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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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53 Responses to 797

  1. dadube says:

    LOL! Can we establish a similar thing in schools so that someone else takes them off my hands after morning registration????

    Seriously jon, totally loving this one :D

  2. Laura says:

    Lucky kids!

  3. miriworm says:

    Can I go with them, please? :-)

  4. Rob says:

    I see this (at the cathedral the children join us at communion rather than go out and come back in but it’s the same thing) … but I have often asked myself ‘what else can we do?’

    Should every service in church be a family service with everyone in the same space all the time – or is there something to learn from this with a result of everyone going to a group which is aimed at them.

    At the moment we are saying one size fits all based on age – this size fits all the children, and this size fits all the adults. Should we have one big group or lots of groups decided by some criteria such as interest?

    I don’t know – I just know the cartoon is common practice and its easy to knock it … but can we change it? That’s the big challenge.

  5. Rob – there’s a fabulous children and families worker who has a blog, why don’t you ask her?


  6. subo says:

    they do this at the FoTK, making a space for listening to God together (as adults), I have to say, I find it really valuable to create a space within the service to listen to God together in this way, sometime the things people say are really powerful, and this space wouldn’t happen with children involved

    also, the children seem to get irritated with that ‘waiting’ space, and run off happily to join their peers

    then on the 2nd sun, they do an interactive all age thing, thats lots of fun for everyone, stories, crafts, workshops. you get to enjoy film clips and talking to children

    it’s a real pleasure to watch the children in FoTK flourishing, achieving, relating and just having a good time

    where I get embarrassed, is in some churches where they do a ‘children’s slot’ at the front, boss kids around, bounce reluctant tots on curate’s knees and generally treat children in inappropriate ways. in these situations the children seem to become silent and voiceless

  7. robin says:

    Not sure you can ask one person for the “answer” (good blog though) because the challenge of a family church varies enormously from place to place, congregation to congregation. You need discussion and open dialogue, and you also need to be prepared to sacrifice time and focus from yourself, from adult worshiping, to the children. I agree with rob in that it’s an easy thing to mock but is one of the “real” grass root issues in church. Most of us would have survived our sunday school experience, but i imagine most of our churches are different now and i’m less sure that we’re doing better by our children. My church’s current problem is that all the parents are serving in one capacity or another so the kids (under 5’s) are sort of left to run riot – and they do, but this is completely backwards in terms of where our priorities should lie (at least for me). Should they stay or should they go? Should they sit with parents, or together, is it important – currently if left to their own devices (trusting in the spirit??) they fight and shoot one another – fabulous….

    So yeah, it’s a challenge. And it’s one i’d grumble idly about when i didnt have kids, now that i do i’ve discovered it’s a full time mission that by the grace of angelic sunday school teachers few people are aware of.

  8. subo says:

    sounds good to me Rob ‘the children join us at communion’, I spent a lot of time as a kid in this kind of church setting, and found it really special. I still like little prayer books and certain hymns.

    the people who freak me out are the people who think they are ‘specialist children’s workers’, and have a special connection with the kids. this usually involves a little shouting and sarcasm, to get the kids to jump too – and demonstrate ‘their special connection with kids’.

  9. beatthedrum says:

    Why do we need ‘child friendly songs’?

    What is a “child friendly” song?

    We have the same problem Robin of serving and having kids. We found a solution as they got older, Nintendo DS’ works a treat. We serve and they sit quietly. Now it is changing (our kids are 11,9,8) and they are now on serving teams, one boy works on the food preperation team for the post meeting student dinner, another i going onto the PA team and our daughter has joined the cleaning team.

    At under 5 debbie my wife looked after them as I served and we made sure we were not both serving on the same sunday

  10. one8y says:

    Hey I think it is the other way round: the kids don’t have to suffer the, for them boring and not understandble, adult serving and can go to a place where they are told about Jesus in a way the understand. In my church the kids even go straigt to their own service before church starts!

  11. robin says:

    Ooooo (shiver) gameboys and Ds’s – at my last church the kids had to stay in for the 45 minutes of worship where they essentially played with cars under the chairs or sat engrossed with their handheld devices. It kept them occupied but what was the point of them even being there? A solution yes, but to what? I didnt have kids at the time, can you tell? Getting them to serve is an inspired idea :) We’re also trying not to serve at the same time – one day, perhaps, myself, my wife and my boy will be able worship together!

  12. beatthedrum says:

    Out kids only have them before the service starts and afterwards never ever ever never ever ever during.

