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High schools, 6th Forms and Colleges can feel very different to their primary school siblings: the thought of 200 15 year olds staring you in the face for assembly can feel more daunting than 150 5-11s. But there is much for churches to offer to 11-18s and the schools, 6th forms and colleges that they attend. Below are some tips for engaging with high schools, 6th Forms and Colleges that cover opportunities to provide pastoral support and spiritual and moral development. All of the ideas and reflections offered here are adaptable for use in both our 12 CofE High and Middle Schools, and the many more non-Church schools in the Diocese of Lichfield.
A young person's discipleship to Jesus Christ can be developed in a variety of different ways. Every interaction with students can be an opportunity to help a young Christian work out what it means for them to be a follower of Jesus in their school, college or university. Additionally, Christian Unions, Assemblies / Collective Worship and after-school clubs provide more explicit opportunities to help students to explore how to be a disciple in their context.
Christians have much to offer to schools, whether an academy, a Church school or one overseen by the local education authority. Our very presence provides opportunities to appropriately share the Christian faith through assemblies / collective worship and RE / Ethics & Philosophy lessons. Additionally, we can call upon our rich spiritual heritage to assist students in their own spiritual and moral development. Additionally, our relationships with young people may lead to them wanting to find out more via our weeknight and weekend youth provision.
Schools, in addition to knowledge and skills acquisition, are attempting to support students to explore questions of identity - who we are, and work - what should I do with my life. Christians are well-placed to help schools, colleges and universities to broaden this conversation beyond simply paid employment to encompass a broader range of vocational aspects such as development of character, caring for others, the planet and, of course, God.
Building a relationship with a high school or college can be an intimidating and exciting prospect. Often getting finding the right contact with the right approach is the hardest part. The best guide to contacting a school we have found is SchoolsworkUKs Starting from Scratch. Its a short but very practical document with tips on:
- Researching your school
- Making First Contact
- Developing Relationships with Staff & Students
- Pitching an Idea to your School
So, what can we offer our schools? How do we offer our expertise in spiritual and moral development? Below are some practical tips and ideas that will help you get started:
Use the Third Space
If the first space is lessons and the curriculum, the second space is additional support like mentoring and therapeutic groups, the third space describes those times outside of lessons where you can engage young people with big questions. Youthscape have created a brilliant, value-for-money resource with five tried and tested ideas called Third Space Schools Ministry: Engage & Explore Christian Faith through Third Space.
Get to know a little about SMSC
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development is an aspect of education that schools are required to attend to and evidence by law, and is particularly looked for by OfSTED.
High schools, 6 th Forms and Colleges are often very good at highlighting the moral, social and cultural aspects of learning theyre concepts that are usually embodied in the schools ethos statement or vision and values. They can delineate exactly what they mean by moral development, and can talk about discipline policies, rights and responsibilities and the support they can offer pupils around behaviour and inclusion. Similarly, with social development schools can highlight how they encourage every child to participate in the life of the school, to learn to deal positively with conflict, to develop skills in articulation and reasoning and to learn to listen to viewpoints other than ones own. For cultural development, schools can celebrate the diversity within their community by highlighting the languages spoken in their school, or the countries of origin for their pupils, they can theme lessons around Black History Month (usually in October), or explore what it means to live in Britain today.
Spiritual development, however, is a challenging concept: How does a school define it in a way that doesnt exclude persons of one faith or ethnic group without making the topic entirely irrelevant to everyone? One answer is to provide a broader definition of spirituality that we can then use to talk about the Christian faith through. This is a challenging task, but one made easier by a simple definition. One of the most helpful definitions we have found is spirituality as relational consciousness, described by researchers David Hay and Rebecca Nye as an unusual level of consciousness or perceptiveness … expressed in a context of how the child related to things, other people, him/herself, and God (Hay & Nye, 2006, 109) often resulting in some form of moral impetus (Hay & Nye, 2006, 29). For example, John Hammond and David Hay et al. describe an RE lesson on silence in Christian prayer in their book New Methods in RE Teaching: an experiential approach. After an opportunity to experience silent reflection for a few minutes, one of the students participating described their experience by saying,
I felt very relaxed, and sort of happy, during the silence. Whilst I was talking to God he made me feel calm and wanted. It was difficult at first but as I started to get into it it became easier. I could speak to God and tell him everything, just as I was speaking to my friends. I felt happy inside because I was able to get rid of my problems.
