Thursday, 15 September 2011

Time or money? Growing up in Britian today

Yesterday’s report from UNICEF reminds us again about the importance of getting our priorities in the right order.

Family life, sharing time and laughter together, living
happily – these things cannot be bought in the shopping centre or through the internet.

So why does Britain seem to do so badly in these international comparisons? What is it that is ‘wrong’ with our society? Depending on where you sit on the political spectrum I imagine there will be a variety of different answers.

One of the most convincing arguments I have seen is those put forward by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’. In a nutshell, their argument is that societies where income difference between the poorest and richest is small have better social outcomes for all social groups on a range of indicators, from academic attainment to happiness and well-being. Britain is a relatively unequal society, and it is relatively unhappy, and has a fair slice of social problems from knife crime to our relationship with alcohol and drugs and so on.

What can be done? From a policy-makers perspective it is surely important to focus on making our society a more equal place to live.

But as individuals, we need to take stock and think about the things that we really need to cherish – love, life, friends and family.

St Irenaeus said that the Glory of God is reflected in a human being fully alive. We are called to a full, abundant life (John 10:10).  Far better to share with others rather than struggling to accumulate wealth or compensate our loved ones with gifts for our failures to be there for them.

We reported on what it means to Grow Up in Scotland in 2009. We asked children, young people and adults what can churches do to help. 

Children's responses included:

(a) Provide clubs and outings
(b) Encourage children to come to Church
(c) More fundraising projects for charity (like people in poverty)
(d) Summer Sunday School

Young people's responses included:

(a) Charity work
(b) Got to combat trend where one goes to Church as kid and then grows out of it.
(c) Fairtrade groups within schools
(d) Charity work – unique position with volunteers and fundraising
(e) Challenge dogged traditionalism which is very intolerant and dismissive of children

Adult responses included:

(a) Help create community
(b) Affirm people's real, honest experience
(c) Make sermons less boring
(d) Provide appropriate activities and improve quality of religious education
(e) Prophetic voice
(f) Enable young and old to listen to each other
(g) Listen, beyond paying lip service
(h) Make safe places for young people to hang out and ask questions

What is your church doing?

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