    They have always joined in with the worship and taken part. Thats why I ask what is a kid friendly song as our kids have been able to interact with jesus in all the songs we have used in our worship.

    Our kids have also always hated kids songs and action songs i particular.

    So again I ask what is child friendly worship, it will be different for differnt families and kids.

    i would also ask those who want more child friendly worship in the church service what child friendly worship do they do at home n a regular basis.

    what songs do they play when the kids are in the car?

    Its not all bout the church (organised) but also about the church (parents and children at home)

  13. Gordon says:

    ouch! Let’s hope that one hits some targets!

  14. robin says:

    “They have always joined in with the worship and taken part. ”
    I would suggest that that’s remarkable especially as you don’t appear to direct the service at the kids at any particular point… so the question comes back to being “how do you do that?”

    In the car my kid particularly likes “if you’re happy and you know it” but at home we like to get Matt Redman over to agonise through past traumas and dealing with issues of betrayal and then all join in with Dougie Dug banging on about planks in your eye to a disco beat – so quite varied i guess :)

    We do have praise parties for the kids with bouncy songs on DVD and lights and they all go mental and have a lovely time – but that doesn’t work so well in the main service – but it’s deliberately “child friendly”.

  15. Carole says:

    I think Sunday school and the like is often a mutually beneficial arrangement. When I was a tot, I remember being dragged to church and having to sit through interminably boring liturgies as we didn’t have a Sunday school. Thankfully my Dad (Mum had fallen out with church years earlier) was only a sporadic churchgoer. My own children voted with their feet and quit church as a regular habit at quite a young age – seems children’s church is not ‘one size fits all’ either. Giving the debate a secular twist, I remember that any social occasion was a nightmare with small children. I’ve never fitted into an earth mother mould (have I ever fitted into any mould?) and have never been happy being reponsible for the chaos that is a small child in public places. I just can’t relax and need to give the child my full attention. I did not even enjoy parties or any kinds of gatherings until my kids could look after themselves. So I can only suppose that some parents can’t engage properly with a service when their tiny tots are eager to engage with their environment. And whilst it sounds great having children ‘serve’, it makes me whince ever so slightly when I think about it. I suppose as long as there is an element of choice and not coercion.

    As for the child friendly music, is it not a bit patronising to dumb down the songs down to the musical equivalent of ‘the wheels on the bus’? The songs I loved to sing as a child at school assembly made no provision for the fact I was a child and I still love them now. Having been privy to a number of primary assemblies and hymn practices in the last year, I shake my head at the dire, luke warm crap that is served up in the name of ‘child friendly’ songs of praise. Is this what we have to thank the Generation X-Factor for? ;-)

  16. Read a really good article on dumbing down for children on another blog, linked below, bit long but well worth reading…this is one of the reasons that I shall be stopping attending my parish main eucharist from Christmas. I cannot abide the ‘show and tell’ attitude towards the children who attend and are reined in just to keep the other congregants happy. I shall be resorting to paryerbook, spoken eucharists thereafter.


  17. I saw this happen in a planning meeting for a service: I suggested that as we call this a family service, we could have children doing something relevant to the service: nothing radical, just an art & craft in a corner that made something we could use later.

    But apparentley “That’s too distracting” and “We want to worship in peace”.

    Very sad.

  18. beatthedrum says:

    Robin here is a post i put up on my blog back in September 08 about how we worked with our children and help then enjoy and be apart of the corporate worship of Jesus on a sunday morning.

    We are not perfect and often have times of stress and struggle but I will say this, our kids are a real blessing to us and as I sit behind the drum kit on a sunday it is great to see my kids lost in worship to jesus, whether its to a traditional hymn, a metal version of amazing grace or a modern chorus.

    The lnk to the post is


  19. Robin says:

    Mr beatthedrum, that’s some excellent thoughts you have there, thanks for that, you should have brought it out sooner :)
    This is a particular issue for me at the moment because i’ve noticed my own sons move from dancing to songs during worship to pushing and wrestling and fighting with the other kids – we’ve got 9 boys under 5. This has prompted us to take steps to change this behaviour. It’s difficult when other parents are also involved because Alfies sees his friends running around and wants to join in. I also notice how alfie is when we’re in another church, particularly something more formal, he’s completely capable of sitting still and listening – but at his home church it’s often chaos. I don’t want his church experience to be one of restriction and discipline, rules and regulations, but at the same time the boundaries are important abnd probably key to all this – just difficult when you can’t get the other parents on side – dont ever criticise another childs behaviour to the parent! :)

    Anyway, i like what you’re saying.

