Use of the course
Evaluation days were held and from them the following feedback was received.
Ninety per cent of the parishes in the Diocese ran the Lent course and used the DVD either in church services or at weekday meetings. Parishes also used the Sunday school, youth and confirmation material. Those that indicated they did not run the course were mostly referring to not using the DVD due to technological challenges. Four church schools used the course and so did twenty-five parishes from eight Diocese outside of the Johannesburg Diocese used the course.
Effectiveness of the course
The effectiveness of the course was difficult to assess as some of the value of the course was in terms of individual lives that were touched and people who were inspired in quiet ways to live out their faith in ministry. But from what was formally evaluated and the stories that were told it is clear that the course was effective. Responses received were overwhelmingly positive. Many reported that the course did help to create a sense of community and belonging in the wider Diocese. It did inspire parishes as well as individuals within parishes to action and a renewed sense of the ministry of all disciples. Many of these actions involved helping those in need through feeding schemes but also through increased visiting of the vulnerable. There was also an increase in reading and studying the Bible and a desire for more spiritual formation.
What was most meaningful
The lay people liked the feeling that all the parishes were doing the same course and studying the same material. This sense of community was both within the parish but also between parishes. Many lay people were inspired by the stories in the DVD to get more involved in ministry and to work harder in the parish. There was an increased sense of the love of God. A number of lay people mentioned that the series encouraged better relationships with the clergy. There seemed to be a sense in which the lay people were inspired by seeing other lay people involved in ministry. It affirmed that ministry happens in all spheres of life not just the ordained ministry within the church.
The course encouraged people to help those in need and challenged them to action and to share stories of how they experienced God at work in the world.
The following are the responses from the Lay leaders regarding what they felt were the most valuable things about the course for their parish. These are grouped around the main themes emerging from what was written, indicating how many had the same or similar responses.
· Encouraged to help and share with those in need and challenged to action.
· Developed a sense of unity in the parish, all doing the same material.
· We are part of the Diocese and aware of other parishes.
· Called to ministry in the parish, greater involvement in parish.
· Built a sense of community, fellowship.
· Sense of God’s love, spirituality and prayer.
From the Sunday school teachers
The Sunday schools enjoyed the course and are now more able to do activities with the children. The teachers appreciated the chance to meet with other teachers during the training sessions and they valued the training. What they found most meaningful was that the children were more part of the church as they were doing the same themes as the adults in the church. They reported that attendance improved. The children remembered the lessons as they were taken on a journey (Children of the Way) and so linked what they were learning with the journey. Prayer was encouraged and the children liked to pray for one another and to write prayers for one another. There was also a greater sense of care for one another and for the environment.
The Way forward
The Sunday school teachers would like to see:
· Training for teachers
· Networking with other teachers
· A retreat for Sunday school teachers – many of them never get to church or get “fed” themselves.
· More materials and follow up courses – not just Lent ones. There is a need for more material – and from the Lent evaluations it should be linked to the church year as people liked the fact that children and parents were learning about the same things. Parents found it easier to discuss what had been done in church with their children as there was a common entry point.
From the youth and confirmation
The youth manual aimed to provide a structure for a youth session and so included activities and icebreakers that leaders could use within sessions and which would provide some of the basics of running a youth group/session.
The importance of the DVD’s was stressed as we believe that one of the strengths of this course is that all parishioners of all ages were following the same topics throughout lent. The desired pastoral outcomes for the youth manual focused on personal growth and involvement of each member, as well as increased insight about being a disciple and the growth of leadership. Through the questions and take-home pages the young people were equipped to get involved and to realise that they can make a difference.
Recommendations / steps forward
Develop materials with content that is relevant to the youth (including a DVD)
It was felt that it would be helpful to have a conference and some training sessions where youth can interact and leaders can be equipped for ministry to youth.
It was felt that there needs to be a closer dialogue with the youth as to their needs etc.
Music is a great way to bring young people together and to share the joy of our relationship with God in worship. It was felt that we need to look at how we draw young people into the Anglican church, and how we can use music as a tool to do this.
Sports and recreation was seen as a good way to get young people interacting and to get youth from different parishes interacting.
Young people need constant stimulation – activities and content relevant for youth- we need to look at how we can integrate technology into what we propose. For e.g. young people do not carry bibles but would access it on their phones.
A strong need was identified for joint initiatives and efforts in terms of training and development as well as joint liturgies and opportunities to get to know each other and share experiences and resources.