Child Friendly Church Award

Introduction – take a moment to imagine …

You’ve just moved into a new area with your young family. You’ve left behind your family, friends and the church you went to regularly. You’d like to start meeting new people and find a church that will cater for you and your children. You don’t know many, if any, people in the area, so can’t seek advice from them, and your previous church doesn’t know anywhere in your new area. You don’t fancy turning up at the church on a Sunday morning for the first time and finding that there is nothing for the children to do. You don’t want to find the congregation staring at you and your children like the scene in the Bavarian village in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (watch it if you haven’t already!).  Instead, wouldn’t it be good to find that your nearby church has the Child Friendly Church Award? They have a yellow and red plaque next to the main entrance telling you that behind the doors there are people waiting to welcome you and your children into their midst.

Your church could be that church! The chances are, if you have youth and children’s work already in your church, you can probably tick lots of the boxes already. Even if you don’t have any children and youth connected to your church you could still get the Award – you never know when children and young people are likely to walk through your door. This could be a good way to make sure that when that happens you truly are ‘Child Friendly’!

As one church said that received the Award:

“This scheme requires effort. Some of the actions have been small and easy to implement, and others have cost the Church money, time or commitment. Either way, the ultimate value is beyond measure as we seek to share the good news within our community”

Why not make this award a priority within your church?

Churches holding the Child Friendly Church Award

In URC Southern Synod, the following churches currently hold the Child Friendly Church Award:  

Other churches are currently working towards the award. Could your church be one of them ?!?

What are the criteria for the award?

The main criteria for the award are:

1. There is a Vision for youth and children’s work

2. There are opportunities for the voices of children and young people to be heard

3. The church takes seriously and responds to feedback from children and young people

4. There are opportunities for children and young people to be included in child friendly services

5. Ongoing training and support for leaders is in place

6. Suitable materials for under fives are available in church

7. There are groups to help nurture children and young people

8. Safeguarding

9. The church buildings offer a safe and welcoming environment.

What is the process to gain the award?

1) The local church will:

a) Discuss the Award at church meeting and appoint a group to work through the Award process.

b) Inform the CYDO of their intention to work towards the Award.

c) Working group meet with the CYDO at the start of the process

d) Working group consult widely with children and young people and adults

e) Complete the CFCA Self Assessment form, gather together supporting documents, and send to the CYDO (or alternate CFCA Advisor)

f) Identify any items which need attention and any training needs

g) Contact the CYDO (or alternate CFCA Advisor) to discuss how best to address any items which need attention

h) Arrange for the CYDO  or alternate CFCA Advisor) to visit the church to assess the application

i) Meet with the CYDO (or alternate CFCA Advisor) to discuss the draft CFCA report for the church and agree together any areas for development

j) Draw up a development plan to address any areas for development.

2) The CYDO or alternate CFCA advisor will:

a) Meet with the church’s CFCA working group at the start of the process

b) Read the church’s CFCA Self Assessment form and discuss with the church contact how best to address any items in order to reach the required standards for the award

c) Visit the church to experience worship, observe children and young people’s groups, assess facilities, ask people about church life, and look at supporting evidence

d) Write a draft report showing to what extent the church meets each of the CFCA criteria.

e) Meet with the church’s CFCA working group to discuss the draft CFCA report and identify any areas for development

f) Work with the church to help them to address any areas for development in order to reach the required standards for the award

g) When satisfied that the church meets the award criteria, write a final report for the church and the Assembly Youth and Children’s Office with a recommendation for the Award

h) Present the Child Friendly Church Award certificate and plaque to successful churches at the Synod Together meeting.

3) The Assembly Youth and Children’s Work Office will:

a) Receive and moderate CFCA reports

b) Make the Award to successful churches via their synod, including a CFCA certificate and plaque (valid for three years)

c) Write to churches when they are due to renew their award.

How do we get started on the Child Friendly Church Award?

To start the process, you need to register your interest with your Children and Youth Development Officer and request a Child Friendly Church Award pack. It contains information about how the Award works and includes a tick box self-assessment questionnaire to be filled in by your church. However, this is not just an exercise in ticking all the “yes” boxes – it’s a process and is more about recognizing the importance of children and young people in the life of the church, and working to improve how we welcome them, and share ministry with them.

What happens after the first 3 years?

The Assembly Youth and Children’s Work office will contact the Synod CYDO, the current church secretary, the contact named on the previous CFCA form to alert them that it is time for a church to begin the re-award process.

1) The local church will:

a) Revisit the original report and review the areas for development

b) Discuss how the Child Friendly Church Award has benefited the church and identify areas of good practice which could be shared with other churches

c) Continue with the rest of the CFCA process outlined above (from point 1 d onwards).

2) The CYDO or alternate CFCA advisor will:

a) Re-read the previous CFCA report for the church, note the areas for development, read the church’s new CFCA Self Assessment form in the light of these

b) Meet with a small working group to review developments since the previous Award was made and discuss how to address any items in need of attention

c) Continue with the rest of the CFCA process outlined above from point (2 c onwards).

3) The Assembly Youth and Children’s Office will:

a) Receive and moderate CFCA reports

b) Make the Award to successful churches via their synod, including a CFCA certificate and Plaque (Valid for three years)

c) Write to churches when they are due to renew their award.

Background information:

The Child Friendly Church Award scheme was created after the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool carried out a review of its life and work.  The resulting report made a keynote recommendation that parishes ‘welcome and integrate children and their families into the worshipping life of their church.’  Their conclusion was that it is desirable that churches advertise to the community that they take the provision for the young seriously.  Churches inviting children in this way should provide a quality service which should be accountable to the church leadership and meet with certain set criteria.  A new scheme was introduced to encourage churches to put children and families on their agendas, to work towards certain targets and obtain a certificate and an award to be displayed as appropriate.  

Having seen the scheme, the URC Assembly Youth and Children’s Work committee felt it was a good idea and have adapted it for use within the United Reformed Church.  “Towards a Charter for Children in the Church”, introduced at General Assembly 1990, challenges churches to become fully inclusive in their work with children.  This scheme offers a way to measure progress towards that goal.

The URC version of the Child Friendly Church Award scheme began in 2006 and was reviewed and updated in 2012.