4 keys for planning your church events during COVID

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event…

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event Directors start planning in April, or earlier, to design programs, form leadership teams and develop spiritual input activities.

So in July this year, when we sat down with directors to present them, at short notice, with our Spring Camps COVID Safe Plan, it came as no surprise that there was a lot of concern and a lot of questions: “Isn’t that going to be a lot of extra work?”, “Will we actually be able to run?”, and “Will kids even come?”

Now that we are on the other side of this year’s Spring camps season, I am pleased and grateful to say, yes, yes and yes to those questions.

We are so thankful for all that everyone did to help make our 24 Spring events happen, involving 1447 people. We’re especially grateful to our Event Directors who, in many cases, went above and beyond what would normally be expected of them.

The comment that I have heard a number of times and keeps coming to me is, “Once all the set up work was done, it was remarkable how normal it felt to run the event.”

Over the course of the last 6 months, words like “pivot”, “unprecedented” and “ever-changing” have become part of our everyday vocabulary. We celebrated when we heard over and over again that our camps felt like the normal special experience they always have been.

So as we enter the fourth quarter of this very strange year, planning for end of year events and events for early 2021, you might have some of the same concerns. You might be asking some of the same questions our Event Directors were asking 3 months ago.

Well, here are a few tips that helped them and just might help your church or youth group’s event planning:

1. Read the Industry Plans or requirements for what you need to do and write up a clear COVID Safe Plan on how they will apply to your context. So many times, when questions came up about what we should be doing, it was great to be able to simply come back to this reference point.

2. If you are the person running the event, find someone else to manage the implementation of your COVID Safe Plan. Your focus should be on the success of your event, not on ensuring everyone has been sanitised at the right times, in the right places.

3. Focus on all the things you can do and don’t fixate on what can’t happen. The experience of everyone getting together will be more important than the feeling of it looking and feeling a bit different.

4. Find someone to be in your corner to answer your questions and be a sounding board. One of my great joys of the last two months has been all the times I was thanked for just being available to help others think through the process and come up with workable solutions.

Whether you are running completely different events or just adjusting existing ones to meet the new requirements, just remember this.

While it may seem like a lot of work now, know that each step in the process is going to be worth it, and people will celebrate getting together at your event.

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 15/10/2020

10 tips to build a better church website

For more than two millennia churches reached out to those in need by getting outside the walls of their buildings. In today’s digital age, churches have the opportunity to…

For more than two millennia churches reached out to those in need by getting outside the walls of their buildings. In today’s digital age, churches have the opportunity to reach even more people in need through their online presence – and it starts with your website. With churches moving services online or to a hybrid online/in person model, the need to have a strong digital presence has become more critical than ever.

At SU QLD, our heart is to serve and partner with churches in their mission to their local community. Our friends at R6 Digital, Brisbane’s second largest digital marketing agency, share our heart. It’s why we reached out to Jake Hart, R6 Chief of Design, who shares his top 10 tips for creating your church’s website. 

TIP 1: Establish your look and feel

Before you create/remodel your website you’ll want to establish its look and feel. This means, if you don’t already have a brand guide, you should develop one. This will determine what fonts, colours and high-resolution images you will use for your website. The more work you put into defining your look and feel, the easier it will be to design your site, which will ultimately lead to a better outcome.

TIP 2: Understand your audience

Now you’ve got your look and feel, the next step is knowing who your website is for. Are they first time visitors? Are they people transitioning from one church to another? There’s also your existing members to consider too. By understanding who your potential audience is, you can better plan the content of your site.

 

Keep it simple and easy to digest – Tip 5

 

TIP 3: Ease of navigation is key

This is critical to the effectiveness of your website. While you may want to shout from the rooftops about everything your church is doing and what you have to offer, you don’t want to bamboozle your visitor with too much, too soon. In other words, less is more. Focus on simplicity and user friendliness, which leads in nicely to my next tip…

TIP 4: Give your visitor an experience they’ll come back for

An effective church website, or any website for that matter, is one that focuses on creating an enjoyable, responsive experience for the user, regardless of the platform they use. In other words, your site needs to be flexible enough that it looks and functions equally as well when viewed on a mobile device or on a desktop PC.  