  20. Forrest says:


    Yesterday was an Insanely BAD day.

    Probably only the people who understand Aspergers and like will be able to handle the description, but I want understanding, and prayer.

    So I’m coming to y’all, you should be safe people to come to.

    I had one badass bigtime classic Aspergers meltdown yesterday


  21. Caroline Too says:

    So glad you’re back with us, Forest

    sounds an aweful day, and to get things back together again, so that you can ‘chat’ with us is pretty bloody impressive…

    thanks for your company, I enjoy it.

  22. Caroline Too says:

    I think that setting aside some quiet time to be with God is crucial….

    what I don’t get

    is gathering together with others to do that!

    dunno about you, but I find a quiet place on my own, much better for being quiet with God.

    Of course, one thing I can do – living on my own – is to look after friends’ children, so they can have some quiet time on their own….

    So, why don’t we do things with youngsters,

    things that tell them they’re part of us now
    (they’re not the church of tomorrow)
    things that help us learn about God together
    (but not things like patronising children’s songs)
    Things like exploring new ideas or imaginary play games
    (perhaps instead of imaginary games of doctors and nurses or teaparties; we could have an imaginary game of pretending to be generous, or pretending to be helpful, or pretending to be encouraging….

    …then maybe, if we pretended for long enough, we might even learn how to do it in real life!

    I dunno,….

    we could call it discipleship?

  23. subo says:

    sorry to read about all the stuff that happened today Forrest, on wrong planet

    I’m so glad God’s values are almost opposite to my parents, as it’ useful to know the Mighty One values us, is looking out for us, and knows ways of filling our lives with good things

    and it’s so liberating letting go of the parents values – because I’m following God, and His values make more sense

  24. AnneDroid says:

    Caroline Too @ #22 – are you saying kids songs are patronising or just that some of them are? And have many kids (not teenagers but wee ones) actually said so?

    Personally, even though I’m in fact 43, I get a lot out of kids songs (not all of them but a lot of them). One reason is that I understand them whereas some adult hymns frankly baffle me (and I have a theology degree!) Another reason is that I seriously can’t sing and quite often don’t. I love doing actions as I can join in with them. Another reason is that they’re often fun and feel-good, instead of worthy and artificially pious. I can’t be doing with singing things we think SOUND religious but couldn’t most of us really explain. These are the days of Elijah. Eh? No they’re not. Etc.

  25. AnneDroid says:

    PS Sorry about your troubles, Forrest.

  26. jonbirch says:

    forrest… i echo the sentiments of caroline at 21. you’re a great guy and i too love your company. wishing you all the very best and much love, friend. jx

  27. jonbirch says:

    you’re welcome, lynn. :-)

    robin… you make an interesting point about criticising the behaviour of other children to parents. i still reserve the right to tell children off if i see them up to no good. often, it’s the parents that seem to be the problem. parent: “how dare you tell my little jimmy off!.” me: “oh, now i understand where he learnt his rudeness.”
    i have a couple of friends in particular who i think are wonderful parents. they would expect me to play a role in the responsibility of caring about their children. bringing up children is a community activity, where the parents are ultimately responsible and others have a huge role to play.

  28. fro says:

    controversial but true – don’t criticise another parent in your church. Subject of another cartoon..?

    Your life is in your own hands its the pastor’s kid who is loud, aggressive and cheeky!

  29. Tiggy says:

    I hated Sunday School. I got kicked out. Well what really happened was that I preferred to stay in church when the kids had to leave and the SS teacher said that I couldn’t go to SS AND church, so I said ‘Okay, I’ll just go to church then.’ She was really angry with me. I found SS too babyish and I liked to look at the stained-glass windows in church and I was already more interested in theology than drawing Joseph’s coat of many colours and I didn’t reckon the SS teacher knew much – spindly old bat!

    I don’t know what the answer is, but not all children are the same or like the same things. Some will want to play games and others would rather sit quietly in a nice atmosphere. I do think it would be good if church services were more tactile somehow. They manage to be multi-sensory in other ways, but touch gets left out. (I mean touching and handling different things, not necessarily touching each other. :-) )

  30. Robin says:

    “oh, now i understand where he learnt his rudeness.” bwa ha ha ha ha :)

    Jon I think you’re right it should be a community activity, but doesn’t that need a certain amount of permission and that can be difficult sometimes. For instance the church decided to give the kids workers August off and get other people to look after the younguns, but, of course, no one else was CRB checked and so they ended up doing it anyway :S

    I feel ultimately that i don’t want this time to be wasted, not by me or my wife or my kids and the answer to that is worshipping together… but that requires more than Alfies compliance, it requires me to serve less and my wife to serve less so that we can serve our family…. or is the community more important…. or is it everything and loads more too? Oh sod it, let’s put a DVD on.

