Enabling all ages to grow in faith

Getting involved: Parenting for Faith

BRF depends on people getting involved in our work by volunteering, by praying, by spreading the word, by giving through donations and legacies and by using our resources. In the latest of our series of articles about people who have got involved, Emma Olorenshaw from the Parenting for Faith speakers team talks about her role.

29 August 2021

Creating spaces

My name is Emma and I live with my husband Callum in Maidenhead, where I am the children’s minister at St Peter’s Church. Having been a Christian as long as I can remember and experiencing lots of great children and youth work growing up, it’s such a joy that my job enables me to create those spaces for others. Alongside this I am also completing a Master’s in Infancy and Early Childhood Development and enjoy getting involved with all things Parenting for Faith. I’m not exactly sure how all these things fit together, but I am grateful that they keep life busy and exciting!

‘Having been a Christian as long as I can remember and experiencing lots of great children and youth work growing up, it’s such a joy that my job enables me to create those spaces for others.’

Called to children’s ministry

Towards the end of my time at university, I began to question what I would do next and was challenged by a friend to take a retreat day to chat it through with God. After a day of silence spent walking and talking with God, I came back excited about following a path into children’s ministry – something I loved and had been doing in my spare time for years. I applied for a ministry year at my student church to see what working for a church was really like. It was during this year that I was introduced to the team at Parenting for Faith when the children’s pastor took me along to The Forge Gathering. Despite having been involved in children’s ministry for many years, I had never before heard anyone talk about the key role of parents in discipleship, and those few days were completely revolutionary to me. Something inside me clicked as I chatted with those around me, and from then onwards it became a real mission of mine to keep parenting for faith at the heart of what I do. The friends I made through the Parenting for Faith network became a lifeline for me in my first few years as a children’s pastor and are still my go-to group whenever I need support, wisdom or practical ideas for anything church ministry/family-related.

‘Despite having been involved in children’s ministry for many years, I had never before heard anyone talk about the key role of parents in discipleship and those few days at the Parenting for Faith Forge Gathering were completely revolutionary to me.

Running the Parenting for Faith course

The Parenting for Faith course is so easy and is an absolute privilege to run. We say run, but really I’d say you ‘host’ a Parenting for Faith course. Beyond booking a room, gathering a group of parents and providing some yummy snacks, there really isn’t a whole lot else to ‘run’. With the course content being delivered by video and the focus being on learning from each other through discussion, there is no pressure to be any kind of expert as the leader, and you just get to sit back and chat with those who come and watch the joy on their faces as they discover the life-changing material. Having joined my current church a week before lockdown, we don’t really have a ‘normal’ yet, but it’s been fun to experiment during the past year and a bit.

‘There is no pressure to be any kind of expert as the leader, and you just get to sit back and chat with those who come and watch the joy on their faces as they discover the life-changing material’

Ups and downs of lockdown

If anything, I would say that my Parenting for Faith work increased during lockdown. With in-person activities on hold and everyone navigating a global pandemic, there were loads of opportunities to walk alongside families as they figured out how to live this crazy season of life together with God. Lockdown has had its ups and downs for families: it’s been full of difficulties and challenges but also unexpected joys. The closure of schools and nurseries, facilitating remote learning while working from home and navigating general fear, change and separation from others were challenges that I don’t think any of us ever expected to face. But I know lots of families have also found unexpected joys amongst the chaos – a slightly slower pace of life with a break from their regular busyness, as well as extended periods of time together and forming some significant new rhythms and routines. I hope that this time has reminded parents of their significant influence in their children’s spiritual lives and given them more confidence in parenting for faith – because if you can parent through a global pandemic, you can parent through anything, right?!

Looking forward

Having moved churches just before the start of lockdown, I am most looking forward to hanging out with the families in person. While I have been able to get to know them surprisingly well through Zoom calls, doorstep visits and park trips, it will be lovely to regather in person, hang out, share stories and enjoy some meals together.

I love to journey alongside parents as they discover the Parenting for Faith resources and watch the weight of the world lift from their shoulders. Time and time again I meet parents who have so many hopes and dreams for their children’s faith but yet so often feel this as a burden or job they aren’t equipped for. To see them discover easy and natural ways to share faith with their children in the everyday and be reminded that God chose them to do this job is always a delight. I also love sharing Parenting for Faith with children and family workers who get to discover the wealth of wisdom and resources of the Parenting for Faith world for the first time who undoubtedly love it too!

‘To see parents discover easy and natural ways to share faith with their children in the everyday and be reminded that God chose them to do this job is always a delight.’

Being part of a network

The Parenting for Faith network is so important to me. Beyond Jesus (obviously), I would argue they have been the single most important thing in my life as a children’s pastor. Whether it’s my yearly trip to The Forge Gathering, monthly Facebook Live sessions or phone calls and coffee dates with people I have met over the years, the network continues to challenge, encourage and inspire me almost daily. Whenever I need advice, need to bounce an idea off someone, or borrow a last-minute session plan, I know that someone in the Parenting for Faith family will be able to help, and making the most of that support keeps me going especially when things get tough.

‘Beyond Jesus (obviously), I would argue that the Parenting for Faith network has been the single most important thing in my life as a children’s pastor.’

Biblical, helpful and super powerful – why get involved in Parenting for Faith

I can’t say enough about how worthwhile it is to get involved with Parenting for Faith – there aren’t enough words! For parents and carers or anyone with children in their life, the Parenting for Faith team and resources are just a well of wisdom, ideas, encouragement and support. I think anyone who is in church leadership of any kind should watch the Parenting for Faith course or read the book. I truly believe that the values are biblical, helpful and super powerful, especially when embodied by a whole-church community. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use them to grow God-connected disciples of all ages.

Emma Olorenshaw image

Emma Olorenshaw has been a children and families worker for the past seven years, since studying human sciences at university. She is now the children’s minister at St Peter’s Church in Maidenhead. She first met the Parenting for Faith team when she was a church intern, and has been a fan and champion of them ever since. In her spare time Emma reads, walks and spends time with friends and family – almost certainly with a cup of coffee in her hand. She discovered the joys of running during lockdown and is training for a half-marathon alongside studying for a master’s in infancy and early childhood development.

Parenting for Faith course teen focus image

The team is running a new eight week course during the autumn term, Parenting for Faith course – teens focus, specifically for parents and carers of teens, or people who work with or who have teens in their life Rachel Turner will be delivering the sessions live as we explore and learn what parenting for faith looks like when you have teenagers.

To find out more about Parenting for Faith and the wide range of resources available click here.