It’s 9.45am in Burnley, Lancashire, on Monday 6th September. An empty hall, full of anticipation (and a few staff in the corner ready to do Covid tests with students later that day!) as Year 7 are about to enter in their oversized uniforms for their first assembly of a new academic year!
I have the privilege of being Chair of Governors at one of our local schools that we helped create back in 2014. Our first year began with 32 Year 7s, some of whom started university this September. We are now oversubscribed every year, seeing hundreds of students come through our doors as we seek to raise the aspirations of young people and families across our community.
Like you, I have a passion to see young people step into all that God has for them and to shape this generation for the Kingdom, and I believe the best way to do that is by serving schools.
As you read this today, my hope and my prayer is that God opens your eyes to the possibilities of serving your local schools and that God opens the doors of the schools to you and your church or your organisation.
Posture of serving
As I’m writing this, we at Pais are in the middle of training a new group of gap year volunteers in youth and schools ministry. Pais means ‘servant’ and we train our apprentices to be servant leaders in the Way of Christ, following the example of our King who came not to be served but to serve.
Servant leadership is the only kind of leadership, and we know one the most powerful things we can offer to schools in our communities is positive Christian role models who live their lives from a posture of serving.
As you think about returning to schools this academic year, consider how you can best serve schools. Consider everything students, families and school staff have been through in the past couple of years and ask how you might best serve the schools in your community.
Power of prayer
I’ve regularly heard Christian Schools work legend Wayne Dixon say that “Prayer is the most significant contribution we can make to schools.” Wayne has been serving the schools in his community for many years and is a great example of consistency and longevity.
I totally agree with him that praying for our schools, praying that God would open up the doors of schools or give us wisdom and creativity in how we best serve schools is so key but also that as we pray God would open up our hearts and minds, that God would show us what He sees when He looks at the schools in our community, and that our schools ministry would be informed by the perspective of Heaven.
"If the last year was filled with disappointment, then may the next academic year be filled with breakthrough."
Last year, as Pais in the UK, we initiated the National Day of Prayer for Schools as a rallying cry for Christians all over the UK to pray for the schools of their community. We were delighted to see so many people across the nation prayer walking in their local communities and praying for their schools.
This September, Pais and Youthscape are coming together to go again and call Christians everywhere to pray for schools. We’d love to invite you to join in the National Day of Prayer for Schools which will be happening on Tuesday, 28th September! Read more here about how you can join in.
Relationships are the key
I’ve been involved in working with schools for the past 21 years (since I left school!). One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that ‘relationships are the key.’ Trust, consistency, delivering what you promise, kindness, authenticity; these qualities are vital for all of life but as we seek to return to school I believe we need to invest more than ever in relationships.
This might mean spending more time in the staff room getting to know the school staff, this might mean prioritising relational opportunities in schools, this might mean spending more time listening and less time presenting!
Is there a gift you could take into a school on behalf of your church or organisation for the teaching staff? Even something simple that communicates that you care about them.
A friend of mine called Kevin Pimblott says that “Before you share God’s story share your story, but before you share your story listen to their story.” The past years have been traumatic for a lot of people, so before we get on with saying what we want to say, maybe we could take time to listen to the stories of students and staff in the schools that we serve?
Learn the language of education
The landscape of Education is constantly evolving and we know these past few years have brought much change.
I want to encourage you to see yourself as a missionary to the world of education. When I say that I don’t mean that your job is to proselytise (!!) but what I mean is that your job is to learn the culture in which you are trying to incarnate the Good News of Jesus. Learn about the latest curriculum developments or new approaches within teaching, get to know the chaplains and the RE specialists in your region to find out what conversations they are having about discussing faith and spirituality within schools.
As a Governor, I recognised that one of the steepest learning curves is to understand the language of education, including the never-ending mass of acronyms! But I understand the passion of serving schools is directly connected to my discipline to learn about the world of education.
My hope and prayer is that you would return to serving the schools in your community. If the last year was filled with disappointment, then may the next academic year be filled with breakthrough. Speak life and hope and joy to the children & young people that you serve, may your presence be one of peace and your demeanour speak of the love and joy of following Jesus. Amen.