We loved reading this really helpful article from Diocesan Youth and Children’s Work Advisor in Chichester, Ali Campbell, on doing ministry in schools. Read a snippet below and click here to go to the full article and find out his 5 top tips! Do let us know if you have any of your own to share with us.
I am going to take it as a given that if you are reading this you think that schools ministry is a good idea, you are either doing it already and just looking for some hints and tips or you are thinking it is something you should be doing. I have being doing assemblies in schools for 17 years (having cut my teeth in Edgware, north London at Stag Lane Primary School working with the legendary Heather Boyd) . . . I have done both occasional and week in week out assemblies (depending on the school, the relationship developed and time allowing). First a little something in response to a twitter query . . . the question asked was, “Is there any evidence that Vicars doing school assemblies has any effects on children’s subsequent faith development?”
All I can do is respond in the affirmative based on my own practice and experience. I am not a vicar, but I have taken regular assemblies . . . . in and of themselves assemblies may sow seeds of faith, but by themselves, I think assemblies on their own have a limited impact. If it is the only time children see someone from a church, or the only time the church does anything in or with the school and if it is not part of a wider dynamic of school engagement . . . then, I don’t think it can bear fruit. It is something happening in a vacuum, without meaningful community or relationship being integral. In one school I did week in week out assemblies for infants and juniors – so two assemblies every week, for seven years. After a couple of years, I was asked to help with other aspects of what was going on in the school – I did “hot seat” ask a Christian kind of stuff, I hosted visits for different year groups to visit the church and talk about what we did as a living faith community (note, I did NOT simply show them round and point at the Font, the Windows, and get them to do Brass Rubbings, if the school wanted those kind of activities, then they could visit a museum), we showed videos, we did role play, we did refreshments, we sang the kind of songs we sang in our family orientated worship services . . . we talked about all the activities that happen in the church for children and families). We ran at the church as mid week kids club called “Breakout”, we were allowed (and encouraged) to put flyers into book bags. At significant times of the year we hosted carol services for the school (they couldn’t get everyone together in one space at the school, so they were very please to take this up), we took in pastries for the staff at the end of term, we prayed for the school, staff and students etc. All these things create a context for doing assemblies as part of something – not as something separate or distant from the mission of the Church, but as an integral part of ministry in and to the community, of which schools are a part. The upshot of all this? We saw “Breakout” grow to a regular attendance of 60+ we had children bring 4 or 5 friends at a time, we saw a significant number of children “stay” in our midweek work into their teens and a number became Christians. We also realised there was something else with the kids club we hadn’t thought of, 50 adults who didn’t normally come to church, milling about outside the church to pick up their kids at the end of the club. The Vicar made it a priority to try and hang out at the end of the club when we could and chat to these parents. The profile of the church and the good will towards the church in general was raised as news spread about “Breakout” – to be clear about the ethos of Breakout, when I started the club, the purpose was to run an “open to all” club, staffed by Christians – we used videos and illustrations in some “upfront bits” which taught simple truths from the Bible and we always finished with a prayer, but predominantly, it was an activity club for the children, with gentle Gospel input . . .