If you work with babies and young children you need: Diddy Disciples

My talk at the northern launch of Diddy Disciples, Christ Church, Aughton, 11th January, 2018.

I think Diddy Disciples is brilliant.

First of all because of the seven principles which are the basis of the whole series:

  • Movement
  • Repetition
  • Voices
  • Spirituality
  • Church
  • Learning
  • Feelings and Emotions

It is brilliant because these principles show that the books are liturgically, theologically, biblically, pedagogically, psychologically sound.

Sharon, it takes a great brain to do all that.

Second because it is unique.

I can’t think of any competitor to this material that really addresses the needs of babies and young children.

The inclusion of babies is not just brilliant but essential. Parents take great pains to ensure that babies are exposed to the right music, right temperature, appropriate toys, plenty of language. And then they go to church and get a few worn out toys. Babies deserve the best and Diddy Disciples gives them the best diet they could have.

Diddy Disciples is brilliant because it is so flexible, the Building Blocks provided for each biblical theme and story can be used to create an after school activity, something for use during a congregations main Sunday worship or a short Toddlers group activity.

But I don’t just think Diddy Disciples is brilliant.

I love it.

The first thing I love about these books is the title. Not just because of the Knotty Ash link. It’s the second word.

Archbishop Justin in recent publications on mission talks about Contact – Relationship – Commitment.

The Church of England has been very good at Contact, we touch the lives of many people, through our schools and in other ways we are very good at Relationship. What we have been poor at is Commitment. Turning the people we are in contact with, we have relationship with, into disciples of Jesus.

That’s why I like the title of this series of books.

Children are called to be disciples of Jesus just as much as adults.

Jesus said “Bring the little children to me.” This is a dominical command just as much as ‘Do this in memory of me’, or ‘Go and baptise the nations’. When we bring children to Jesus we are doing what he wants us to do.

The second reason I love this series is that it is proven in a context of church growth.

St. Peter’s, Walworth is not just thriving but flourishing. Unlike most churches the question is not what to do about all the empty pews – usually at the front – but where to fit people in. Diddy Disciples works. It hasn’t been developed as a good idea that someone ought to try. But this good idea is successful and more churches should be using it.

Quite simply I don’t know of any church that is experiencing significant growth where the children’s ministry is not excellent. Christ Church, Aughton, where we are today is a good example of that.

The third reason I love the series is that is about knowledge.

Children and adults will learn by engaging in these activities.

I began my teaching career 32 years ago as an Reception and Early Years teacher. I have taught every age to 18 year olds since then and I have always said that every teacher should have a time teaching four year olds.

I think I would say the same about Christian leadership. We simply cannot allow Christian leaders to get away with saying they ‘don’t do children’ or ‘I’m better with teenagers’. Diddy Disciples gives ever Christian leader the resources to be fantastic with babies and young children. And it gives children the resources to be disciples.

As we learn more about how children learn some simple lessons have become clear. Memory is the only measurable activity in learning and we learn by repetition, by repeating things. I love the repetition of songs and prayers in Diddy Disciples. Memory needs content. I love the bible stories and the way in which children will learn them by encountering Diddy Disciples.

But Diddy Disciples is not just learning; it is worshipping. It addresses human beings, whether adults or children present, not as passive receptors but as active participants in worship.

“To put it another way”, as Sharon says in her introduction, ” people who learn to ‘sit still and be quiet’ in church during the early ears of their life are more likely to ‘sit still and be quiet’ in church as adults”

I would add: perhaps just stop coming to church at all.

Much of Diddy Disciples is based on the work of Rebecca Nye, a superb writer on children’s spirituality. She writes:

We need to help “to open up the children’s sense of the infinite possibilities of meaning that the biblical material holds for their spiritual life in the long term.  In other words, everything possible is done to avoid studying the Bible with children in ways that suggest this story has this point and you’ve learned this, there’s nothing more.

I love Diddy Disciples because it does not underestimate children, it realises that children are as open to the infinite as any human being that has ever lived.

Let the children come to me, Jesus said.

In Israel’s great proclamation of faith it is children and the task of teaching them the Word of God that is at its heart:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Dt 6

Sharon, Diddy Disciples, is unique, brilliant, superb. I love it. Thank you.

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