TIP 5: Communicate smartly

Here’s your opportunity to let your potential visitor know who you are and why they would want to join your community. Again, keep it simple and easy to digest. You will want to include: who you are (Our History and Our Team); what you believe (Vision Statement, Ministries and Outreach of the church), and why you do this.

This gives the user a simple, engaging introduction to your church, with enough information for them to get a feel for who you are, how you will support their faith journey, and/or whether they will feel welcomed. 

TIP 6: Don’t use stock images, be authentic

Stock photos might look great, but they’re not you. Your website visitors want to see who you really are. Think of your website like the foyer of your church. What will people see, feel and hear? Show them what they can expect inside.

TIP 7: Show your community involvement

Be sure to include your community outreach programs on your site to inspire visitors to give them a sense of community and purpose.

TIP 8: Use external giving platforms

Ohhhh it’s the uncomfortable bit… we’re talking about money. The reality is the amazing things your church is doing is only possible because of two reasons: God and the faithful giving of your community. It’s why I recommend using external giving platforms like Tithe.ly, EasyTithe, Givelify, PayPal or PushPay. Avoid integrated payment options because it will deter people from making larger investments as these options are potentially less secure.

Inspire the people that visit your website – Tip 7

 

TIP 9: Link your site with your social media

Think of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) as a way to funnel people to your website. Post engaging, quality content that is consistent with who you are as a church community (remember Tips 5 and 6) and encourage people to find out more by clicking a link to your website.

TIP 10: Choose the right web CMS for you

While you might be blown away by the bells and whistles that various Content Management Systems (CMS) promise, be sure to pick one that is easy to edit, update and use. You don’t want a system that only the “I.T guy” can make even the most minor changes to.

We hope you find Jake’s tips helpful. If you’d like to find out more about setting up your church’s website, or if you think yours’ could do with a minor tune up, the team at R6 Digital would only be too happy to serve you. Contact them here to start the conversation today!

 

Posted: 6/10/2020

How to build a life giving home

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way, “All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family…

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way,

“All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family and profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of today’s accelerative thrust. In the midst of all this change sits the family – stunned by the shockwaves of novelty, shifting values, and information overload, wondering how they are going to survive. The family has been called the ‘giant shock absorber’ of society. Home is ‘the place to which the bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world, the one stable point in an increasingly flux-filled environment’.”

This is my picture of what family should be – what God intended for families to be.

In a world that is changing at a frenetic pace, where values are being diluted and eroded on a daily basis, all young people need a place of safety and security in which they are enveloped as they make sense of life.

When Marg and I welcomed our firstborn into the world, we talked together about what kind of home we wanted for our children. We had the opportunity to build a home that was shaped by our values and not a house that was shaped by our budget. We wanted a home that would be a safe place where all voices were validated, where anything and everything could be talked about. We wanted a home where we could laugh and cry together, and where our children felt secure in the knowledge that they were a part of a family that would always be there for them.

As followers of Jesus, our greatest hope and desire was that, in this journey, they too would grow a faith that was active and lifelong.

Put simply, our vision was for a life-giving home.

These were easy words to say those many years ago! We certainly didn’t achieve all we strived for, but we are thankful to God that our three children are living out an active faith today. When children are brought into this world through something called labour, this provides a clue of the commitment required of us as parents as we take on the responsibility given to us.

In the fast-paced world of today, when so much of our thinking is shaped by scanning and swiping and reading just 147 characters, I wrote a small 32-page book as a manageable read, to unpack this vision further.

Listen to the chorus of voices in these pages that amplify the urgency to return to the central place where life is formed, celebrated, experienced and matured.

What is proposed is a counter-cultural paradigm shift away from quick-fix solutions and program-centred strategies towards a return to the ancient, God-given priority for growing lifelong, active followers of Jesus.

Read on to find life for both yourself and your home.

Click here to access the 32-page book: Life-Giving Homes TW

 

About the author…

Terry is married to Marg and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. His developing gifts are in UNO, LEGO, Monopoly, racing cars, fairies, dinosaurs and Zooper Doopers. Terry is also a specialist in ministry with families and children at Scripture Union Queensland, where he has worked for 36 years.

Posted: 1/10/2020

Mentoring Matters: 5 keys to help your teens thrive

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were…

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were the significant adults in your life?

I was blessed with an abundance of aunts, uncles and family friends who all played important roles in my youth. I have great parents too (*applauds my mum and dad*), but there is a special place in my heart for those grown-ups who didn’t have to invest in my life but chose to anyway.