Hammond et al, Experiential, 75.
For more information and training about doing SMSC work and spiritual development in high schools, colleges or 6th Forms, you can:
- visit the SchoolsworkUK website, or
- visit the Prayer Spaces in Schools Website,
- or contact the RNG Team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delivering Assemblies / Collective Worship
In terms of Christian work in high schools, these are often one of the most challenging things you can take on. However, a poignant, relevant and engaging assembly can be a great opportunity to share a thought from a Christian perspective that goes with students throughout the day or the week. Our tips for assemblies are:
- Pray take the opportunity to arrive early on the day and pray for the school, the year group youre speaking to, and for other opportunities in the school.
- Have a clear message - If you can articulate your message in a short sentence, it makes planning, writing and delivering it so much easier!
- Know your script Assemblies and collective worship are as short as 10 minutes. You dont want to waste time with non-words (like umm or aaaah), or finding the right phrase to make your point. Write a script and memorise it, or make notes and get used to handling them and speaking at the same time.
- Know what you can leave out For many reasons, assemblies and collective worship often start late. Be sure you know what you can cut out to save time before it happens. This way you are able to react to a changing situation without any stress to you or the teachers responsible to getting students to their first lesson on time.
- Ask for notices to be given afterwards Notices can take a long time, and can, on occasion also mean a telling-off for the students from the head of year. Ask whoever your contact if is if you can go first so that you get maximum time, and dont get 200 year 9s in a bad mood because Mr. Smith has told them all off for their behaviour towards that new supply teacher.
- Master your Technology if youre using a projector and speakers to show a film clip or slides, you should know whether school have agreed to supply the equipment, or whether you are bringing your own. You should also bring all the cables you need (including the ones that school said they would supply) to make it work. You should also know how to recover your point if the technology doesnt work.
- Hand them back when theyre calm If youre doing to do anything that will cause students to get excited (telling jokes, quizzes, challenges etc.) then be sure to calm them down before the end of the assembly: teachers dont like it when they have an unsettled year group just before the bell for lesson 1 goes.
- Finish on time If you know the bell goes at 0905, finish at 0904. If you dont have a clock, bring one in with you, or use a smartphone and download a large-screen clock app (dont forget to turn it on to Airplane Mode so you dont receive calls etc. during assembly.
Inviting your school to your building for RE / Ethics & Philosophy lessons or collective worship / assemblies
If your church building is near your local high school, it may be possible to open it up for events such as Christmas services or assemblies / collective worship etc. Additionally, you might be able to offer to the RE or Ethics & Philosophy Department times for them to bring students to explore your building in preparation for some work on Christian symbols etc. This could be a brilliant opportunity to introduce young people to the building ahead of starting a new weeknight youth club. For more information, see our Weeknight Youth Provision page.
Support or start a Christian Union
Christian Unions can be a really positive way to support Christian students to find each other, read the bible, pray together, and share their faith with others. For resources to start a CU in your local school check out Scripture Unions SchoolsLive Resource by searching on their website and SchoolsworkUKs website. For CUs in 6 th Forms and Colleges, visit FESTIVEs website, or SchoolsworkUK.
Working pastorally in school
Once a healthy relationship has developed between a school and your church you may either be asked to run some pastoral work with students. This can take many shapes, from a listening space for students to talk about what is going on in their lives and its effect on them, to mentoring a student around their behaviour or academic performance, to leading a group around anger or self-esteem etc. Work like this often demands appropriate materials and / or training. For more information and resources around pastoral work in high schools, 6 th Forms and colleges contact Libby Leech, our 5-11s and Schools Enabler on email@example.com.
