Why bother with school’s work?
This is a very fair question and worthwhile asking from time to time. My suggested answer would be: it’s where most children and young people are. Here are some helpful statistics and facts:
- In 1904 56% of children and young people went to church
- Today that figure has dropped to 4%
- 39% of churches have no one under the age of 11
- 49% have no one between 11-14
- 59% have no one between 15-19
- 99% of children & young people are in school
- 80% of those who become Christians do so before the age of 18
The facts above suggest that if we are serious in making an impact in 2017 then, amongst other things, we need to go were young people are and one of the main places is schools. My experience of serving in schools for 30 years has found the stats to be true. I love it and over that time the stories, people, incidents have reinforced the importance of keeping “the main thing, the main thing” which is making Jesus known to those in our schools.
So where can you start?
The most significant contribution we can make to our schools is to pray for them and I’d suggest that is a great starting point as we seek to make Jesus known. Then build on that foundation of prayer by making use of any existing contacts in your local school. Talk to young people and staff from your church that are involved every day in that particular school and then think – how can we contribute, as a church, to that school?
People already involved in schools, students and staff, are absolutely critical for building relationships in your local school. So we must be aware of them and do what we can to support, encourage, pray for and be with them, as they seek to make Jesus known by their words and lifestyle, because they are there all the time.
The importance of working together
There are lots of organisations who work in schools like SchoolsworkUK, Scripture Union in Schools, Youth for Christ and more. There may be other churches in your area working at your local school. All of this means, be aware of others involvement in your local school and explore how you can work together to make Jesus known in that school.
This will come with the complication of working together and you may experience issues that come with working together! Yet it sends a signal to all those in the school when we work together and try to keep our focus on the main thing. So it’s helpful when engaging in any type of schools work for the first time to go in with a flexible attitude that allows you to work with others without diluting the message.
One idea that’s worked very well in my context.
I’ve found that music connects on a great number of levels and over recent years I’ve seen this in action most recently when the local church has connected with schools and partnered with LZ7. We called it Christianity Awareness Week and the three times I’ve been involved in 2010, 2012 and 2015 in Maidenhead & Slough, they’ve been the best three weeks I’ve had in schools during my time as a local school’s worker over the past 30 years. I recommend this as a way to connect with young people that are in school but not in our churches (approx. 95%).
The times I’ve been involved we started with some kind of relationship in place with the school. This does help as it is much harder to go there completely cold but this can be done. In many ways these weeks represented the coming together of praying for the school, building on existing relationships inside the school and working together with churches across the area. In October 2015 in Maidenhead there were a number of churches working together to make Jesus known, with over 60 people from different churches, serving together at the end of the week concert.
“God hasn’t called us to be successful, but faithful.”
I’ve just given some initial ideas on how to start engaging with your local school. Be creative and not afraid to try things out. Some things won’t work well but it still remains very worthwhile. Why? Because of the countless conversations to be had in schools, not just in the immediate days and weeks after such events, but even years later. I’ve spoken with students who are now 17 years old, and they still remember events we’ve done when they were 11.
Schools work, like much evangelism, is about playing your part to sow seeds over the years and continue to be faithful in trying to make Jesus known in your local school. The rest is in God’s hands.