Tag Archives: Church role

iSingPOP

 

          

People describe the value of singing in all sorts of ways – mood enhancing, energising, a way of increasing feelings of well being, and a vehicle for developing self confidence are just a few of them. Group singing brings people together and fosters a sense of community. You can laugh, you can have fun and you can learn new skills in a safe environment. Just watch any of Gareth Malone’s ‘The Choir’ series to see all of this, and much more, in action. Singing is a physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual experience. And as Ella Fitzgerald said, the only thing better than singing is more singing.

So how exciting would it be for your school, your community and your church to be brought together through singing? That’s exactly what iSingPOP offers. Part of the Christian charity Innervation Trust, iSingPOP is a Primary school singing project that uses the entire school to produce its very own pop CD. Children spend 4 days learning and recording the songs, then perform them a week later to the entire community at a concert hosted by the local church.

All iSingPOP tutors are experienced in working with children. They will offer a structured experience during which children learn not only lyrics and actions, but also singing techniques, performance skills and dance routines. Lyrics, which are written from a Christian perspective, are full of positive content that help children grow in friendship, hope, peace and compassion. They cover important subjects like love, prayer, respect, role models, social justice and forgiveness. You can check out some song previews here.

The experience will include 3 days of tutor led music teaching during which children will learn the songs; an exciting recording session using a sound engineer and a mobile recording studio; the dress rehearsal and whole school concert with full PA and equipment provided, and finally the opportunity to purchase your own school CD.

Download the Schools Pack to find out more, including a detailed breakdown of costs and timings. But the benefits don’t stop there. The availability of backing tracks allows schools and churches to continue singing the songs and talking about their messages long after tutors and the mobile studio have packed up and moved on.

I recently spent a couple of days with some amazing people from iSingPOP. Their enthusiasm, their commitment and their sheer energy (even at the end of an exhausting week) were infectious: to say that I was really excited by the potential of iSingPOP at several levels is an understatement. But don’t just take my word for it – check out their feedback comments from schools, parents, churches and various Diocesan Boards of Education.

Never mind about Britain’s Got Talent or The Voice. Become part of your own, much better, iSingPOP experience – better because it will be yours, an experience that children, families and the church community will never forget.

 

 

 

CHRISTIAN FAITH IN A LEARNING COMMUNITY

Earlier this year, I conducted a survey to find out what Christians working in education thought about a range of issues. Here are the results from the 59 respondents.

The first two statements considered the purpose of work. Work is part of God’s design for me drew a positive response (strongly/agree) from 94.5%. Just 2% disagreed, with 3.5% not sure. I’m fulfilling God’s purpose for my life through my work drew 90% strongly/agree, with 10% not sure.

Some people, however, saw a distinction between paid employment and the work which they do for God, as if the former is necessary to provide an income but the latter is what we are really all about as Christians. Well, God doesn’t see a sacred/secular division in our work – that’s a false dualism created by human thinking. Genesis 1:1 tells us that ‘In the beginning, God created’ and Jesus said that this wasn’t a one-off work activity: ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day and I, too, am working.’ (John 5:17). ]

It follows that if we are created in, and bear the image of a God who works, then all our work is designed and valued by God, whether it’s paid employment or voluntary church work. ‘First and foremost’, writes Tom Nelson, ‘work is not about economic exchange … but about God-honouring human creativity and contribution’ (Work Matters). We’re all in full time work.

The next two statements were concerned with the effect of work: Work-based stress is affecting my faith and Demands of work reduce the time I can spend on church activities. 23% felt that their faith was affected by work-based stress (12% not sure: 55% strongly/disagreed). 87% said that the demands of teaching affected the time they spent on church activities, and some commented that it also impacted adversely on the time they had to spend with their families.

So for anyone who has chosen to teach, in the knowledge that it’s a lifestyle choice not just a job, here’s a thought. The Hebrew work for work is avodah. The Hebrew word for worship is avodah. The Hebrew word for service is also avodah. So, your work is your worship is your service: your contribution to nurturing the world that God created for us and your means of glorifying God. Don’t worry about the church work that you don’t have time to do – you’re glorifying God right where you are all day.

The place of faith in workplace relationships came next: I don’t talk about my faith at work and My faith informs how I interact with others. 86% do talk about their faith at work, although with the proviso from some that they include other faiths in their conversation. One person also commented that he would love to talk about his faith more, but nobody is particularly interested.

However, when it came to walking the talk, there was 100% agreement that faith affects the way they interact with others. Is being a Christian teacher, though, only about smiling a lot, taking assemblies and being the best behaved person in the building? The next three statements tried to establish the place of faith in what is taught.

I think about the spiritual and moral dimensions of what I teach (96% strongly/agree: 4% disagree), It’s important for biblical truths to be connected to overall learning (78% strongly/agree: 15% not sure: 7% strongly/disagree) and I understand the impact of secularism on contemporary culture (85% strongly agree: 12% not sure: 3% disagree). So while nearly all Christian teachers think about the spiritual and moral dimensions of what they teach, less think that biblical truth should be connected to learning – another dichotomy.

