Robert Loo – Family Worker in Invercargill

Robert Loo – Family Worker in Invercargill

Robert Loo

CRUMBS holds an exclusive interview with Robert Loo:
Family worker, North Invercargill Presbyterian Church, 1997.

I count myself one of those lucky people whose work is also a task of love, a task that is only made possible through the love and support I receive from my own family. And as much as my role in the family at home is dependent and complemented by every other member, so too is my role as a Family Worker.

What’s the thinking behind a family worker?

The min reason the church decided to employ a family worker was the fear of becoming another one of those so called ‘greying churches’. They recognised a need to intentionally work with those in the younger age group, whether children, youth or their parents, in essence Families.This meant an emphasis on ministry that didn’t necessarily meet churchgoers’ needs, but would work much of the time in the community.

Why choose family work?

For five years a full time Youth pastor, I found myself being called upon more and more to work with parents and families.As difficult as many young people were finding life with its temptations and pressures, parents were likewise struggling with life and teenagers that bore little resemblance to anything they knew from their past.

I also struggled with the fact that many young people who went on the camps etcetera often were great when away, but reverted back to bad habits when returned to the environment and situations that got them there in the first place.

It was as if that ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ just took them back up to the top, only to fall again. In helping families with things such as parenting skills, maybe some might never make it to the cliff top.

And why with children?

Recent studies indicate that delinquent behaviour in adolescence can be indicated in children from the age of three.

Who are the people you work with?

You name them, grandparents to children, they are all in there. Issues that arise know no boundaries: Wealth, race, status, or age will not exempt a person from crisis within a family.

What kinds of work do you do?

The church set up this position to work in two areas:(i) the church’s ministry to its families

(ii) the church’s mission to the community.

And the role of family worker is a blend of both of these.

Basically it is helping the church to be more deliberate in what it does for children, youth and their families, no matter what form those families take. It sees me involved in youth groups, brigades, children’s programs, school chaplaincy, parenting groups, CYPS*, women’s refuge, church worship�should I go on? When you think of families the opportunities are endless. It is, of course, not just me but a church thinking about others, their needs, and doing something about it.

How do you build relationships with parents?

Any relationship takes two, and if the parents don’t see me, or trust me, a relationship will never form. I take the time to go to places and events at which the parents will be present, and build good relationships with their children and earn their trust. To help them to get to know me I have a brochure at appropriate sites introducing my work and me. Of course, as human as I am, I can not ever hope to contact, or be in touch with everyone at once, so I produce a magazine called F.U.N. (Families Using North) that highlights up and coming events, profiles groups, includes parenting tips and topical articles, as well as cartoons and a lot of fun.

Are there programs which you have developed/found useful?

Here are just a few that have addressed very real needs:

Monthly family services, start with a shared tea at 5.30 p.m. A fairly relaxed informal all-age worship and message, all finishing by 7 p.m., in time to get children home for bed and school the next day.Confident parenting, a four-week program of ‘values identification’ and positive parenting to achieve the child’s ownership of values rather than just imposition.

Holiday programs � with working parents there is an overwhelming need.

Divorce/separation recovery for both parents and children, e.g. the Rainbows Program.