Who, me? Yes, you! by Funke Oham

The 2011 London riots caught my attention. I was moved, and purposed in my heart to do something about it. I even wrote an article on Facebook back then, stressing the importance of everyone (including myself) playing a part in this issue– ‘’but things have gone too far for me to fold my hands and continue to be a spectator.’’

I looked for an opportunity to do something, to help and to influence young people positively. Once, I considered speaking to young people in front of shopping malls. What do I say to them? Will they listen to me? So this notion remained on the back burner.

Another idea was joining the Street Pastors team in my area. But that never materialised either. The yearning to do something still remained.

An episode with my son and one of his teachers helped me realise what I could do to help. Shortly after starting in his new class, my son would come home each day, complaining about his teacher, and it escalated to the point of him asking to change schools. I had conversations with the teacher and we tried to address his concerns. But this continued. In the meantime, I encouraged him to overlook the minor episodes, monitored the situation, and prayed about it.

It’s my usual custom to get teachers a gift during Christmas. That year, I wanted to get something relevant, and decided to get my son’s teacher ‘Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul’. I flipped through the book to ensure I had got the right gift. I read the first story and couldn’t put it down until I finished reading it. I cried, laughed and was inspired as I read it. I bought the book hoping it would change the teacher, but the book changed me. Did it change her? I don’t have an answer to that. The interesting thing was, at the end of the school year, my son chose a gift for her with the inscription ‘Best Teacher’ on it.

What I learnt

In trying to change others, we should ask ‘In what areas do I need to change too?’ At that time, I taught a group of pre-teens in church. I did it because no one else was keen, and I wanted them to be engaged. But it seemed like a chore; I felt I was missing out on the adult service, my other ministries and the fun. But Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul changed my mind. I realised the influence, importance and impact a teacher has in the lives of children. My whole outlook of Children’s Ministry has changed. It is now something I look forward to and undertake with great joy. I have come to realise my time, ability to listen, encourage, praise the children and be a role model makes a huge difference in their lives.

Children’s Ministry is not just for Sunday school teachers. I always wondered why people run away from this ministry. For those who don’t, we appreciate your love, commitment and sacrifice. Just like in our biological families, extended family members all play a part in raising, influencing and supporting children. Hence, in the Church, everyone should play a part in the spiritual development of children. When we spend time with children, it’s a chance to know them better, listen and respond to their questions on life, our faith and their worries.

The young people I need to reach are already around me. I didn’t have to go far to reach young people. The pre-teens in my church became my starting point. I also realised my son’s friends were another group I could reach out to. In November last year, I supported the children to organise a Children’s Day themed ‘All United’. It was an opportunity for them to get involved in running the whole church service, grow their faith and invite their friends to church. One of the children said it was his best day ever.

Seven years on from the London riots, knife and gun crime is on the increase. My heart bleeds each time I hear another young person has gone too soon. The issue still remains, but we can and must do something.

In late 2017, I attended an event by Ascension Trust to contribute to the conversation around gun and knife crime and the way forward. Following a presentation by Teen Challenge at my church, I volunteered to support their outreach work.

In the words of John F Kennedy: “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try!” Together we can make a difference in the lives of one, two, hundred, a thousand and more young lives.

Let’s do it!

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