The Youth and Children's Project for 2017/18, “What is church?” aims to help children and young people to think about what it means to be a part of the church. The Bible teaches us about what church is to be and how it is more than a simple gathering of people on a Sunday morning. We want children and young people to recognise that church is for learning and growing as disciples of Jesus, so that we can then bless the communities around us and those further afield by the outworking of our faith.
The teaching from the Project focuses on to passages from Acts and Jeremiah. In Acts, we read a description of what the church was at its inception. We learn of how they learnt together, shared food and all that they owned and because of their life and witness God added continually to their number.
In Jeremiah, we read of God's call, through the prophet, to bless the people in the places He has put them. These two passages, in many ways, says exactly the same things – as you seek to be distinctive as my people remember to look out and be a blessing to the people around you. This is something that we want children and young people within PCI to learn as they engage with the Youth and Children's Project this year.
This year the Project focuses on two locations – Zambia and Maynooth.
In Zambia, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) have realised as a church that most of their young children have no form of early childhood learning experience before they enter school at seven years of age. Diane Cusick (PCI global mission worker) is working with the church to initiate a programme of setting up early years centres at their existing congregations. Most of the existing centres are being run like schools where young children are sitting at desks and have writing books and pens. They are supposed to be writing and reading when in reality they are failing to hold a pencil. Diane's job is to train the teachers that are in place in how to set out a nursery school properly and to teach them how children learn and develop, and to be self-sustaining in the materials that they will need for the play areas. The aim of the programme is to ensure that as many young children as possible have aerly learning experiences before they begin formal learning.
Maynooth Community Church is one of the youngest congregations within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It will celebrate its 10th anniversary in November 2017. Since its beginnings, the church has grown and meets on a Sunday morning in the Manor Mills Shopping Centre. There they gather together for corporate worship and fellowship, hold children's ministry and do church in their own unique way. However, the congregation is now at the point where they need their own space; not simply because of increasing numbers but because of a desire to live out a vision to create not only a space for their church to use, but a place that can be used by the community and as a place of outreach and mission.
Jeremiah 29:7 says, "Do good things for the city where I sent you... Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living. If there is peace in that city, you will have peace also."
This is our prayer for the lives of the children and young people in PCI, as well as in Zambia and Maynooth, as they learn about what it means to be a part of God's church and live a life of discipleship.