by Nicola Short

25th July 2021

A lot of what we know about Timothy is written by Paul – there are two letters to Timothy in the bible – 1 Timothy & 2 Timothy, and he is mentioned in Acts. As an adult, Timothy was lucky enough to be taken on by Paul, who trained him as they travelled around the Mediterranean, teaching and setting up churches. Paul eventually sent Timothy to Ephesus where he stayed until he died. But what about his childhood? He was born in Lystra, in Asia Minor, which is part of modern-day Turkey. It says in Acts 16:1 that his mother Eunice was Jewish, and his father was a Greek Gentile. His father is not really mentioned, which is unusual – historians think this infers that his father wasn’t around, though there is no indication as to why. And without this patriarchal influence growing up, Timothy was a bit of a misfit.
Something Paul picked up in 2 Timothy 1 was that Lois and Eunice – Timothy’s grandmother and mother – both had a sincere faith, passed from mother to daughter and then instilled into Timothy. The word “sincere” means, literally, “not hypocritical.” And it is possible to have a hypocritical, not genuine form of faith. And to point out the obvious… kids smell that kind of phoniness a mile away. Having a sincere faith doesn’t mean you are perfect, and you have a perfect relationship with God. But it does imply you are real with God. And that’s not pretty sometimes, and yet it’s this comfortable, everyday faith that’s the one that gets passed down through generations – it’s attractive and contagious – it’s not grandiose gestures – it’s the sort of faith that makes people recognise there is something different about you and want it too. But hypocritical faith can’t be handed off. If you’re a phony, it’s not something your kids, or anyone else, are going to want anything to do with.
The survey that went out across the team a few months ago quite overwhelmingly showed that people think we should be an all-age congregation. And to be truly all age, our whole service needs to be for everyone – we shouldn’t compartmentalise by having certain parts that are for kids, because I think it’s inadvertently giving the impression that the other bits aren’t for them, and they can just switch off, or play.
For our church to achieve this and make our services accessible to everyone – I believe we need to incorporate different learning styles into how we deliver the services.
There are three main ways people learn – either visually, through listening, or by doing. This is something that I have learnt about through my degree in Education and is routinely carried out in classrooms in order to engage children. We’ve been quite deliberate in trying to do this with our online services – having things to do, things to listen to and things to watch, and on the whole I think that we’ve been successful in creating something engaging and fairly fast paced – perfect for those with short attention spans – young and old!! And doing things this way might mean it won’t be always, all the time, exactly how you like it. Because we are trying to cater for everybody. So, if we keep repeating the chorus of a song to give the auditory learners, and the ones who can’t read yet, a chance to pick it up, or we have a craft activity set up to illustrate the point of the sermon, or you get asked to get into small groups and talk to each other and pray together, I really encourage you to give it ago – tolerate it, at least, with a smile. Because it might not be your preferred style, but it will be someone else’s. And if the children see you not joining in because you don’t like it, then that gives the impression that they don’t have too either. So, if we, as a team, take this decision to move to a model that is more all age, I challenge everyone to get stuck in and be like Lois and Eunice and help pass a sincere faith on to the children and young people in our church.
I truly believe that Covid has given us a unique opportunity to start from scratch – the hard part has already been done – we have stopped what we were doing, and as far as I know everyone was on board with the decision – something I would’ve never believed was possible. All through my life I’ve heard that church isn’t engaging with young people – wouldn’t it be amazing if we took this opportunity and used it to reimagine the way we do things, so we were the ones who got it right – that we were able to pass down and foster this sincere faith in our children and young people and raise up a generation of Timothys.