A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about our decision to invest more heavily in the children’s work at NCC. As a ‘youth’ worker, I’ve always been a bit reticent about doing children’s work – I don’t really enjoy it, though I recognise the need for it!
Dr Helen Wright, head teacher of St Mary’s Calne, Wiltshire and President of the Girls’ School Association was quoted this week by the BBC, concerned by what she describes as the:
“Seeming erosion of the innocence of childhood.”
Dr Wright has picked up on one reason why, in Niddrie at least, we’re seeking to invest more specifically in children’s work. Namely, the traditional distinctions between ‘child’ and ‘young person’ are becoming increasingly blurred.
Read the article here.
Dr Wright regularly speaks out about issues related to young people and education, including the dangers of the early sexualisation of girls, the focus of this particular BBC article. In it she mentions a number of worrying examples of this kind of sexualisation that we’ve probably read about or heard of in the news: the sexy outfits, the make-up, the pole dancing classes.
From my vantage point as a youth worker in Niddrie, I agree with much of what Dr Wright has to say. In Niddrie we see:
- The glamorisation of violence, with the latest neighbourhood fights uploaded direct from mobile phone to the internet.
- The children for whom dealing and drug use are just part of normal home life.
- The hoards of young girls, all glammed up, bussing into the city centre to do whatever it is they do there – usually trying to persuade well meaning adults to buy them booze so that they can stumble up the streets, giggling and screaming, hoping that someone is paying attention to them.
It’s no surprise to us that we are living in a “moral abyss” – that’s been the human experience since the Fall. Even innocent children are not truly innocent. (If you disagree with me on this point, you may be interested to read this article by Paul Tripp). The Bible teaches that we are all born sinners (Psalm 51:5). On top of that, sinful children copy what they see other sinful children and sinful adults doing.
Dr Wright puts her hope for salvation in education to “break the cycle”, where she seeks to enlist the help of parents and schools in the battle. But what exactly does that education entail? What is our strategy for helping the lost, confused, and rebellious kids we see all around us?
This week, I’ve been reminded of the fact that no amount of sound logic, clever reasoning or education will change the heart of a sinner. You can put forward all the facts and figures you like, you can explain all the potential consequences, and fill young people (and adults) with all the knowledge they need to make good choices, but none of these things touch the heart of the human problem, which is the problem with the human heart. We’re slaves to sin, until we find freedom in our slavery to Christ (John 8:34, Romans 6:20-23).
I’ve been really convicted to pray earnestly for the children and young people I know – pray that God, in his great mercy, would change HEARTS and minds, through the gospel as we live it out and speak it out. Our vision in the children’s and youth work in Niddrie is: ‘to see young lives transformed under the Lordship of Christ’. I’d certainly argue that living out the gospel in community is a form of education transformation, even if that isn’t what Dr Wright had in mind. We’re always educating, whether we’re aware of it or not, we can’t help but teach.