Decade of inspirational children’s leadership celebrated on Children’s Day

Ten years ago, a tireless passion for the value of children led one woman to set about improving the way the Presbyterian Church engaged with children both in churches and in their communities.

A decade on, Jill Kayser has established the Kids Friendly movement, created a national network of more than 600 people who are committed to ministering with children and led countless workshops on fostering faith in school-age children.

The Kids Friendly movement – pioneered by Kayser – has also received international recognition, with Messy Church founder Lucy Moore due to visit New Zealand to learn more about the Kids Friendly leadership development philosophy. Lucy will attend the Kids Friendly Transformers – Growing up Young Leaders camp in August.

“Jill has dedicated herself to making a difference in the lives of children, and we wanted to acknowledge her contribution on a day that is dedicated to treasuring the nation’s children,” says the Rev Martin Baker, Presbyterian Church assembly executive secretary.

Inspirational leadership encourages churches and communities to treasure children

Jill’s inspirational leadership has encouraged churches to treasure the children in their congregations and communities according to the many churches that she has worked with over the last 10 years.

Highgate Presbyterian is one of the converts to the Kids Friendly way of being church, and in keeping with the Kids Friendly philosophy, the Highgate children make a meaningful contribution to the life of the church, including reaching out to help their peers in the community.

Judy Goroncy, a children’s programme leader at Highgate, describes how the children were involved in a parish-wide reflection on “life at the margins” that resulted in the children collecting food for the local food bank.

Children collect food for food bank

“We looked at poverty statistics and discovered, among other disturbing facts, that 83,000 kids in New Zealand go to school hungry. The children then raided the pantries of 16 houses (of church folk) to ‘collect’ food for the local food bank.”

Volunteers tutor reading, school principals endorse Kids Friendly

Flagstaff Community Church – also a Kids Friendly church – has established a relationship with local primary schools that sees the church provide volunteers to help with tutoring reading, and running after school programmes.

Five years on, one principal enthusiastically endorses the difference the church’s ministry has made in their community, and another principal asked for the contact details of the Kids Friendly church in his new school community when he moved on to a new role.

A monthly Messy Church at Wellington’s Wadestown Presbyterian Church (also Kids Friendly) provides a welcoming environment to explore faith for families and children who don’t normally attend traditional church services.

Kids Friendly, according to Jill, is “a practice, not a programme”, and is about an ethos that values the contribution children make.

Praise for Jill’s inspirational leadership

Cheryl Harray, Jill’s colleague at Kids Friendly, says that it has been a privilege working with Jill because she is so passionate in her desire to see the contribution of children valued.

“Her focus is always motivated by how our churches can be better and better at welcoming children and incorporating them into the life of the church community. She really sees the value of children, and lives that out in every aspect of her life.”

The Rev Mark Chapman, minister at Auckland’s Clevedon Presbyterian, has worked with Jill for a number of years and, like many others, has been inspired by her work.

“What an inspirational lady with such a big heart for the children in the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The sentiment is shared by Anna Davis, families and children’s ministry worker at Kids Friendly church, St John’s in the City Wellington.

“Jill’s ability to convey her vision for every church to have a heart for children encourages and inspires, making ministering to children accessible for everyone.

“In our church intergenerational relationships are being built and faith development has become a two-way process where children are ministering as much to adults, as adults are ministering to children.”

The Church’s moderator, the Rt Rev Ray Coster says: “She is a fantastic person doing a fantastic ministry with the children of this nation. She is a visionary person and an inspirational person. The love of Christ shines through her. As a church we are so proud of her and the ministry of Kids Friendly.”


About Kids Friendly

• Kids Friendly is the national children’s ministry of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. The purpose of Kids Friendly is to equip and resource churches as they work to meet the needs of the children and families in their churches and communities.

• Messy Church is a non-traditional form of church that incorporates families, artwork and helps people encounter Jesus. It is estimated that there are hundreds of Messy churches in New Zealand, and around 100,000 people in the UK attend a Messy Church each month.

About Jill Kayser

Currently the National Kids Friendly Coach, Jill has been employed by the Presbyterian Church in a variety of children and family ministry roles since 2004. Jill has extensive experience in children and families’ ministry and public relations. She has a degree in psychology and is a qualified coach and mentor. She is an elder of Saint Helier’s Presbyterian Church and is passionate about sharing God’s love with children and including them in a community of faith.