Yet, if the Bible is, as John Shortt describes it, ‘the place in which we live, move and have our being’ (Bible-shaped Teaching), then surely biblical principles must underpin all that we teach? What other way is there to counter the secular creep in the curriculum of which the vast majority of Christian teachers are clearly aware? Reading John’s book Bible-shaped Teaching is a good starting place to explore the issue. Look, too, at What If Learning – a new way of teaching by embedding Christian virtues in the curriculum.

Finally, the survey sought views on how supportive churches are of their teachers and of education: I am well supported by my church. 77% strongly/agreed, with one person commenting that they would value being able to spend time with other Christian teachers. That means 23% don’t feel supported – clearly churches have some way to go on this. If you are in such a church, introduce your leaders to Supporting Christians in Education – a book packed full of practical advice for church leaders.

Thank you to all those who took time to answer the survey. I’ll be writing more about the issues that were raised in future blogs, particularly regarding the work of churches. Meanwhile, as you take Christ into your teaching and learning community this week ‘May the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will and may he work in us what is pleasing to him’ (Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

PRAYER SPACES IN SCHOOLS

What is Prayer Spaces in Schools?

It’s a project of 24-7 Prayer which is accountable to 24-7 Prayer’s oversight team and Trustees. It’s a resource hub to support, resource and encourage the rapidly growing network of prayer space practitioners who run prayer or reflective spiritual spaces in schools. A small team manages the website, encourages the sharing of resources, supports local networks and training workshops, and keeps the prayer space community connected.

 

What is a prayer space?

Prayer spaces enable children and young people, whether or not they have a faith, to explore the big questions relating to their identity and the purpose, meaning and experiences of their lives. A prayer space usually pops up in a classroom or similar space for a few days. Activities encourage those who are taking part to reflect on issues such as forgiveness, injustice and thankfulness. Some schools bring classes to a prayer space for a lesson, while other schools offer the opportunity as a voluntary time and space for personal and spiritual reflection.

The website is the best place to start exploring what prayer spaces are and how they are organised – it includes an excellent section on Values and a video in which chaplains, students and staff explain how a prayer space can support spiritual life.

 

How have students responded to prayer spaces?

With great enthusiasm! They comment on the peace, the stillness and the chance to reflect. They sometimes surprise themselves by their reflections and the realisation of how many different ways there are to pray. They are willing to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and often children want to take their parents to the prayer space, too, so that they can share in the experience. Above all, they value the personal time and the safe emotional space that is so lacking in other areas of their lives.

 

Are Heads and staff happy to host a prayer space?

Feedback from heads and teachers is overwhelmingly positive. They talk about the quality of the interaction between adults and children, the opportunity for children to find a voice, the value in bringing the school community together in a shared experience and the benefit of time to be still and reflect. Some staff have noticed the difference it is making to individual pupils and several schools have benefited so much that they want to create a permanent prayer space.

The contribution to the RE and PSHE curricula (RME and Health and Wellbeing in Scotland) is valued by teachers, parents and governors of all faiths and none as activities are in line with government guidelines and meet the statutory requirement to support the spiritual, moral and social development of pupils.

 

Can anyone run a prayer space?

Yes, if you want to serve your local school community and contribute to the spiritual and pastoral development of students. Talking to a local support network would be a good idea if you want to know more. Check out the Getting Started page of the website and read some of the stories to get a feel for how prayer spaces work.

 

So how would I go about starting one?

Prayer spaces work best when they are part of the ongoing spiritual and pastoral life of a school, so if you want to start a prayer space, you need to think about any relationships that already exist – maybe your church with a local school, or you with staff or governors. To facilitate a prayer space, you will need to meet with someone in the school who has responsibility either for RE or school leadership. That’s where any connections you, or your church or youth worker have with a school comes in. When you have arranged a meeting, check out the Serving the School Community section of the Prayer Spaces website, which gives you detailed information about what to take to an initial meeting and what to talk about.

 

What do I do next if the school wants to go ahead?

The Prayer Spaces in Schools website is an amazing resource. It’s crammed full of the advice and support you will need as you embark on all the hard work and planning, including Choosing the Prayer Activities Recruiting and Training a Team and Publicity and Preparation. There’s a section on the exciting bit – Running your Prayer Space and finally What Next? – supporting the ongoing spiritual life of the school community with which you are in relationship through your prayer space.

Finally, don’t forget to register your prayer space. It’s easy to overlook but it’s a very important step. Not only will it keep you in touch with resources and stories from others, it will allow the organisation to track where prayer spaces are popping up around the world and to keep you connected with others, maybe in your area, who are involved in their schools. Registration is all about getting, and staying, connected in the prayer space community.