Making the Most of United – with a Young Family

15 May 2023

Anna Hawken from Parenting for Faith shares some practical ideas for making the most of United with your family.

If you’re feeling equal parts excited and terrified about heading to New Wine’s United Festival this summer, you’re not alone! It’s normal to look forward to connecting with God and making memories but still feel apprehensive about kids settling in groups, finding your way around or the queues for the showers. I’ve been coming to New Wine since I was a child and come rain or shine, I’ll be there with my three children again this year. Here are a few tried-and-tested strategies for making it through.  

Be prepared

Start thinking now about anything that might make your life easier. If you’re not a seasoned camper, find someone who is and grill them on what you need. If they’re willing to lend you things even better. A few ideas:

  • Sleep – getting some kip helps everything seem easier. You can avoid the sun waking you by using sleep masks or some black weed control fabric over your tent inner. If you have little ones, the brilliant team at the  0 – 4 families venue have toys, tea and toast from 5.30am. Head over there and let them play without worrying about waking others. 
  • Loos and showers – Pack a couple of waterproof bags with toiletries, a torch, loo roll and hand sanitiser. Decide where you’ll keep them so you can grab-and-go. Stuffing a coat in a pillow case makes it easy to find an extra layer for those middle-of-the-night toilet runs. You may find it easier with kids to skip the showers all together. Water fights, wipes and washing up bowls are all great alternatives for keeping clean.
  • Food – Bringing something frozen for the first day that will gradually defrost and keep other things cool can be a winner. Don’t worry about creating a perfectly balanced meal three times a day. No-one’s looking if your kids live on dry cereal for the week! Think about snacks and meals that don’t need to be kept cool or heated up and stock up. All the usual supermarkets are about 15 minutes away so it’s easy to restock when you need to. 
  • Keeping warm or cool – Something about lots of Christians camping makes the weather go a bit crazy. We’ve seen heat waves, torrential rain and gale force winds over the years. Pack for all possibilities- woolly hats, hot water bottles, waterproofs, wellies, sun hats, sun cream and roll with it. Lots of layers are great for the evenings and the night where the temperature can plummet even if it’s been warm all day. There is a daily exchange of ice packs which is great for keeping you and your food cool. 
  • Kids’ groups – Start chatting to your children now about the group they’ll be going to. When you arrive on site, show them where their group will be. Take the time for them to get to know their leaders when you register them. You can get some more ideas about helping them with being apart from you from this article on transitions. Don’t panic if they don’t settle right away. 

Be flexible and frame things for them

Be open to doing things differently. Consider keeping children up past their normal bedtime to go to their  group or some of the adult evening meetings with you. Ear defenders are a good idea for children who are sensitive to loud noises. 

If they’re with you, let them enjoy the atmosphere and frame for them what is happening, giving them opportunities to spot what is going on and ask questions. You could try saying things like ‘look how that person is connecting with God by singing loudly and that person’s doing it by sitting down and closing their eyes’ or ‘this song is all about how great God is, you can chat to him in your head and tell him why you think he’s great’. Try to surf the wave of whatever they pick up on and are interested in.  

Or if they’re shattered and you are too, grab an early night with them. This week is about doing what works for your family, not attending everything that’s on. 

Team up

Are there any ways you can team up and pool resources? With your church or group if you’re going with others, or with the people you befriend on day one. Could you divide and conquer on collecting children, buying food, queuing for ice packs or cooking? Maybe take turns to have an afternoon nap or go to a seminar child-free.

Ask for help! It can feel embarrassing but it’s all part of being community. You’ll often find people around you are willing to help and that it’s a novelty for them – in fact, they’d love to spend time with your kids! It’s great for your children to learn and watch how to connect with God from people other than you, as it shows them a range of different ways people do this. So don’t feel guilty about taking some time without them and letting them learn and be loved by your church community.

Connect with God

One of your reasons for coming was probably because you wanted to connect with God more yourself. Don’t lose sight of this goal! But be aware that it might look a bit different to the people around you who don’t have kids. If you’re stuck back at base, you can tune into  the talks and worship from New Wine FM. Have a scroll through the programme and choose one or two seminars (don’t be too ambitious and pick ten) that you’d really like to go to and see if you can share childcare to make that possible. If you can’t make any of those times, just come and chat to us on the Parenting for Faith stand in the exhibition area. We’d love to hear about you and your family and help you find your next step.

You could also use the time to connect with God without directly engaging with the sessions at the event. Buy an interesting-looking book and get stuck into reading it; journal with God whilst your child is napping; or sing along to some worship music whilst you’re getting the dinner ready. My brand new book, Being God’s Child: A Parent’s Guide will be available and is an easy read for parents to dip in and out of. You could also watch the Parenting for Faith course sessions. You can register to download them for free, so you don’t need to have WiFi.

What would you add? Let us know any tips or ideas that have helped you, so we can share them with others.

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