  31. Caroline Too says:

    AnneDroid (#24) it’s certainly only some songs, but it isn’t only the songs

    valid point about asking the children, no I haven’t specifically… next time I find
    something excruciating, I shall ask my 7 year old triplet friends what they thought.

    But, I’ve seen teachers working with youngsters, and I do still think that I can spot the times
    when children are been spoken with and when they are being talked down to (often unintenionally)

    It’s the word ‘with’ that’s so important, doing things with children… and no,
    it’s not every service but more often than we do.

    as to meaningless ‘religious-sounding-language’ songs, especially Days of Elijah,
    couldn’t agree with you more.

  32. @AnneDroid & @caroline too

    Days of Elijah is one of the songs that is banned from being played on my guitar for that very reason.

  33. gilly says:

    just thinkin aloud, but isn’t there a church Anywhere that shoves out old people who talk endlessly, whisper loudly and rustle sweet papers all through the service…?!

  34. jonbirch says:

    robin… “but doesn’t that need a certain amount of permission and that can be difficult sometimes.” i know what you’re saying, but i reckon if i saw a bunch of kids picking on another kid down the shops i’d step in and give the kids a telling off… i wouldn’t wait for permission or do it in the knowledge that i had a relationship with the parents, i’d just do what i saw as the right thing.

  35. jonbirch says:

    just checked out ‘days of elijah’, having never heard of it. ‘riding on a cloud’… couldn’t stop thinking of ‘monkey’, that mad japanese tv show from the 70’s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hfp73qjf6E&feature=related enjoy the clip. :-)

  36. beatthedrum says:


    there was an interesting article about #35 in the times the other day. It was discussing BNP bt looking at why we dont cnfront anymore as a society and how there are no absolutes….


  37. jonbirch says:

    forgot that the bbc did some great olympic games titles based on the monkey characters. nice animation and music… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr5ZWYRaAyw&feature=related i think these are jamie hewlett characters, the gorillaz guy. :-)

  38. jonbirch says:

    btd… that’s a very interesting article. thanks. last paragraph…
    “So, paralysed by our inherited relativism, fearful of seeming racist and adrift in a Godless world, we fall silent just when we should be debating and talking. Into this silence strides Nick Griffin, Britain’s own fascist hobgoblin. If he is the only one talking about immigration, or the role of women in Islam or the sense of alienation and disenfranchisement felt, rightly or wrongly, by some white Britons, then his voice will be amplified. He is shouting while we whisper. If his voice is heard above ours, we have only ourselves to blame.”
    true stuff i think.

  39. Carole says:

    Jon – Didn’t Damon Allbarn do a stage musical of Monkey? I loved the TV series – can’t beat a bit of magical realism! My Dad loved it so it was one of those family things that I remember fondly. That and ‘The Water Margin’, another dubbed oriental import.

    Re Nick Griffin – I’ve not read the article you mention, only the paragraph quoted – no matter what you feel about him, he is, albeit hamfistedly, raising the concerns of a lot of ordinary people, the things our mainstream politicians don’t seem to want to touch, presumably in case it damages their careers. He is forcing these issues out into the open…hopefully, a modicum of common sense will be brought to bear to deal with them.

  40. jonbirch says:

    carole… did he? i’ll google it. sounds like a great idea. :-) i agree he is, carole. it really does shame the other politicians, who are happy to name call him, but not happy to talk about the things he wants to. they make a rod for their own backs by not tackling these concerns head on. :-(

  41. jonbirch says:

    btw… did anyone see james may’s programme on airfix models last night. it was excellent. he let kids learn how to make airfix models and it was great watching them overcome their frustration and find a place of satisfaction. he then built with them a 1:1 airfix replica of a spitfire. it was great, adults and kids making and doing something creative together. a picture of how church might be, perhaps?

  42. soniamain says:

    have just seen this one, been away for a few days. I so want to believe it is possible to do church as a family where we are not dumbing down to children and not also not boring everyone. For me a good worship service should be layered like a good children’s film ( think something like shrek or the incredibles)bits in that work for all levels, bits that the adults get and bits that the children get. I do understand that there are times when we want adult only services, but I want to be able to feel my children are welcomed in a service I want to be able to worship as a family ( and for me that is not singing crap children’s songs!). I want to feel that the church I am in is supporting me as a parent in the bloody hard job of being a parent, yes challenge me when I get wrong, but also praise me when I get it right. Do support me and as I try so hard to bring my children up in a christian family, but don’t please don’t pretend my children don’t exist or ignore them. sorry rant over- maybe a bit too close to my heart right now!!

