A quarter of a million UK children are unhappy according to a new report from the Children’s Society.
And another large-scale study of young people, from the Barna Group and World Vision, shows four in ten are anxious about important decisions and uncertain about the future. Only one third say they feel deeply cared for by those around them.
Laura Hancock, national ministries director for Youth for Christ, said: ‘It is heart-breaking to hear of the brokenness many children and young people feel in this generation. They may feel anxious, lonely and disconnected but there is hope. Jesus promises to provide peace, relationship, connection, hope and purpose, and this is what we shall be tackling at CRE National 2019.’
The Children’s Society’s Matt Hussey said the research showed that while young people are feeling more isolated and alone, youth groups were an ideal way to bring them together to promote positive relationships and friendships – and a safe space to talk about issues concerning them.
Sponsored by YFC, the exhibition’s Youth Zone will feature a number of organisations providing churches with the means to reach young people, enabling them to find a new life and meaning in Jesus Christ.
Laura was a former youth pastor in London and outreach worker in local schools, before marrying Andy, youth pastor at Lifecentral Church, Halesowen.
‘The hands and feet to reach youngsters are in the local church,’ she said. ‘I encourage CRE visitors to call in at the Youth Zone where I am sure the organisations there will suggest ways in which a local church can help or get help.’
Exhibitors in the Youth Zone include:
• Acet UK
• Bible Educational Services
• Hope UK
• Kisumu Children Trust
• Latin Link
• Pulse Ministries
• Youth for Christ
Following high profile cases such as Oxfam’s conduct in Haiti, safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight are exploring the challenges involved in safeguarding young people in international Christian work.
Missions, charities and NGOs are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good safeguarding procedures and there is an urgent need to develop better support for those operating overseas. However, more research is needed to develop this support and to form the knowledge needed to enable a full understanding of challenges faced by those in this work.
Thirtyone:eight, exhibiting at CRE National 2019, will work with the University of Chester’s psychology department to launch an academic study into the challenges and training needs for organisations sending people abroad for mission and charity – and those being sent.
Justin Humphreys, CEO of thirtyone:eight, said: ‘We have a strong track record of conducting and commissioning research in order to help with the development of best practice in safeguarding within the faith sector in the UK and overseas. We are particularly excited about this study, which comes at a crucial time amidst growing scrutiny of organisations working with vulnerable groups overseas.’
The research will be conducted by Dr Lisa Oakley, senior lecturer at the University of Chester, and Professor Moira Lafferty, deputy head of the school of psychology at Chester University.
Thirtyone:eight are calling on anyone who is or has been on mission in the past three years, and all Christian mission-sending organisations, to complete an associated questionnaire by 31st October 2019. The questionnaire can be obtained at the thirtyone:eight stand at CRE National 2019.
• Thirtyone:eight are on stand S49 at CRE National 2019.
Image: Courtesy of thirtyone:eight
Roma communities in northern Serbia are being reached by a local pastor, through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey – initiatives of CRE National 2019 exhibitor Samaritan’s Purse.
In 2018, Pastor Sasa and his team distributed shoebox gifts to one Roma community and soon after began running The Greatest Journey programme for children who want to discover more about Jesus. Some parents also joined the meetings.
‘The parents really liked how teachers spoke with the children and did activities with them,’ he explained. ‘They were also interested in the Bible stories, because they were easy to understand.’ In fact, the parents were so keen to learn more, that Sasa decided to invite them to a house group meeting and 12 are now attending the group regularly.
In 2019, Sasa once again had the opportunity, following Operation Christmas Child outreach events, to start a class for The Greatest Journey with children from two other villages. Building on what they had experienced the previous year, they invited the parents to come to the class with their children.
In one of the villages a group comprised 10 children and five mothers. Many of the mothers had not completed primary school education and the programme provided them with an opportunity to practice their reading and writing. In the second village, around 50 children attended the class and 10 mothers or grandmothers also came regularly. None of them were believers, but all stayed together for the lessons.
‘Both children and adults enjoyed the lessons and learned the stories, and at the end of each lesson everyone answered questions together!’ said Samaritan’s Purse’s Rebecca Lauder. ‘They opened another house group in the village and the group of believers is now growing. Soon they will officially open a church!’