Research tells us that high-quality relationships are crucial to the development of young teens and young adults. However, 40% of young people report feeling lonely (Search Inst. 2017) and possess one or less relationships they would deem significant (Search Inst. 2017). In a hyper-networked world, teens and young adults lack real relationships, and are at a high risk of not having a significant adult in their life to guide them through the unstable landscape of young adulthood.

In short, teens and young adults need mentors.

When I think about mentoring young people, I am reminded of this little gem from the Bible;

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Young people in our communities need invested adults to walk beside and guide them through the sitting, walking, laying and rising of life. Mentors for the mundane and monumental.

How does mentoring benefit teens and young adults?

The Search Institute uses the term ‘developmental relationship’ to describe the nature of healthy connection between significant adults (mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) and young people.

In layman’s terms, a Developmental Relationship is a close connection between a young person and an adult that positively influences the young person to help them thrive.

Through their research they identified three key benefits of these relationships;

  • Help discover identity
  • Help develop capability
  • Help discern purpose.

If you think about the important people in your life during your adolescent years, can you recall how they helped you discover your identity, develop your capabilities, and discern a sense of purpose?

How can I help the teens and young adults in my life?

The Search Institute’s research found five essential components of developmental relationships that benefitted young people the most.

Express Care. Young people don’t just need to be told they matter; they need to be shown. Think of how you can practically demonstrate to a young person that they are valued.

Challenge Growth. Young people need to be encouraged and pushed to keep getting better. Consider how can you encourage a young person to give their best and keep them accountable.

Provide Support. In order to grow, sometimes we need a little help. How could you assist a young person to complete their tasks and achieve their goals (without taking over)?

Share Power. We all want to feel empowered to make decisions and take action in our lives. How could you treat a young person with respect and give them a say in what is happening around and to them?

Expand Possibilities. I don’t know what I don’t know. Can you connect a young person with people, places and experiences that broadens their horizons?

Consider how the significant figures of your teens and young adulthood demonstrated these key elements, and how they impacted your life?

As the African proverb says; it takes a village to raise a child. Mentoring Matters, not just to avoid loneliness, but to assist teens and young adults to thrive on their journey to adulthood.

To read the full Search Institute report click here.

 

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 24/09/2020

Webinar: How Christian Families Can Navigate The Challenges Of The COVID19 Disruption

The acute crisis of CV19 is passing for the moment and we are in a period of transition which in reality is just the latest in a series of…

The acute crisis of CV19 is passing for the moment and we are in a period of transition which in reality is just the latest in a series of multiple transitions over the last 12 months. Life changed in the space of a few weeks on a global scale. Fear and panic may have temporarily reduced however we have widespread hardship that impacts people, families, the Church, communities and our nation. Each of the areas of Faith, Family and Finances have been profoundly impacted in both negative and positive ways that need to be explored better understood and shared.

This free webinar explores this topic, with a great lineup of international speakers. To register FOR FREE, click here: https://www.thrivecast.com/faith-family-finance/

Posted: 21/09/2020

Covid-19 and mental health

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow. For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our…

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow.

For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our daily lives.

We loved this article from the World Economic Forum about caring for mental health in the midst of the pandemic.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/covid-19-and-your-brain-6-ways-to-control-the-damage-to-your-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR1D1_PlrD1d7L2B5wC-tTKdKO1gW5cNG_CJWYz6slnh2h6cghUZo1QZlrU

Posted: 16/09/2020

Schoolies as a ‘Rite of Passage’

In November 2000 I graduated from high school. At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as…

In November 2000 I graduated from high school.

At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as you moved into adult life.

For me, that experience was a big moment I’ll always remember. A point of transition – a rite of passage.

Fast forward 20 years and our 2020 high school graduates are facing a very different rite of passage.

COVID-19 has limited numbers for events and gatherings, and is already influencing end-of-school processions with bans now in place for the traditional mass schoolies events on the Gold Coast.

While some think that Gold Coast schoolies events are a horrible ‘rite of passage’ for our high school graduates, the fact is that schoolies options available to previous cohorts have been taken away from the class of 2020. What will this mean?

Rites of passage have changed through the generations – but all support the same general premise: an event or ceremony to mark an important transition in someone’s life.

