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Let the Children Live: It Takes a Church to Raise a Child.

Rev Setaita Taumoepeau K Veikune, Director of Mission Resourcing —

Children didn’t have a lot of rights in the first century. They were seen and not heard. We see this in Luke 18 when parents were bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, and the disciples try and chase them away. In their opinion, the Lord had more important things to do. But Jesus was passionate about the value of children.

The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” refers to the wraparound inputs of people in institutions of learning, government, religion, media and community which a child encounters and learns from while growing up. These wraparound inputs communicate culture and instil behaviours and expectations in a child. They provide feelings of safety and security.

The goals are to allow each child to think and feel: “I belong here. I feel safe.”

The idea is that it’s the responsibility of the community to nurture and educate young people, not only the responsibility of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I like to remind my neighbours that even if they don’t have sons or daughters of their own, we all benefit immensely from living in a city that has well-supported schools, parks and activities for its youth.

“It takes a village to raise a child’ is true for us in the church family and community. Many of us in our diverse cultures and traditions, hold the church as our whanau, ainga and famili. The church is our marae, our centre of activities, our village.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is also not something parents should attempt to do alone. Thankfully, those in the church don’t have to. We are all part of an extended family - the family of God - that can play a vital role in the raising of children.

One of the foci for the work of Mission Resourcing in 2022 is our Connexional vision and 10-year theme, Let the Children Live. Directed by Conference 2012, the initiative was around the prevention and ending of youth suicide, child and family poverty and child abuse.

The LtCL fund continues to support many great initiatives on a local level that are impacting children and making dreams and ideas come to fruition. Our Mission Resourcing website provides information about the funding opportunities, as well as virtual space to share your stories and projects. We urge all parishes across the Connexion, in this final year of the LtCL initiative, to reach out to our young people.

Conference 2022 marks the conclusion of this 10-year Connexional vision. In the coming months, we begin the process of discerning how effective the church has been in living out this vision in practical and transformative ways. We intend for young people to be at the core of an extensive review of LtCL. Tauiwi Children Young and Family National Coordinator Michael Lemanu says, “This review will give Te Hāhi the opportunity to reflect on the work of the past 10 years, and look toward what the next steps will be once LtCL wraps up as a Connexional vision this year.”

Questions that need to be addressed by the Church at local levels are:

Ø What LtCL initiatives have taken place in your context?

Ø How effective has the Church been in response to youth suicide, child and family poverty, and child abuse?

Ø What are the next steps and where does Te Haahi Weteriana go from here?

In an article titled John Wesley, Children, and the Mission of God printed on the Aldersgate Papers, Vol.10 (September 2012), Peter Benzie discusses John Wesley’s belief that children should be given high priority in the church’s mission.

Benzie raises relevant questions under a sub-heading “Where to from Here?” He asks, “How does this help us in ministry in the South Pacific? How does Wesley’s ministry to children over 200 years ago in a relatively mono-ethnic and mono-cultural society on the other side of the world where Christianity was the norm, help us who are ministering and working in the 21st century – in a world which is vastly different in many ways and where we are ministering and working in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural context where secularism is increasingly the norm?”

Benzie then offers that the answer becomes clear in what Wesley wrote in his journal on 8 June, 1784. “God begins his work in children. Thus it has been also in Cornwall, Manchester, and Epworth. Thus the flame spreads to those of riper years; till at length they all know him, and praise him from the least unto the greatest.”

I am inspired by Benzie’s further provoking questions, “What then can we learn from how Wesley implemented his belief that children are a priority in the mission of God? How can we answer such questions as - What does it mean for the church if we place children in our midst as Jesus did? What would it mean if children were to be placed at the heart of the church rather than being segregated into their own spaces away from the rest of the church as so often happens in Christian churches? How can the church support families in fulfilling God’s mission as regards children?”

He makes the profound statement, “After all, what Wesley was saying was no different to what Jesus said:

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16, NLT).

Aldersgate Papers, Vol.10 (September 2012)