Since 1990, more than 168 million children in over 160 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Each shoebox gift brings an opportunity for local church partners to share the good news of new life and hope in Jesus.
• Samaritan’s Purse are on stand S43 at CRE National 2019
One of the church’s musical institutions will be at CRE National 2019 to inspire and challenge visitors.
Roger Jones (“I’m 71 but don’t feel it”) will introduce one of his new worship songs and encourage CRE visitors to sing it during Worship Wednesday. He wrote the Cantata, Jerusalem Joy, when he was a music teacher at an inner-city school in Birmingham in 1979 and was given a boost in the same year when the former National Christian Education Council asked him to write a musical about Robert Raikes, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sunday schools. More musicals followed – Stargazers, Apostle, David, A Grain of Mustard Seed, Saints Alive, and Greater than Gold – before he was appointed head of lower school at Aston Manor School, now an academy.
That promotion gave him less time to write music so he accepted the challenge of his local church leaders and began composing full time, forming Christian Music Ministries in 1984.
This year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, presented him with the Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship, recognition for more than 40 years as a composer, evangelist, worship leader and speaker.
‘Music has been a major part of my life,’ said the man who is unafraid to move across the musical barriers. He has written worship songs, hymns and 23 musicals. His two books, Worship Works and Spirit Works, combine to present his all-encompassing passion for worship and renewal.
‘One of the highlights of my ministry was presenting a musical in Israel with Israelis and Arabs,’ he reflected, ‘but later this year I have been invited to Abu Dhabi to lead local singers in my musical Rock – the story of Simon Peter. This was exciting and unexpected and came at a time when I was considering retiring. God had other ideas!’
Just days before joining CRE National 2019 at Sandown Park he will present his new musical Torn Curtain in Tamworth, Staffordshire. The recording of Torn Curtain features renowned singer Jonathan Viera (also at CRE).
‘I am really looking forward to joining the Worship Wednesday panel to share experiences and encouraging those interested in worship,’ said Roger. ‘It will be particularly pleasurable to join with Chris Bowater as we trained together to be teachers. I look forward to meeting many other lovers of music and worship at Sandown Park.’
Worship Wednesday at CRE National 2019
11am What on earth is worship? Chris Bowater, Lou Fellingham, Carla Jane, Roger Jones, Noel Robinson and Roy Francis establish an agreed definition and understanding. Interview and presentation – Lou Fellingham
12 noon Who on earth is worship for? Chris, Lou, Carla, Roger, Noel and Roy discuss our relationship with God and each other. Interview and presentation – Carla Jane
2pm How on earth should we worship? Chris, Lou, Carla, Roger, Noel and Roy discuss differing styles and genres of worship. Interview and presentation – Roger Jones
3pm Worship? Heaven help us! Chris, Lou, Carla, Roger, Noel and Roy discuss how worshipin spirit and truth requires the leading of the Holy Spirit. Interview and worship finale – Noel Robinson (plus Worship Wednesday team)
Two regular exhibitors at CRE have doubled the size of their stand – so visitors can discover an even wider range of reading material.
Canaan Christian Ministries in Staines celebrate their 40th anniversary in November – just a year ahead of 39-year-old Manna Christian Centre in Streatham. Shop managers Barry Mockford and Dave Lock have upped the size of their display to offer ‘something for everyone’ with bibles, books, CDs, DVDs, calendars, gifts, cards and communion-related items.
Known as the Blues Brothers because they both support Chelsea FC, ‘Mock ‘n’ Lock’ are promising special offers not usually available in their shops – and cheaper than can be found online.
‘It’s all part of our 40th year celebrations,’ said Barry said. ‘People need to know not everything is cheaper online. We also want them to realise that when they buy from a local independent bookshop, not only are they supporting their local “bricks and mortar” shop in the high street, which is often open when churches are closed, but they can save money as well. As independent bookshops we are there to help and serve the individual, as well as equipping people to live their lives in the way that God intended. But we are more than a bookshop – because we can also offer a listening ear, counselling, help and advice and a prayer centre.’
Barry and Dave are looking forward to many encouraging conversations during CRE National 2019 – and not just about the visit of Newcastle to Stamford Bridge two days after the exhibition.
