A Voice for Good// Thoughts from the Public Leadership Weekend


What do you get when you walk into a room and mingle with a former barrister, a councillor, a children’s entertainer, two Christian radio DJs, a provider of GP training, a nutritional therapist and an eclectic member of the General Synod?

Well – apart from the opportunity for endless, enlightening conversation – you discover that these are only half the fascinating men and women of different ages and diverse backgrounds who’ve also signed up to attend a Public Leadership media training weekend. If you’re a more ordinary mortal like me, who dabbles in education or writing while juggling life as a parent, or someone who might hesitate to consider such an event – even though you can’t resist the calling – then you need to think again.

After first reading about the weekend, I was hooked. The central theme of being ‘a voice for good’ has resonated with me ever since I had my first article published in a local New Jersey paper back in 2000, through to the time when I began a blog or when I delved into PSHE teaching (an unusual option for a Christian) several years ago. And yet, I felt inadequate. I’m not at the top of my field(s) like many who would be going to the event. I’ve purposefully avoided some opportunities to lead as it conflicts with family life and have often taken on voluntary roles in the last several years alongside part-time work. So, what right did I have to even apply? I don’t know, but I finally shut out that fear and went ahead with the application. Still, I had my doubts and considered pulling out.

I’m so glad I didn’t. My mind remains in overdrive after taking in all that was covered at the conference – which managed to successfully incorporate high quality talks, devotions, discussion, group activities and role play into a worthwhile, challenging weekend. And still allow time for eating and drinking! (And a few dips in the pool for some.)

The content covered current political, theological and practical issues pertaining to the development of Christian voices in the media, with much opportunity to think, reflect and share a timely and vital conversation. And yes, the name of Trump did crop up in that context! All the speakers, who included a communications director and a former Radio 4 journalist, were incredibly engaging and motivating. The potential for influence through engagement in public life was highlighted in different ways as each contributor shared their knowledge and experiences, including pitfalls and lessons learned along the way.  I would have readily listened to every single one for twice the length of time that they were allotted. No mediocre talks here whatsoever!

A standout feature for me at this event was definitely the interactive nature of the programme. We weren’t just talked at but were continually encouraged to take part, to contribute our experiences and to ask questions of ourselves and others. For instance, one group task involved examining the day’s newspapers and discussing the content, and to look for any positives (a distinct lack of which was found) as well as the story perhaps not being reported.

I also learned so much from the other attendees, each of whom brought a unique dynamic and perspective to the sessions. The focus throughout seemed positive and boundary breaking – in the sense that we seemed to be caught up in something momentous. There were several injections of humour, too, along with chances to chat over meals that fostered unity and common vision, despite our disparate interests and occupations. The spiritual dimension was intentionally at the core of this weekend, drawing our minds repeatedly back to biblical concepts and examples of godly leadership throughout Scripture.

We discovered practical ways to play a part through learning to communicate better and how to engage well with the media. The language we use, for example, is a crucial part of whether the things we say will be well received. Neill Harvey-Smith talked (via video link) about how Jesus had extraordinary insight into people’s lives. “We need to become people who are brilliant at insight…experts at what motivates and interests people,” he said. How can we “reach into the culture in which we live?”

The weekend has given me the kick I needed to take that next step and be ready to speak up, and I’m sure that I’ll be better equipped as a result of the training. The role play session was particularly challenging and enlightening and I’m so glad I had the chance to take part in such an activity (with a professional radio interviewer). I discovered the importance of injecting personal story and avoiding focussing on the negative. Christopher Landau advised us to “be alive to the context, the audience you’re trying to reach.”

My main thoughts by the end of the weekend encompassed the sheer wonder at all the potential in one place, and the names and faces of people I know who would equally benefit from attending a future event. Dr Dave Landrum’s final encouragements included “Taking responsibility for where God has called you” and “leading change intentionally”, while emphasising the need to be resilient and to take a long view into the future.

I may be biased, but as far as weekends or Christian conferences go, the Public Leadership weekend is a cut above the rest. Look into it here.


Managing the Media in Your Family


Photo Credit: dazex, Creative Commons

It’s a recurring theme in our family life. The tapping of keys at the keyboard, the alluring glow of a DSi, mobile phone or iPod Touch, eyes glazed over oblivious to the conversation nearby.

Sound familiar? In just one generation we’ve gone from radio and four channels on TV to a whole Pandora’s box of continual media, demanding our attention or distracting us from other pursuits.

If you’ve been struggling to maintain some kind of balance of media consumption in your home, or have become frustrated over attempts to restrict what your children view, you are not alone. But where do you even start?

While most parents don’t think twice about exerting some influence over their child’s appearance (at least pre-teen), meals or behaviour, many are bewildered when it comes to setting limits on media.

There is no easy answer; each family needs to navigate through this issue depending on the age and maturity of their kids, but there are some practical ways to curb the time and influence that the media exerts over our children, as well as us.

Be aware

Firstly, be aware of how media is consumed both in and out of your home. Stay informed about  your child’s internet use and avoid TVs, computers and consoles in bedrooms (even amidst complaints that everyone has these things in their room). Make yourself familiar with the gadgets they own and what they are used for.

Set limits

When our [then] seven year old son received a new DSi for his birthday, we had already agreed that it should not be used before school, nor till after homework has been completed. Agree the limits in advance with your child, otherwise you may well find your offspring permanently attached to their gadget every waking hour.


