Terry Williams is working for Scripture Union Australia but travels globally to inspire children’s workers to think not only children, but families. This year in March he was able to travel to Europe. Evangelical Alliance in Finland co-operated with the Scripture Union, enabling several children’s workers to be inspired by Terry’s teaching and sharing.
Under the Finnish Evangelical Alliance, a network for Children and Youth has been operating since 2012. Our aim is to encourage individual Children’s workers but also to spread the best practices and learn from the International Community. For the last three years the team has sought to arrange a conference in Finland that would be an inspiration to the children’s workers.
One of the speakers we wanted to see there was Terry Williams from Scripture Union Australia, whom we met in Reaching Europe’s Children Conference in 2018 in Hungary. We really loved his presentation there. Terry has a big priority in helping the families: how to coach children in knowing God in the everyday life of family and in the church.
The pandemic, however messed our plans for a live event so we used an online platform to have several webinars where Terry was a speaker together with some Finnish specialist in the field of children, faith development, family, and church life. We have also recorded the sessions and they are available on our website and Finnish Evangelical Alliance YouTube channel.
One of the upsides of the webinars was that our email list grew from 120 to 350, which for a small country like Finland is a real blessing. Finnish Evangelical Alliance aim is to connect Christians from different streams and give them a voice in the society.
Terry came to Europe this March, and we had the opportunity to finally hear him in person. We started with a networking day in Helsinki where 13 members from our network met face-to-face with several others joining us in Zoom. Terry gave us a Bible lesson and we got to know each other and prayed for one another. Terry asked us to write two things: what has been inspiration and what has been the challenge for us last year. “For me,” Terry commented, “inspirational thing has been the 1000+ leaders trained at the annual Australian conference called Amplify (amplicyconference.com.au.” The challenge, according to Terry, is seeing churches owning a vision to empower and support homes in their primary role in discipling their children.
After lunch we shared some new material and projects that we were involved with. New connections were made and some ideas for the future were exchanged. The Secretary of the Scripture Union in Finland, Kirsi Smeds says that Terry’s visit was important and inspiring also for the Scripture Union in Finland. “We met for the first time with Terry,” Kirsi says. “The motivation and prayer we shared was that Scripture Union in Finland should increase its Bible activities among the families who have children.”
The Networking Day was followed by a seminar in Greater Helsinki area. We asked Terry to start the day with speaking about Children in the Family of God. One of the things he said was that the journey of faith in a child’s life is not step 1-2-3, but it can look quite messy. God is already working in their hearts, and He invites us to work with Him. Terry also mentioned that nowhere in the Bible we are told to invite Jesus into our hearts. “Jesus did invite disciples into His team”, Terry pointed out. “Children know from experience what a team means, they belong to football teams, so it is a language children can easily understand.” One important point he told us was when at the end of a message we want to encourage children to join Jesus in his mission, it is better not to ask them to raise hand or come forward. “They should rather be asked to stay behind and discuss with the team members. This way we can hear what their real need is and then they won’t feel pushed,” explained Terry.
The second session we had with Terry was Adventuring in the Bible. He said that God is in every page of the Bible and every day of children – to be discovered. We are inviting them on an adventure when we open the Bible with children. He pointed out, however, that Bible is a book that is written for a different time, setting and culture than the one we are living. The he went on to describe several ways how to introduce the Bible to a child that has never seen the book before. He asked us, “How many stories are in the Bible? 500? 250? 30?” We of course guessed several numbers, but the answer was, “There is only One Story in the Bible, God’s Story.”
We continued with a wonderful play where God’s Story was cut into 5 sections as in the picture.
He had a large piece of paper on the floor where he placed the names of the section. The we wrote our favourite characters on post-it notes and placed the in the timeline. Next, we had to write our own names on the notes and placed them on the timeline. Thirdly we added the names of children we know to the timeline – this is the part of the story that is still in the writing.
The third session was also a very important one – how to help children to navigate in the digital world. There are lots of possibilities for our children to become digitally native, but there are many threats and parents need to be aware of them. He gave us examples how to safeguard our children and finished with how the ever-increasing presence of porn can affect our children. He shared with us two short educational videos, one created by New Zealand Government:
And other by Queensland Police:
One of the ideas he presented for us was the Digital Covenant of Families, where we can agree on the following:
- Devices are not guests at our meal table
- Devices are not used in our bedrooms
- We will turn off our screens 30 minutes before pillow time
- When driving in the car for less than 30 mins we talk to each other. Screens can wait
- We invite each other to be friends on our social media
If you want to know more how the Aussies do things, the link to go is https://leaderstogo.org.au/about/flavour/
Globally those who develop material for children are very much pointing out that we need to strengthen the families, help parents in their God-given task to lead and mentor their children – so that the faith the parents have can be found by their children and they can grow into disciples and friends of Jesus, even in our complex world.
Eva Sarsa heads National Children’s Workers’ Network under the Finnish Evangelical Alliance. In Healingrooms Finland, she teaches the children how to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer with God and how to share God’s love and power when praying for others. Eva also ministers to children in different settings in Finland and internationally where she has been invited to. She strongly believes that children are the church of today, not of tomorrow and we need to give them a voice and root them deeply in knowing God and hearing His voice. Eva feels she is called to be a voice for children. In that calling she speaks to pastors, children’s workers, parents and church members about rooting and releasing the children as legal heirs of God’s Kingdom, sons and daughters of the Father.