  43. jonbirch says:

    children, sonia? i didn’t know you had children! ;-)

  44. soniamain says:


  45. Robb says:

    I had the problem of parents once. I was put in charge of the youth group many years ago (when I was a 23 year old RE teacher). It didn’t matter what I did – unless it looked like a bible study with scripture union notes it wasn’t deemed ‘valid’ or ‘appropriate’. Needless to say the youth and I no-longer go there…

    …way to dull and pointless for all of us.

  46. Caroline Too says:

    Jon, #42 pulled up the James May programme on iplayer, and totally agree that this pointed a way for us to explore all-age church activities,

    of course it wasn’t perfect, but I loved the way that there was an activity that pulled different age ranges together, working together, not performing for each other

    of course there was an aspect of artificiality about it all, but if we do anything new it will feel artificial

    of course, there was an element of the kids being dragooned (through school) to do something that some dads enjoy,

    but, as I say, it pointed us towards a way forward. I don’t think that it was the way forward.

  47. jonbirch says:

    46… sounds fairly deathly, robb. :-(

    caroline… you’re right, of course. looking forward to his show on plasticine, that was a toy i played with a lot. invented just a couple of miles from where i live as well.
    no plasticine, no wallace and gromet. :-)

  48. Heather says:


    Not been around here for a while so will need to catch up.

    Saw the plasticine show tonight. Great stuff. People getting involved, being creative, and producing something lovely in the end.

    Quite moving in places and lots of ideas for all inclusive worship I thought.

    On the kids in Church thing – I hate the kids having toys and books. But I hate that we’ve made church boring and inaccessible for anyone – whatever their age, ability or preferences.

  49. Claire says:

    This is a fascinating cartoon and a really thorny issue. I grew up in a church where I had to be a “good girl” and sit quietly through part of the church service, and then wander out for sunday school. I have some good memories of sunday school and no very good memories of worship. I wonder at the long-term effects though – my two younger sisters both stopped coming to church the moment they could get away with it. When my congregation moved from the hall where we’d been worshipping back into the main church, I felt my anxiety surge anytime I was leading worship or doing anything slightly conspicuous – must be a good girl in church! Must not stuff up! It’s taken me a while to overcome these feelings.

    My church has become home to a few families of children (all of them are under 6), and things have changed. The parents do try to keep the noise down to a dull roar, but there isn’t an expectation that they will sit still like little adults. We have a “kids talk” which tries to be a moment where we can talk about the gospel, and hopefully the kids can learn from this, and we can learn from the kids. There’s also a time when the kids leave the church building to go to creche, although there are still babies in the church at that time. But most importantly, for me, all the kids love coming to church and feel part of the congregation (I know this because the parents tell stories about the reactions they get when they ask their kids if they’re too tired to come to church!) It’s my hope that the church will grow with these children and not leave them in a place where they feel they have to leave the church to keep growing. It’s far from perfect, and there is something lost in the absence of silence, but I wouldn’t trade it.

  50. Claire says:

    I forgot to add – when I was growing up, there was no graduation point from sunday school, and I kid you not, there were still young adults leaving the service before the sermon when they were NINETEEN. The church I was at had changed very litle since probably 1952, and having “sunday school” continue in this way really let them avoid the possibility of making church real and relevant for anyone not born in that era. It’s a disaster for the ageing church to fail to let its children become adults, though – although it might avoid conflict temporarily, the church powerbrokers of today won’t be around forever, for better and worse. So that is a trap to avoid!

  51. Pingback: Suffer the Children

  52. Heather says:

    We attend a very small church where we try to include children in many parts of our services. I vividly remember one day where as part of the service a large wooden cross was placed on the floor and we sat around it in a circle. The young children, aged between 1 and 3, were (as usual) crawling around and playing at our feet. Of course the cross got their attention, and a few of them began crawling on it, and walking along its beams. As mothers we immediately began to move forward to move them away, when suddenly we all realised that this was a bit of an object lesson for us. Jesus welcomed the children, and here we were about to pull them away from one of the most powerful symbols of him. The children stayed where they were and had a lovely time. We all learnt something new about the nature of God, taught by the Holy Spirit in a rather unusual way!

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