St Andrew’s United Reformed Church at Ramshill has officially been named a Child Friendly Church.
Children have long been an integral part of the church’s life, but this award proves to everyone that St Andrew’s children are special.
The plaques presented to mark the award are clearly displayed on the front of the church and by the Albion Crescent entrance, as well as a certificate in the Heritage Chapel, where it is the first item in the “Our Future” section of the church’s history.
A number of criteria had to be satisfied, and it had to be demonstrated that work with, and activities for, children and young people was not sporadic but regular and expanding.
Before any application could be made, a Child Protection Policy had to be in place, and this has to be reviewed annually.
For some time the church has had a Youth and Children’s Work Elder, and all the volunteers working with the junior church had to have CRB checks.
The quarterly church meeting has to authorise activities, and for those children who join Pilots, a parental consent form must be signed.
Pilots is a non-uniformed group which meets on Thursdays in term-time from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and welcomes boys and girls from five to 18 years of age.
At each Sunday’s 10.30am service the children and young people are an integral part of all aspects of worship, fully included in it.
They help with various tasks, meet and greet the congregation as they arrive, help collect the offertory, are keen to volunteer in any activities which are part of the service, and are permitted to take Communion if they so wish.
The children are known by name to the majority of the congregation, who like to hear of their achievements and are very supportive of them.
There is a children’s play area at the rear of the church for the very little ones, where parents can sit and keep an eye on them but still take part in the service.
It does not matter if the children make a noise, cry, or run up and down - the minister just carries on, for, as he says, “We all worship in our own way”.
The opinions of the children and young people are sought on a range of issues, and they can attend church meetings if they wish to do so.
Their opinions are valued, and can be acted upon if appropriate, but and questions they raise will always be taken seriously and discussed.
As part of the work with children, Messy Church sessions are held from time to time. It should be stressed that children and young people do not have to attend Sunday worship to come to either Messy Church or Pilots, and whole families do join the Messy Church sessions.
The Child Friendly church Award is given by the United Reformed Church. After inspection by a Children and Youth Development Worker of St Andrew’s policies and the work done with and for children and young people, he recommended to URC HQ that the Child Friendly Church Award status should be granted.
The inspector was impressed by the welcoming, friendly atmosphere at the church and the obvious value placed on the children by the church community, who are, quite rightly, known to the children and young people as their “church family”. Children and young people are a valued part of that family. “Children Welcome Here - Come and Join Us” is the message.