SOWING SEEDS IN SCHOOLS
Hundreds of school children learn about Christianity every day – thanks to the faithful work of school’s workers across the country.
Find out what challenges they face and what makes talking to children a real joy in their ministry.
West Midlands evangelist Paul Willmott has worked in schools across the Black Country area for over 25 years taking school assemblies, RE lessons and running holiday clubs.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU VISIT SCHOOLS?
I work along side 12 different churches, visiting their local primary schools. In total I visit 30 different primary schools each month, (that’s around 10,000 children and staff). If I’m leading an assembly I will start off with a puppet routine to introduce the theme, this could be about making good choices, friendship or forgiveness etc. I will then share a Bible story in a fun way aiming to engage kids and staff with the message; ending with prayer.
CAN YOU SHARE THE GOSPEL MESSAGE IN SCHOOLS?
What you can say in school often comes out of relationship and trust you might have with the school. For me the Good news of Jesus is the focus, I will say things like ‘Christians believe’ and ‘The Bible says.’ Occasionally though I won’t finish the Bible story, encouraging children to talk about what they think with their friends. Then they can begin to explore the message for themselves.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT VISITING SCHOOLS?
Presenting Jesus to so many children and staff who have no idea about church or the message of Jesus. Hearing their response can be amazing, ‘Wow did that really happen?’ Or ‘Did Jesus really do that?’ I also meet teenagers or young adults who remember me and the puppets from their primary school assemblies.
They remember the puppet stories and more importantly the Bible message.
Tony and Ruth Hood, evangelists in Suffolk, have been leading holiday clubs and after school clubs for over 14 years.
HOW DO YOU SHARE WHAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE TO CHILDREN?
The schools in our area are mainly Church of England schools and are very happy
for me to visit, either to run assemblies, lessons, and after school clubs. In school assemblies we are a little bit limited in what we can say although the after-school clubs are voluntary so there is a little bit more freedom there to share the Gospel. The holiday clubs and church weekends provide us with plenty of opportunities to share and ask children to respond to God.
Tim and Charissa Cooke, from Oldham, have been working in schools with MJK (Make Jesus Known) since 2007, often visiting with a contemporary Christian band.
WHAT’S YOUR STYLE OF ASSEMBLY?
We do whole days or weeks in schools - so when we do an assembly it’s our chance to showcase the band to a large number of pupils (and invite them to our end of week concert). We do very loud and high energy music, getting everyone involved and dancing. We share a brief thought and challenge based on the school we are in and the opportunity that’s available to them.
ARE THERE STILL GOOD OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU TO SPEAK THE GOSPEL?
When we do a school’s week and concert we share the Gospel at the concert, which is held outside of school time, often to hundreds of teenagers and see many of them respond to Christ. We were in a high school in Essex and 50 young people responded to the Gospel at the concert and a Faith Gang follow up group has since been launched.
Former Business Studies and Economics teacher David Brown left the profession 11 years ago and now he and his wife Lindsey visit schools across the The Black Country as part of their ministry.
YOUR DIARY IS PACKED FULL OF SCHOOL VISITS, WHAT DO YOU DO?
For the last 11 years, I have been going in as a visitor to primary and secondary schools for collective worship, lessons, and chaplaincy work. I’ll take a Bible story or verse and bring it to life through drama and visual aids and usually finish with a prayer and song. When Lindsey takes assemblies on her own, she uses a sketch board to great effect.
ARE SCHOOLS STILL OPEN TO CHRISTIAN VISITS?
I have been going into some schools for ‘Walk Through the Bible’ lessons for several years. Whilst some schools no longer invite me in, this academic year I have been invited into three new schools. Most primary schools in Dudley Borough
and many secondary schools are open to Christian visitors for different things. I have managed to get GSUS Live into at least one new school each year when I have had it for a half–term. Virtually all the ten or so primary schools Lindsey has been going into for several years still have her for a termly assembly with the sketch board.
Somerset evangelist Mike Strange has been visiting schools in the county for
over 30 years and says the opportunity to visit schools was the reason he joined Counties.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU TALK TO CHILDREN?
The format always stays the same. I introduce the theme with my puppet Dunk
the Dog. Then we sing a Christian children’s song and next read a Bible story, sing the song again, talk about how it relates to their lives and have a closing prayer.
WHAT’S THE RESPONSE OF SCHOOLS?
They can’t get enough! They all want visits and would preferably like it every week, but I go to each once a term.
ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU TO SPEAK ABOUT THE GOSPEL?
Our RE syllabus is based on beliefs and focusses on one belief for each faith as the key to understanding the whole. In the case of Christianity, the most important belief is salvation - the atonement.
ANY EXCITING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
The new Somerset RE syllabus is being launched this term and I will be training hundreds of primary school teachers. Also a year ago we started the BigH website (bigh.org.uk) with purpose built videos and resources to overhaul the teaching of history in our primary schools. My local school where I am governor introduced this radical new approach – it
includes proper coverage of the impact of the Christian faith in our UK story.
This was, when we started, the right thing to do but going against the grain. Now Ofsted has changed its inspection regime and, come September, this will be exactly what they will be looking for and suddenly schools are taking a fresh look at their history teaching, at the very time the resources on the website are tested and complete. This is a God thing!