• Canaan Christian Ministries and Manna Christian Centre are on stand S145 at CRE National 2019
Last Advent, hundreds of children across the UK sent messages of friendship to refugee children.
CRE National 2019 exhibitor Embrace created a Children’s Alternative Advent Calendar where, behind each door, children followed the story of ten-year-old Sami and his family who fled Syria because of the war.
‘Refugee children often feel forgotten,’ said Embrace’s event manager Kerensa McCollough. ‘They don’t know what has happened to their friends, pets and extended family, and they see their exhausted parents struggling to provide food and shelter.’
Each day the calendar reveals a little more of Sami’s story.
‘On one particular day, we asked children to write, colour and send us a postcard with messages of friendship and love which we promised to pass on to Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon,’ said Kerensa.
Hundreds responded and this spring, Heather Stanley (pictured), Embrace’s individual giving and communications manager, visited an after-school club in Lebanon.
‘I was so thrilled to pass on the “thank you” and “we love you, too” messages,’ she said.
The Children’s Alternative Advent Calendar will be available on Embrace’s stand at CRE, along with lots of other Advent gifts and resources for you and your church.
‘Every penny you spend on the calendar supports our Christian partners in the Middle East who provide vital items to refugee families,’ explained Heather. ‘They were able to give away life-sustaining rice, hygiene kits, warm hats, gloves and pairs of sturdy shoes.
‘And our Christian partners are also running healthcare centres, schools, and after-school clubs for refugee children who otherwise would be missing out on their education. The difference you make buy simply choosing our calendar, is amazing!’
‘In a world focussed on “getting”, Sami’s story reminds us that Christmas is about giving hope,’ said Rev Mary Hawes, national children and youth advisor for the Church of England.‘This Advent calendar offers a practical way to give and learn at the same time.’
• Embrace are on stand S151 at CRE National 2019
She grew up in an impoverished home but now, with support from her local church and Compassion projects, Patience is taking positive steps away from a life of poverty.
The life story of this girl from Uganda will be told in an interactive audio and visual display at CRE National 2019, demonstrating what life can be like for children living below the poverty line in a developing country.
Taking up 156 square feet of trailer space, the Compassion Experience is free to enter for all attending the exhibition. Inside, Patience tells her story of growing up in an impoverished home. The exhibit goes on to show how she has overcome these challenges with support from her local church, alongside Compassion projects embedded in her community. These both ensured she received a quality education, had enough to eat, was given emotional and spiritual support, and could access medical care if she required.
She is now giving back to her own community, taking positive steps away from a life of poverty.
Justin Dowds, CEO of child development charity Compassion UK, said: ‘When people think of poverty, they often think of the lack of material things, but actually, poverty is the lack of freedom to make meaningful choices. Poverty narrows children’s horizons and undermines their ambitions. Through our holistic child development programme, Compassion stirs hope in children. You can witness that hope coming to life through the Compassion Experience.’
The charity has more than 60 years’ experience of working with some of the world’s poorest children. At present nearly two million children attend Compassion’s church-based projects in 25 of the world’s poorest countries.
• Compassion are on stand S39 at CRE National 2019
Giving up your bed to sleep on the floor is just one task in a new experience for church members.
In taking up World Vision’s Matthew 25 Challenge, congregations are invited to concentrate on Matthew 25:35-40 – to care for our ‘neighbour’ living in poverty around the world.
‘Church members get daily text challenges to their mobile phone – or if they prefer, follow the challenges in a devotional booklet,’ explained World Vision’s Justin Bloomfield. ‘Both include amazing stories of children around the world, prayers, inspiring videos and discussion points.’
This new initiative, introduced to churches at CRE National 2019, will help churches step into the lives of people living in poverty – and respond with the love of Jesus. The daily challenges are family-friendly and include giving up your bed to sleep on the floor and giving up a meal and all drinks except water.
As one church pastor said: ‘It’s easy to read scripture, but it’s another thing to feel scripture.’
‘Our prayer is that the Matthew 25 Challenge will give church leaders resources to help equip them disciple their congregations and build community and relationships, too,’ said Justin.
• Visit the World Vision stand (S41) at CRE National 2019 to sign up your church to the Matthew 25 Challenge
If it hadn’t been for a ‘massive error’ in Washington DC, the late Bob Gass and United Christian Broadcasters might never have met.