For Gen X and Gen Y some rites of passage included owning a first car, leaving home and getting your first job. For Gen Z and Millenials, who are staying home longer and studying/working simultaneously, there are fewer points that we can label as ‘rites of passage’.

This makes the milestone of finishing school an even more important marker for this generation.

If you’re a parent or mentor of someone finishing high school this year, here are some things I think are really important to keep in mind.

1. Talk talk talk!

Talk about the year – and ask them what are some of the symbolic markers they feel they have missed out on because of COVID-19. What are some creative ways they can experience these?

2. Help them to share their feelings

It’s okay to be disappointed – but allowing feelings to stay bottled up can have really negative consequences. Encouraging your teen to share what they are going through is vital to help them have a positive experience as they approach this key transition in life.

3. Celebrate with them!

Celebrate the successes of this year, and of the last few months of their schooling journey. Focus on the ‘lasts’ – celebrate when they finish their final assignment, final exam, etc. Help them plan a safe schoolies celebration with the friends they have valued through their schooling journey.

Regardless of the changes COVID-19 has had on our society, helping our Year 12 students to find positivity in the midst of all the things they have missed out on is key. Let’s give them the joy-filled rite of passage they deserve!

The good news for SU-Schoolies Sunny Coast is we have a COVID Safe Plan for our event, which we’ve developed in conjunction with Alex Park Conference Centre. This will allow us to proceed under the appropriate Industry Action Plan.

While this plan includes a cap on participants and restrictions on some activities, rest assured we are putting together a program that will allow you to still have the time of your life as you celebrate finishing your 12 years of schooling with your peers.

www.su-schoolies.com

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 16/09/2020

How can we safely talk to young people about ‘that’ Tik Tok video?

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its…

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its impact reaches far beyond its victims.

The media’s coverage of the viral TikTok video has left many parents concerned about their children’s exposure to traumatic content online.

There are many questions to be answered and a lot of avenues of support. Here are some answers and helpful resources if you are trying to work out how to talk to your child about traumatic online content.

Should I ask my child if they’ve seen the video?

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant advises against drawing young people’s attention to the issue. If your child has not seen the video, raising the topic could cause unnecessary worry, distress or increase their curiosity about the video. Instead, monitor your child’s demeanour and behaviour for any changes, particularly those who may be considered more vulnerable or at risk. If you want to talk about it, raise the conversation generally, asking about both their online or offline activities. Parents should keep an open dialogue with their children about their online activity.

How do I talk to someone about their mental health?

If you are concerned that your child or loved one is thinking about suicide or has been triggered by online content, have a conversation. Most people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and make it worse, so they avoid the conversation. This is not true. Initiating the conversation will allow the person an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and ask for support. For more specific guidance on how to conduct a conversation about mental health and suicide, follow the links below.

R U OK: How to ask guide

Suicide First Aid Guidelines (MHFA)

ChatSafe: Talking safely about suicide online

Parent TV: How to talk to your child about suicide

How can I comfort my child who is upset by the video?

A young person may be significantly upset by what they have been exposed to online. It is not possible to unsee what we are exposed to. So how can we help alleviate their distress?

1. Express care. Reassure your child they are loved, valued and safe.

2. Normalise feelings. It’s natural to want to get rid of unpleasant feelings. We often say things like; “It’s okay, don’t be sad” or “chin up”. However, our emotions are signals to our minds and bodies that tell us something. It is normal to emotionally respond to inappropriate content online. Having a “yucky” feeling tells us that what we saw was not okay. It’s not about getting rid of the “yuck” feeling but working out what we should do when we experience that feeling.

3. Encourage positive activity. This is a good time to take a break from the online world. Suggest an ‘offline break’ to do something that will make your child feel better, taking a walk, playing with the dog, doing some art or cooking a meal, the options are endless.

4. Invite further conversation. Keep the communication channels open, allowing your child an opportunity to keep talking, if it’s helpful.

5. Keep an eye out. As mentioned above, monitor your child’s ongoing behaviour and demeanour, if you notice a persistent change, follow it up.

How can I protect my child from harmful images, videos and online commentary?

