ECCE conference reignites children’s ministry

Delegates from across Europe involved in children’s ministry and religious education have spent a week in fellowship on the shores of Lake Balaton, Hungary.

The European Conference on Christian Education (ECCE), which meet last month along the theme of “Deep cries out: Growing through crisis to reignite children’s ministry’, usually takes place every three years, albeit four in the case of a pandemic.

Members of the European Conference on Christian Education gathered for a group photo.

Lorraine Webb, United Reformed Church Programme Officer for Children’s and Youth Work, had the privilege of being part of the conference’s steering group. She represented the Children’s Ministry Network which is part of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and was joined by six colleagues from other UK/Ireland denominations.

Here, Lorraine reflects on the trip:

The conference provided the opportunity to step outside the usual networks and experience other cultures, new approaches, discovering what challenges we share and what are different.

Each region led an act of worship, as varied as using natural resources to create an image of ministry, creating origami boats, and walking down to the shores of the lake at sunset to sing music from Taize.

Multi-coloured origami boats gathered and circled by multicoloured straws, used as a resource for prayers

The irrepressible Bob Hartman, a professional storyteller and ordained minister, joined us for the week to lead Bible study with his own particular style of storytelling.

We had lectures from leading theologian Balazs Siba who spoke on hospitality, while Zsófia Csáky-Pallavicini, a psychologist and psychotherapist provoked much thought on the theme of child protection.

Several delegates volunteered to lead workshops and people chose to explore, amongst other things,  Japanese paper theatre, a new Bible card game from Hungary, the role of silence in spirituality, and workshops on children’s discipleship in school and intergenerational ministry.

Members of the ECCE conference gathered by a lake in worship.

An excursion by boat across the lake to visit a local vineyard, a bike ride, or simply sitting and eating extremely good ice-cream, gave an opportunity to cement some of the relationships formed during the week and to talk more casually about life and ministry and faith and culture.

A wonderful highlight of the week was a Hungarian evening featuring a band and dancers who soon had feet tapping and delegates dancing.

A group of people watching Hungarian muscians play music and dancers in traditional costumes dance.

In contrast, another highlight was the chance to chat a colleague in Ukraine by Zoom and hear a little about the challenges his congregation is facing.

While many people from his congregation have left the country, he was delighted to report that the number of teenage members has grown and he is trying to plan a summer camp for them, despite the uncertainty. This certainly put our risk assessments into perspective! Our colleague blessed the conference, and we were able to pray for him, his ministry and those he ministers to.

Lorraine continues to represent the UK and Ireland on the steering group for the next ECCE conference, which is planned for May 2026 in Geneva and, at the request of all the delegates, there will be two online conferences in the intervening years to maintain those new connections and the joy of worshipping and learning together.

For more on the ECCE, please see