

I have never had any kind of formal learning regarding children & youth work, or leadership, and often feel like I have been ‘winging it’! I came to faith through the baptism of my eldest son who is now 17. I got involved in the children’s work at my church quite early on so learnt on the job. I was lucky enough to be surrounded and supported by a great group of experienced volunteers. From being ‘just a mum’ who went along, I eventually found myself leading our Messy Church. Fast forward 10 years and I had left a 23 career in IT to join the Messy Church team at BRF Ministries.

Imposter syndrome has been a constant presence for the past couple of years, and particularly when I signed up for this programme, but right at the beginning there was a message that God had put me here.

“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

I still approached the material with some trepidation as I feared it would be too high brow for me or I just wouldn’t be well read enough, but I needn’t have worried. I love the varied style of input from the various contributors with space to pause and reflect on what I’d seen/heard. I particularly enjoyed the content from Steve Radcliffe, Simon Sinek, and Andi Britt. Having worked in a corporate environment their language was familiar, and it was interesting to note how that might relate to Christian ministry. It gave me the confidence that I wasn’t starting from scratch and skills that I had built up in my previous career could be transferred to my current role. Andi talked about ‘the power of enthusiasm inspired by the Holy Spirit’ and I’m passionate about supporting whole families in coming to faith so that will help me drive change.

My particular focus during this programme was to look at how we listen to and provide for older young people (secondary school age). Messy Church is often perceived as being for families with young children. With our core value of being all-age, we are committed to supporting thriving intergenerational Messy Churches.

I was lucky enough to be supported throughout the programme by being part of a ‘coaching huddle’ with Sarah Earnshaw (Children’s Work Advisor at the Blackburn Diocesan Board of Education) and Laura Firth (Bible Society) led by Gemma Gillard, Founder & CEO of Truth Be Told. I have learnt so much from them as well as having been supported, encouraged and challenged in my work over the past year. On Friday everyone was saying how much they had valued the connection with other people who are committed to putting children and young people instinctively at the heart of all they do. We speak a common language – much in the same way Messy Church folk do when we get together. Everyone reckoned their coaching huddle was the best, but I know mine was!

Obviously, I haven’t fixed the issue of how we support local leaders make space for young people to grow up in Messy Church. Friday wasn’t the end of anything but the beginning of being better equipped and connected to make an impact. And I don’t have to do this on my own. I have the support of brilliant colleagues and an amazing global network of Messy Church leaders and teams who are all working towards the same goal. Most importantly, as Gemma reminded us at our first coaching in huddle back in May last year,

‘We are limited but God is limitless. That’s how he wants us: to rely on him’.

I wonder – is there some training that might help you?

Check out our online Messy Masterclasses, bite size ‘How to…’ guides and in person training offer here.

Jane Butler

Messy Church Training & Development Lead

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