The internet is a big place full of wonderful and horrible things. Trying to eliminate the bad content is like a game of whack-a-mole; just when you hit one on the head three more pop up. Understandably, parents often feel helpless when it comes to managing their children’s activity online. But, there are a number of great organisations that are empowering parents to keep their kids safe online. The eSafety Commission is my first port of call when I want information about internet safety for young people. Parental controls might be an option for your family, restricting certain content and websites while keeping parents up to date on their child’s online activity. The Communications Alliance LTD has a list of reputable products on the market. The Australian Council for Children and Media helps parents determine what will be appropriate content/platforms for their child.

Should I ban my child from social media?

It may be helpful to keep your child away from social media for a time, to allow the platforms opportunity to remove the explicit content, but also to give your child a break to positively work on their mental health. However, for many young people around the world, social media is a vital connection to their network of friends. Perhaps less of an “All or Nothing” approach and more of a healthy balance is needed. The eSafety Commission has loads of excellent information for young people regarding healthy use of social media. As a parent you know your child best and should feel empowered to make decisions for the wellbeing of your child.

What should I teach my children to do about traumatic content online?

We cannot avoid or block every piece of inappropriate content online; our power lies within our response to these images, videos and commentary. Here are some steps to respond to traumatic material.

1. Close the video/image. Just because you started the video doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If your feelings are telling you something is wrong – get out. Don’t share/repost it.

2. Report the content. All social media platforms have a reporting function, use it. The eSafety Commission also has a reporting page where you can make official complaints about online content. You can also call the police on 000.

3. Tell a trusted adult. It’s important your child shares any inappropriate online activity with a trusted adult (parent, school teacher/support worker). This will ensure they receive the support they need, and the problem is dealt with properly. They should know that they won’t get into trouble for telling someone about what they experienced.

4. Unfriend/Block. Children should never connect online with people they don’t know. However, sometimes even known friends can share and upload inappropriate content. It is okay to unfriend or block someone who is willfully sharing harmful material.

If you require extra support, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. R U OK is as much a question for us as it is for our young people.

Call:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Click here for other support agency details

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 10/09/2020

What Father’s Day means to me (a dad’s perspective)

I’m the father of two sons – 14 and 11 years old. I love being a father. It’s one of the most important parts of who I am these…

I’m the father of two sons – 14 and 11 years old. I love being a father. It’s one of the most important parts of who I am these days. Of course, I wasn’t always a father. I’ve been one for less than a third of my life.

With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been reflecting on some of my fathering influences and how they impact my own fathering today. Special days like Father’s Day provide good opportunities for such things.

Firstly, I had a good father, which is a great start. They say that some good traits in life are “caught not taught” and that rings true when I think of what I learned about living well from my dad. It was less about what he tried to teach us and more about how he moved through the world. He was a strong, calm, and warm presence in our home. He gave little unsolicited advice and when he did speak into our lives, we were ready to listen.

He gave us plenty of space to make our own decisions, which included making our own mistakes. I see a lot of him unconsciously expressed through what I do with my kids now.
Alongside my dad, I also had a bunch of other father figures who I “caught” positive traits off.

As good as my own dad was, he couldn’t be everything to me by way of an example of good manhood or good fathering. No-one can be expected to provide that all themselves. The other good blokes in my life included – Sunday School teachers, camp leaders, youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, mentors etc… These father figures all brought something positive into the mix of my life, and I count myself lucky to have had their guidance through my formative times. I recognise some of these influences in my fathering, and I want to give my boys opportunities to have these kinds of positive influences in their lives.

Another thing I’ve tried to do is keep my eyes and ears open to various conversations around what good fathering might look like these days. I like the more traditional idea of being a good provider, but I’ve also appreciated the movement towards being more hands-on around the family home and in the lives of our children. I do the morning shift in our house, making breakfasts and lunches while the boys get ready for their day. Nothing too deep and meaningful – just good, incidental hang-out time. And across the week, we’ll talk, run, check homework, do chores, shoot hoops, watch shows and eat pies (when mum’s not looking). These times are some of the highlights of my week, and I think they’re good for all of us.

The research into good fathering strongly suggests to me that I’ve been on a good wicket when it comes to fathering influences: a good father, good father figures and access to positive fathering information that has shaped what I do (Fathering Project, 2013). Really, with all that going for me, I haven’t got much of an excuse…

My deep hope is that my boys will look back on what they got from myself and others and value it as I value what I have received from my dad, and the other good blokes in my life. I guess the point is to pass it all forward. I hear people say that one of the reasons we’re blessed is to be a blessing to others. With Father’s Day coming up, that makes as much sense to me as it ever has.

