CAPTION: Sharon Blyth is a former teacher and children and families worker

New Children and Families Mission Enabler Says Listening is Key

Posted: 28th February, 2023

Sharon Blyth has lots of experience working with children and families having been a secondary school teacher and schools and families worker for a large church in North Devon.

The Diocese of Exeter’s new Children and Families Mission Enabler, who lives in Barnstaple, is also a mother of four herself.

Sharon said, “I started off volunteering at Holy Trinity church, Barnstaple, and this turned into a role I did for about 10 years.

“I had a great time going into schools, youth clubs, working with other local churches and, all the time, learning more and more about children and children’s ministry.”

Children playing with toys in sandpit

Sharon says the key to connecting with families is to listen to their needs

Sharon said she was looking forward to working alongside Devon’s churches in a support role:

“It’s important to know that my role is Children and Families Mission Enabler, not mission advisor or mission worker. I’m there to work alongside people, to encourage them in their work.

“I think the fact that I’ve done it myself and been at the grass roots – I’ve emptied the bins, I’ve planned the projects, I’ve stood on the stage and embarrassed myself multiple times – means that I can really relate to where people are working and the situations they are in, gives me a really good perspective.

“I’m really excited about learning from people in churches as well, I don’t think you ever stop learning when you are a children’s worker,” she added.

“I’m also looking forward to equipping and encouraging people in their work and providing new opportunities and training, as well as mentoring and coaching as needed.”

Children cooking in primary school kitchen

It is important for churches to have good relationships with schools, says Sharon

Sharon said the key to engaging better with families outside the church was to listen to them:

“We start in our journey by listening to families and other people in the community, for looking for where the challenges and problems are and seeing what solutions we can offer whilst building relationships with families.

“For me that is the key to bringing more children into our churches.”

Sharon said she preferred not to impose “cookie-cutter” off-the-shelf projects onto people without listening and discerning what was needed first.

She said the Begin Well antenatal course, run by a number of churches in Devon, was a good example of a practical solution to a lack of NHS antenatal classes.

Sharon said prioritising good relationships with local schools was also vital.

“As someone who is passionate about education, I have always felt really comfortable about going into schools and meeting teachers and school children.

“That is where the children are. Most children are in school from the age of 4 or 5 to 16 or 18, so that’s where we need to be – supporting the schools, the teachers and the families and making those links.”

Sharon, who has also been a school governor, said she was excited to be working in collaboration with the Diocese of Exeter Education Department, which looks after 134 Church of England schools in Devon.

She will be working four days a week in her new role, from Tuesday to Friday, and said that as she finds her feet she would value “prayer for meeting the right people, prayer for my own walk with Jesus and for good communication skills to reach children and families for Christ.”

Contact Sharon Blyth by email