Connections

Posted on October 16, 2016 by Amy Tolmie
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Each month in Youthwork Magazine schoolsworkUK provide a page for work in schools, often with accompanying downloads.  Below you will find the November 2016 page, complete with three sections: Dream (helping us think strategically and with vision about our work in schools); Develop (explores what we might need to think about to develop ourselves and our skills to do this work); Do (ready to use ideas and resources for work in schools).

The November 2016 page was written by Claire Clinton.

Dream

Connections are at the heart of any quality work in schools. Whether it is our connections to the students, the teachers, the support staff or our connections to churches, our local community and most importantly connecting all of these with God.

To start with, take a moment to think about why you decided to do the role you do with your church or organisation.  What motivated you to apply or start the work?

For me, as a Christian, I do what I do because I want to bring heaven’s touch, or God’s kingdom here on earth. So when I work with schools I want to connect everything I do with my faith. At the moment in schools a big focus is Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of pupils (SMSC) – there is an important statement in the Ofsted school inspection handbook, which talks about the role of schools to ‘develop and demonstrate in pupils, skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.’ I think this relates well to the purpose of our work in schools.  I want to connect with pupils to bring them a touch from heaven, which will help them develop as people and live a fulfilled life and find their purpose.

As schools’ workers, we need to allow God to stir up the dreams he has for our work and our connections. A prayer I often use is from Luke 17:5 where the disciples ask Jesus to ‘increase our faith.’ The word faith in Greek is ‘pistis’ and literally means confidence in divine truths. We need to connect with God and his divine truths around our work if we want to see more of His kingdom established.

Develop

How do we develop our connections? Our most important connection is with God and everything we do needs to flow from that. Here are some questions you can reflect on:

·       How is your personal time with God in the Word and in prayer?

·       Do you meet with others who share your heart for work in schools?

·       Do you have supporters who are cheering you on and eager to hear about your work?

If not, put some time and energy into growing these connections in your life. Once you have found them, meet regularly with them, pray for your school/s with them and prayer walk the areas you work in with them.

I often use Luke Chapter 10 as a helpful strategy/process to measure my connections with schools. When Jesus sends out the 72 he tells them to linger where they are welcome; eat and drink with those people; to heal the sick; and finally preach the good news to these people.

What does that mean for our work within schools? Firstly, work where you are welcome; it takes time to build relationships with staff in schools, and often key contacts move on and building those relationships then starts all over again. Get to know those at all levels of the school community, their lives and their needs; eat and drink with them, get involved in the life of the school in all sorts of ways, as invited. Then after establishing relationships, be involved in praying for the school whether that means with Christian staff or students, or offering to pray for people’s needs as appropriate. Perhaps it could mean running a prayer space in school or meeting needs in more practical ways, always remembering to respect the educational environment and the wishes of the school. The final part of the instruction in Luke Chapter 10 is to preach the gospel. In a school, this does not mean to literally ‘preach’ the gospel. Sharing the Christian faith in schools looks different for all of us, but the main message students and staff will get is from how you act in schools and how you treat people. It is about demonstrating the gospel, offering insightful dialogue and discerning where God is at work and then joining in. What stage are you at, and where can you develop connections? You might find it helpful to use a connections audit, an example of one has been provided here.

Do

When working with students either one to one or in groups, or perhaps as a lesson activity, you could use the following activity to help them consider their own connections. You will need to print out a dartboard template and the accompanying cards.

Give the connections cards out to the students, which list different connections they have in their lives (e.g. family, friends, music, their phone, a relationship, school) and ask them to place these cards on the dartboard in relation to which are the strongest connections and which are less important.

First of all, ask students to complete this on their own (so you will need enough for one each). Then ask them to do it in pairs, and allow conversation to develop as they learn about each other and put forward their argument as to what they think should go in the centre, for example.

This activity helps students talk about why certain things are important to them, as well as think about how others’ responses may be different.  It builds up their emotional understanding of what is important to them as well as helping you to get to know them better. It works well as part of a longer term mentoring or group work relationship, and can be used for a variety of outcomes as best suits your setting. 


Claire Clinton is the director of Faith in Schools, Newham (www.faithinschools.co.uk)