When just 29 visitors came through the doors of the two-day CRE in prestigious Washington DC in 1989, the event’s UK founder flew home counting the cost of a commercial disaster.
‘We were advised by our American partners that the capital would be ideal for the first event of its kind on US soil,’ recalled Gospatric Home, now honorary president of CRE. ‘It was a massive error. Despite a powerful marketing campaign to many thousands of church leaders, the attendance was embarrassingly poor.’
The exhibition was still in its infancy in the UK and the fledgling organisation did not need a loss-making event at such a precarious time in its existence. Unknown to Gos, however, one of the handful of visitors had been the late Bob Gass. And one of the exhibitors was United Christian Broadcasters. Until that day, they didn’t know each other existed.
And, in the economy of God, from the smallest of acorns a mighty oak grew.
Bob proposed contributing a devotional to UCB under the title Word for Today. The first edition was published in April 1994 with a print run of just 3,500. The rest is history.
‘Today, we are distributing more than 300,000 printed copies quarterly to the UK alone,’ said UCB’s publishing coordinator Laura Foxon. ‘As well as this, more than 76,000 people are receiving it each day by email, over 88,000 people read the daily devotional online in the first quarter of 2019 and 76,000 people accessed the UCB Word For Today podcast via our app in the first quarter of 2019.’
More than 300,000 people each week listen to UCB 1 and UCB 2, which both broadcast the UCB Word For Today every day.
‘None of this would have happened if UCB had not taken a stand at the exhibition,’ recalled Gos. ‘UCB must have been hugely impressed by Bob but it is quite normal for an enterprise of this kind to start quite modestly and grow in popularity. Many significant projects have begun through “chance” conversations in the aisles of CRE and we are grateful to God that we have been able to play a small part in his divine plans.’
In 1987, CRE National moved from central London to Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey where it takes place again this year (Oct 15-17). By the 1990s the exhibition was also being staged in Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Torquay and Exeter.
‘CRE has played a huge role in showing churches how to move with the times and grow and develop,’ said Gos. ‘Thousands and thousands of churches have modernised and continue to change in this age of the internet. Meanwhile exhibitors have got better and better at presenting their resources to church leaders.’
More than 4000 local church leaders and members, representing all major denominations, are expected to visit CRE National 2019, to be opened by former Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones and actress Fiona Hendley.
Many churches in rural areas were closed in the early 1960s – but Pastor Herbert Goddard was determined to do something about it.
At the same time Christian missionaries were returning home and could not afford suitable accommodation, so Herbert, also a director of a building contractors, revamped a disused church and built accommodation nearby. This was then offered to missionaries who took over the running of the church. It led to the formation of the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship which later became Rural Ministries, an exhibitor at CRE National 2019.
Herbert, a former president of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, died in 1981 but his vision to keep the Gospel alive in the countryside remains.
‘Every rural community is different, and we understand this,’ said Rev Simon Mattholie (pictured), chief executive officer of Rural Ministries. ‘Rhythms and seasons play an important part, along with a strong sense of history and the importance of a local place of worship. We want to help people see their community from a different perspective, to see what God is already doing among them and then join in.
‘Geographically, 93 per cent of the UK is rural, and home to about 12 million people. However, with “urban” being the main focus for many denominations, this sizable remnant is often left behind.’
Simon, who has served in a number of rural churches and for the past six years has lived in a smallholding, understands the loneliness of rural ministry. At CRE he wants to let people living in these isolated areas know support is available.
‘We want to speak to anyone whether they are a small mission initiative or a diocese supporting a rural parish,’ he said. ‘We want to hear their stories of encouragement and tell them ours.’
Life in the countryside has many benefits – a beautiful environment, a strong sense of community and proportionally fewer instances of ill health. But the low population densities and distance between residential and commercial centres, can bring challenges for those living, working and witnessing in the countryside.
Isolation through lack of public transport, networks of people or available resources is often a common theme. It can exist in villages near larger towns, where it is common for all the attention to be focused on supporting initiatives in the town.
‘Rural Ministries recognises and understands these, and many other issues, not least the impact they have on church life. We are here to help,’ said Simon.
• Rural Ministries are on stand FC5 at CRE National 2019