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

 

 

 

How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing (2013) – https://thefatheringproject.org/fpwp/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/New-Fathering-Research.pdf

Posted: 3/09/2020

Why Can’t Turtles Sing? Using Questions to Grow Kids

Kids under school age ask as many as 200-300 questions per day*. Young children live a life filled with a level of curiosity that appears to evaporate as they…

Kids under school age ask as many as 200-300 questions per day*. Young children live a life filled with a level of curiosity that appears to evaporate as they mature.

Answering questions is a vital part of parenting.

Asking questions is an equally important element of parenting and a tool that stimulates connection, confidence and critical thinking in our kids – in addition to nurturing curiosity.

Here are a few reasons why I believe questions are such a powerful part of parenting.

 

1. Our questions encourage connection

What do our young people think about current events? What are their hopes, fears and questions? What would they ask God in a face-to-face meeting? Well-formed questions can deepen family connection. At the dinner table, give someone the opportunity to ask a question of everybody else, use purchased conversation cards, or make your own (there are plenty of online resources.) Communicate, “I hear you,” as you attentively listen to each other.

One idea you can do is play ‘Question Ping-Pong’ in the car or on a walk.

The rules are simple – Two people take turns asking each other questions. No butting in, and a valid answer to any question may simply be, “I would like another question please.”

Genuine questions and deep listening connect people.

 

2. Our questions can arouse curiosity

For a time, I had the privilege of regular nursing home visits with some twelve-year-olds. Each week, question cards facilitated conversation and storytelling.

Thelma was an elderly resident who had undergone the amputation of both legs. While initially, the kids were cautious to speak with her, affection towards Thelma quickly developed.

As part of a post-visit conversation a few weeks in, one of the girls stated, “Once you get to know Thelma, you forget what she looks like because she is so lovely.”

My heart soared.

Genuine curiosity followed by engagement had dissolved the fear of difference and enabled beautiful, mutual connection.

Will Wise in the book Ask Powerful Questions claims there is a “national curiosity deficit that fuels division, separation and prevents us from building trusting, healthy connections.”

Can we wonder with our kids about people, their stories and what lies beneath the visible? Can we model and promote openness, humility and genuine curiosity?

 

3. Our questions can inspire confidence

“How did school go today?” was my query one time as I ‘ubered’ my daughter from school to netball. Her response gripped my parent-heart.

“Imogen and Mia wouldn’t let me play with them today. Nobody likes me.”

I want to side with my daughter and tell those so-called friends what I think of them. I wish I could rescue her from the pain of rejection and yet, as I respond, can I consider the long term?

I need to breathe, empathise, and later ask questions that empower rather than reinforce a victim mentality.

Questions that encourage problem solving communicate, “I believe you’ve got this.” What would you like to see happen? How could you approach this? How can I support you with your plan?

And as a check-in after the next day, “How did you go?” rather than a problem-centred, “Did they exclude you again?”

Maybe in the future, that solution-focused thinking will transfer to confidence in facing the challenges of adulthood.

 

4. Our questions can promote critical thinking

“I don’t believe in God,” “I don’t want to go to church,” (or some other statement of objection to a deeply valued belief), can hook our parent-hearts into reacting rather than responding.

Once again, well thought through questions and appropriate timing may just be the parenting tool we need. If we can still our beating hearts long enough to listen without defensiveness to this exploration of personal values, we might ask, “What led you to that conclusion?” “What have you seen, experienced or read that makes you think that?”

Once again, with the long- term view in mind, a parent who can facilitate this questioning with openness, can encourage their young person to deeply consider their own worldview rather than overreact to a reacting parent.

Attentive listening could provide an opening to be heard at some point and an apology for reacting, a reset and another conversation opportunity.

 

So why can’t a turtle sing?

Have you ever considered that maybe they can sing and the real question is “Why can’t we hear them?”

Many of life’s big questions, including those about current world events, will never have easy answers. Maybe together with our kids, we could consider alternate questions.

Intentionally using purposeful questions as a parenting tool could serve to deepen our family connections, in addition to developing the capacity for curiosity, compassion, confidence and critical thinking.

 

About the Author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

*Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question

Posted: 27/08/2020

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