Karen Greene reflects on her ministry at Broadstone.
It is hard to believe that I am in my 7th year at Broadstone Methodist Church as the Children and Young Families’ Worker! And sadly, as of this summer, it will be my last. It is true what they say, ‘Days go by slowly, but years go by fast.’ It just seems like yesterday that I first came to Broadstone Methodist Church. The Pivot committee asked me to reflect on my time here over these years so let me say, I am sorry for the length of this article but it’s hard to keep it short as my heart is full and my cup runneth over!
Reflecting back on those early days, I remember the interview process and saying to those present that they would be smart to hire someone like me at the age of 57, as opposed to a younger person, because all the mistakes I’ve made in the past (which were many!), enabled me to learn from my experiences and so I am much more prepared to take on this position at this time in my life! I guess they must have believed me or maybe I was the only one applying for the job!
From my perspective, I knew this would be my last opportunity at full time ministry and I really wanted to end well! Over the years, like all of us, I’ve come to know what my strengths are and the job being offered definitely gave me the chance to use them. I like a challenge, I like building things from the ground up, I like the opportunity to experiment and I like to create community. Perfect!
One of my husband’s best friends always said that to know where to begin in ministry, look for where God is already working and build upon it. For me this was Messy Church – the leaders already had their hands full with the crafts and the lunch, and we all agreed that what was missing and much needed was for me to get to know the families who attended. After all, these would most likely be the ones who would participate in our yet to be realized future endeavours! But I felt that it was more than just ‘getting to know’ them, it was an opportunity during the time in the sanctuary to minister to the parents as well as their children. Most of these parents have fallen out of love with the church for whatever reasons, but here they were, for the sake of their children, at Messy Church. The service had to be, of course, fun for the children, but also, culturally relevant to the parents as well. I wanted to challenge their presuppositions about church. I wanted to say, ‘whatever caused you to leave the church, look, we have changed, we are here and we have something you need’. I’m careful to do this ever so gently. Less is more! Just last week at Messy Church I was speaking with a mum who said, ‘This is my first time here and I’m here because of your good reputation!’ So YES, we are gaining!
But let me say this, this all takes time. I spent the first 2 years going home after Messy Church so frustrated! But what would you expect? The ball has been rolling in one direction for many years as we have watched a generation of young people leave the church. And now, we are attempting not only to stop the ball from rolling, but to get it rolling again in the opposite direction. It’s been over 6 years and I can say that I am never frustrated with Messy Church now! I love what we do together and we have 20+ volunteers helping make this truly the success that it is.
The first new ministry that developed was the Ladies’ Craft Group. Almost all of these 18 women were Messy Church attendees with their children and in the casual, more relaxed setting the craft group provided, we created a space just for mums to be together doing crafts and sharing life. It started off being just 12 weeks out of the year but we have added other special times as the ladies chose to do so. Around half of the women have been with us from the start while others have been with us only for a season or two. Women come and go as their needs and schedules allow. We’ve done several projects for charity and fundraising and above all the ladies appreciate this special time the church offers.
After the Ladies’ Craft Group, we introduced Broadway, followed shortly after that by Thirsty Thursday. Broadway took a long time with a lot of fine-tuning before it found its unique rhythm! And believe me, I did a lot of praying and had many an anxious night over it! The spiritual side of this group can be described as a very light touch. Certainly the children explore the stories and lessons of the biblical text every Broadway, for which we are thankful, but the adults on the other hand engage in a variety of discussions and teachings, occasionally with an obvious biblical theme but mostly more implicitly understood. It’s taken a long time for this group to really feel like a community. It’s a wonderful mixture of young families and our church regulars. I hear a lot of differing opinions about where people think this group should head. Some want a more biblical theme with worship, prayers, biblical teaching etc and some, on the other end of the spectrum, want more fun evenings with everyone together doing a group activity! The opinion I value in this is that of my husband, Colin, a theologian whose speciality is in understanding the intersection between the biblical text and culture. He has said to me on numerous occasions not to allow this group to become another church service. Remember, they have fallen out of love with the church some years ago and so we must be careful not to try to fit them back into that mould but continue to look for more interesting and relevant ways to influence and impact their lives. So for now it’s a light touch, sharing a meal, creating community, engaging in discussion while laughing and enjoying each other!