Discuss the concerns you have and the reasons for them. Encourage open conversation about what your child has seen or heard, trying as best you can to not appear too alarmed by what they may share with you! Discuss issues of cyberbullying and personal safety. Have a look at websites such as thinkuknow to get better informed.


There’s nothing wrong with establishing a few rules when it comes to managing the media in your house; like only having censored versions of CDs or mp3 tracks, rather than the expletive ridden originals from artists such as Tinie Tempah or Plan B. Likewise feel free to  insist on adhering closely to the age restrictions on DVDs and video games.

One rule we’ve adopted is ‘“No phones’ at the meal table. Texting is only allowed once others have left the table. This allows for uninterrupted conversation as well as the learning of some manners. (And, yes, this rule does get broken now and again, but at least phones aren’t a regular mealtime feature.)

Use technology to help you

Find out about and use parental software controls, passwords on computers and TV (Google it!) Explain to your child that you will be monitoring their TV and internet use and that certain sites are off limits (I highly recommend Open DNS for a free internet filtering service that protects every computer in the house. There are variable options and restrictions. Check it out here.)

Be a good role model

Look at your own media habits. Are you always glaring at your laptop or hooked to your smartphone? Chances are that your child will copy you. Show restraint, for example, by not spending hours on the internet every night and try restricting social media to certain times of day.

You’ve got the power

Lastly, do not forget that you are the parent with the power to unplug or remove a gadget from your child, particularly if signs of addiction are evident. (Refusing to eat or get dressed is a sure-fire indication, but there are others.)

The benefits

In setting up some limits and restrictions, there will be more opportunities available to take back family time together. Often we’ve lost the art of relaxing without a screen or gadget; but this can be good for health, well being and relationships. Why not play a board game or go for a walk together? Or be more creative by painting, learning an instrument or a new hobby.

When the possibility of further electronic items is removed, kids generally find they actually enjoy themselves (after their initial moan). In our family we’ve noticed that we become more thoughtful of one another, a sense of humour restored and brighter faces return from time spent outdoors.  We’re still far from having everything sussed in this area, but we’re trying to have some measure of control over our media habits, rather than allow technology and the media to control us.

This article was first published in 2012 by Lookingatlife, a former webzine of Care for the Family. Written by Annie Carter

Setting things straight – Regarding Rupert Everett’s Assertion About Gay Parents

Mr Everett, an openly gay, British actor who starred in the 90s hit Shakespeare in Love, has certainly kicked up a media storm among the proponents of gay marriage and parenting by saying: “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.”*

I’m wondering whether his assertion might be groundbreaking here. A gay man attacking a gay lifestyle choice? Virtually unheard of. The likes of Stonewall and other organisations must be quaking in their boots. How dare he stray from the party line!

What’s that you say? There isn’t a gay political party?

Perhaps not, but at times it’s seemed as if every gay person has to toe the line over the rules of attraction, marriage and parenthood. Or risk being shunned from the very community which is meant to wholeheartedly accept them.** Perhaps this explains in part why Everett has decided to disassociate himself from said community. (Quote: “I’m not speaking on behalf of the gay community. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m part of any ‘community'”)

I admire Everett for his boldness to state his opinion. After all, the whole basis for the gay movement is underpinned by a belief in sexual freedom and the right to live as one pleases without threat or discrimination. This surely includes the freedom to hold and express one’s own opinion.

Looking at this topic aside from the perspective of gay rights and gay wishes, there arises a very poignant issue – namely that of the adopted or surrogate children, who ultimately have no say in the matter. They are simply denied the opportunity to be parented by both male and female figures. And no, I don’t think having uncles, aunts or friends of both sexes really counts – though such individuals are certainly valuable to a child’s upbringing.

I hope that the gay community take it upon themselves to consider the long term consequences of growing up in a family consisting of same sex parents. Each one should perhaps ask themselves: How much would I have enjoyed growing up with two mums or two dads? Would I have missed out on something?

Like Everett, such a thought seems horrific to me. Growing up with only sisters, for instance, I valued even the variety that male presence in the shape of my father brought to the household. However, to be denied the input of a mother, despite her flaws or imperfections, would have been unthinkable.  Meanwhile, the thought of only two mums… I won’t go into that.

And yet, regardless of the assumption that two, loving gay parents might do a very fine job of raising children (and indeed better than two irresponsible or immature heterosexual parents) – what about the wishes and rights of a young child?

Little human beings are not accessories or pets to boost our ego or fulfil our dreams, nor should they be part of a societal experiment. We would all do well to remember that. Only time will reveal the loss experienced by those with no voice.

History shows us that civilisations thrive where families consisting of mother, father and children are the norm. And future research will hopefully include reports from interviewed adults who have grown up in non-conventional family units. For how we are brought up shapes us long after we have moved out of our childhood home.

I think it’s good that someone like Rupert Everett has had the audacity to bring such issues to the surface. Long may there continue to be like-minded individuals (gay or straight) who will put forward their point of view, in spite of the ensuing media backlash.

*In an interview by the Sunday Times Magazine, 16 September 2012 (Online subscribers only.) For more about the furore, you can read excerpts of the interview here.

**Reaction from the gay lobby was similarly aghast when earlier this year lesbian actress Cynthia Dixon from Sex and the City fame, who used to have a husband, claimed that – for her, being gay was ‘a choice’.  See this article

Disclaimer: I don’t hate gays. In the past I have happily engaged with both gay neighbours and lesbian ones. I liked them. They were very nice people; I invited them over. I just don’t have to agree with everything they do or say or stand for. Is that okay? Same goes for all my friends. Likewise, they’re free to disagree with me.