Chaplaincy is gaining popularity across schools, businesses and town-centres, and can be a brilliant way for Christians to make a positive difference in the lives of students and staff alike. For more information, see our chaplaincy page or contact Libby Leech, our 5-11s and Schools Enabler on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Churches may be tempted to think that work with young people in education will stop after age 16, but this is far from the case. 6th Forms & Colleges still have a responsibility for students spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, and need help with pastoral and therapeutic work, too. Many of the ideas for high schools will work with little adaptation for 6th forms and Colleges.
Sometimes a college or 6th Form will use Citizenship, RE or Ethics & Philosophy Days to address some of their SMSC agenda. Our friends at SchoolsworkUK (schoolswork.co.uk) and FESTIVE (festive.org.uk) have resources to offer that support days like this. Additionally, the RNG Team would love to support you in this work. Contact us email@example.com.
In addition, if you have the skills in your church, you could also support your local 6th Form or College with courses like Duke of Edinburgh, or offer placements for work experience either in church, or with congregation members in their workplace.
If you live near a university, organisations like FESTIVE, UCCF, Fusion (and their site Student Linkup), and SCM can support you to connect with students in your town. Explore these sites and see which ones work best for your churchmanship and sign up. Some organisations like SCM also run training courses to help you work out what to do.
Additionally, Revd David Cundill has responsibility for supporting ministry amongst 19-35s in the Diocese of Lichfield, and would be love to hear from you. To get in contact with him, visit the RNG 19-35s web pages or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supporting Students in Your Congregation - Attending university can be a significant time for change in the lives of our young people. Ideas to support soon-to-be students include:
- Cookery - gather your students and teach them to prepare 2-3 basic meals with the help of some of your churchs more experienced cooks.
- Budgeting encourage your students to finish university without a massive overdraft with a CAP Money Course for Students, or encourage them to take a class with You Need a Budget.
- Connect them to a Church and / or a CU near University Its more likely for students to continue following Jesus Christ if they find a church they can attend whilst at University. Before they head away, why not link them in to organisations like FESTIVE, UCCF, Fusion (and their site Student Linkup), and SCM to help their search for a church?
- Commission Them Talk to them about praying for them in the service before they head off to University. This can be a poignant moment for some, especially if they have grown up in church, and can be a great way of showing love and care for them. Be sure that they are comfortable with this, though: if they are extremely shy and wouldnt appreciate being up the front, find some other way to celebrate them.
- Remind them of Home Students value continuing connections at home. Appoint someone as a link person to get in touch with your students whilst they are away. Let them know church will be praying for them, that they can ask people back home to pray for specific things, and keep them in touch with the goings on of church: some churches do this by posting or emailing them a news-sheet each week, by sending regular post-cards or by someone visiting once a term for lunch.
- Welcome them back When your students come home for holidays its not uncommon for them to feel left out, so before they leave, connect them with a group they can come back to during the holidays.
Visit our Creating Teams section.
Christians Against Poverty CAPuk.org
FESTIVE - festive.org.uk
Hammond, J., & David Hay et al (1990) New Methods in RE Teaching: An Experiential Approach, Harlow: Oliver & Boyd.
Hay, D., & R. Nye (2006) The Spirit of the Child, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Prayer Spaces in Schools website www.prayerspacesinschools.com
Rowson, J., (2014) Spiritualise: Revitalising spirituality to address 21st century challenges, London: RSA accessed August 2017 at thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/spiritualise-revitalising-spirituality-to-address-21st-century-challenges.
Ryken, P.G. (2013) Christian Worldview: A Students Guide, Wheaton: Crossway.
Student Christian Movement (SCM) - http://www.movement.org.uk/
Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue (5th Edition), Downers Grove: IVP.
Youthscape (2017) Third Space Schools Ministry: Engage & Explore Christian Faith through Third Space, Luton: Youthscape. Available via www.youthscape.co.uk/store