As for Thirsty Thursday, this is the one that has gone from strength to strength! It’s easy and fun. Cookies, smoothies and steamers, story time and play time with tea and coffee for parents and grandparents. It’s full on from 3:00 – 4:30 every Thursday. Most of these children come from Broadstone First School as they conveniently walk home from school right past our church! And the exciting thing is that as these children have moved on to middle school, they kept coming to Thirsty Thursday! So our TIC (Thoughts, Inspiration and Communication) group for the older children, currently to age 13 has formed with some 15 children each Thursday meeting for a biblical lesson given by Deacon Sarah and lots of group fun (playing ball, games, scavenger hunts) and we all agree that this group is truly a blessing! This is our 3rd attempt at a youth group and the one that feels sustainable in a way the other two did not, and although this age group is not part of my job description, it’s where God seems to be moving and so I’m moving as well!
I have to mention that working in the schools has been very useful, giving me an opportunity to work with the children as well as meet many teachers and parents. I’ve done school assemblies at Springdale and Broadstone Middle School, two harvest services with parents and students each year at Springdale, and taught several classes in both the university clubs and RE classes at the Middle School. Weekly I run into children with their parents out and about who say, ‘I know you, you came to my school’.
We have many one-offs like Family Film, Breakfast Church, the summer BBQ and our Christmas event, but Messy Church, Broadway and Thirsty Thursday are the groups that have slowly become a new way of experiencing church for a younger generation of people.
Beyond this, I’ve been privileged to work with Rev Sue designing and implementing the quarterly Cafe Style worship services. I love this time and maybe it’s because I love working with Rev Sue. She is such a kindred spirit and I have enjoyed every moment of my time with her! It’s here we get to experiment with a different way of experiencing worship in a more casual atmosphere that we hope will, in the future, be a place where we can bring all of our people who name Broadstone Methodist Church as their church together for the occasional worship service! I know for some this service is a bridge too far but consider this; it’s a step I am convinced will be taken by our young families in the very near future and I hope you can take that step with them. And I was told by so many who attended our most recent Cafe Style worship service, that it was the best one to date! We are still learning!
So why then am I leaving? Just as I said earlier that I know my strengths, well, I also know my limitations. I have taken this ministry as far as my gifts allow and I know beyond a shadow of doubt that it’s time for someone else, with a different skill set and giftings to carry on in the direction that God is calling. It is with a sad heart that I will say goodbye but with a happy soul knowing that I have given myself completely to the call that God has on my life.
I truly love you all and appreciate the grace you have shown to me and all the support you have given to this ministry. There are so many of you that have been such a blessing, Both financially supporting and faithfully serving in the various outreaches which would never have grown if it wasn’t for all of you! From the TT leaders each week, to the Broadway leaders each month, to the Messy Church leaders each term, a very big thank you! I must however mention two people that have helped me in every area of this ministry and that would be Robert Maguire, my line manager and Terry Millard my Support Team helper. Robert constantly amazes me! His commitment to this ministry and to me has been invaluable! You probably don’t know this but Robert has been present and working in every area of this ministry (except ladies craft)! That is Messy Church, Thirsty Thursday and Broadway as well as helped me with the direction and the planning as we have ventured out in each new directions. Terry is on my Support Team along with Robert and Sue. She’s so much more than a listening ear as she is full of ideas, encouragement and action. She helped me start and lead the Ladies’ Craft group, she’s head of kitchen duty at Broadway, she is present at all the one-off events I do helping and always looking for ways to lighten my load. You probably don’t know this but Terry, despite not being a baker, but knowing I was desperate for help, committed to baking 3-4 dozen cookies each week for Thirsty Thursday!
Though I am a bit sad about stepping down, I am so hopeful and full of expectation and faith for what is yet to be realized in God’s plan for the Children and Young Families’ Ministry at Broadstone Methodist Church.
Thank you and God bless.