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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.

 

 

 

PRAY FOR SCHOOLS

A few months ago, I was given five minutes in a church service to talk about education. What should I talk about? Ofsted was behaving badly at the time as the British values agenda kicked in.  I was writing about the surge in mental health problems in children. I was pondering how to address secular creep in the curriculum. There are so many aspects to my work that it seemed hard to choose just one. So here’s what I did.

I asked everyone to raise one hand. Then I asked everyone who had a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbour in full time education to put their hand down. A forest of raised hands disappeared. Next, I asked everyone who had someone in their family, or a neighbour, or who themselves worked in education, to lower their hand. Lots more hands went down. By the time I got to anyone who lived near a school or who knew the name of a local school, there were no hands left. It demonstrated that nobody is more than three steps from an education connection. Then I introduced the work of Pray for Schools.

The concept, like all great ideas, is blindingly simple – every school in the UK a prayed-for school. I had just proved that everyone could connect with a school, so it was logical to conclude that every school could be prayed for and that churches have a vital role in mobilising people to do so. After all, as Richard Longenecker reminds us, ‘Prayer is the natural atmosphere of God’s people’.

Schools are in the frontline battle for the hearts and minds of our children and young people. Just pause for a moment and visualise your local school or college cocooned in a prayer wrapper. Then visualise a bigger prayer wrapper encompassing our whole country.  Think what it might mean for the wellbeing of our children, our teenagers, our families and ultimately our society.

So what does Pray for Schools do? There are key dates across each school year around which events can be centred. These include Back to School with God at the start of the academic year; a global Pray Day for Schools in November, and a Pray for Schools fortnight in May. Resources are provided for all of these events and each group or church can decide where and when to pray and what resources are best to use in their own context. The website also offers a collection of many other resources to help you as you pray. These include prayer ideas and outlines, suggested letters and downloadable publicity, a video demonstrating a prayer walk and a leaflet outlining a Schools’ Ambassador project in Bristol.

Abraham Lincoln once said that he had been driven many times to his knees by the overwhelming conviction that he had absolutely no other place to go. And that’s why I chose to use those precious five minutes to talk about prayer – it’s the place where everyone can go. Groups or individuals can pray at any time, whether or not they are able to organise or promote an event. Everyone can encourage their church to pray for, and support, their local schools.

Pray for Schools asks those who pray or who organise events to let them know, so that they can offer support and encouragement – there’s an online form you can use to make contact. Imagine an interactive map of the UK light up as town after town, city after city, show that its schools are prayed-for schools. Then check out the website, talk to your church leaders, register with Pray for Schools, and start praying, trusting Christ’s promise that ‘whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24).

OPEN THE BOOK

Everyone loves a good story. We all love to tell them and we all love to listen to them. Story telling is the way we make sense of the world and our place in it. From TV news broadcasts, soaps and documentaries to social and print media, books and film, our lives are full of stories. Teachers, parents and carers alike all know the value of a good story.

The Bible is often described as the greatest story ever told – the story of God’s interaction with his world and its people. With 66 books and some 40 authors, it spans thousands of years of history from the beginning of our universe to the establishment of the Christian church. It even ends by talking about the eternal future of humanity – no other history book does that!  But the Bible isn’t just a history book. All of contemporary life is there in the stories – love, hate, jealousy, greed, families, sibling rivalry, heroism, bravery, friendship and self-sacrifice.

In 1999, a group of Christians in Bedford started telling these stories in school assemblies/acts of collective worship. But this was no dreary reading of the Bible. The stories were brought to life through interactive drama using mime, costume, props, puppets and sound effects. Children, and even staff, got involved. The concept became so popular that Open the Book became a national charity and, in 2013, part of the Bible Society. Thousands of children for whom the Bible might have remained a closed book have seen it come alive in front of them.

Open the Book is a three year rolling programme of themed and dramatised Bible story telling. Stories are from the child-friendly Lion Storyteller Bible written by the internationally known children’s storyteller Bob Hartman. Teams of volunteers formed from local churches provide assemblies at no charge to schools. Each story takes between 10 and 15 minutes to tell so it can stand alone or be incorporated into an assembly. There is also an introduction and conclusion for each story, a time of quiet reflection and the option of a prayer, carefully worded to respect the different backgrounds of all children present.

The strength of Open the Book is that the team will come weekly – this isn’t just a one-off visit. Storytellers are given the option to be trained and they stay within the legal requirements for collective worship – stories are simply presented without any teaching or application. Demands on the school are minimal and volunteers understand their role as invited guests in each school. There are several benefits to schools inviting a team to share with them, not least the fact that OFSTED and SIAS reports are very positive. It also gives an opportunity for local churches to work together, for schools to meet local Christians, and for children to hear stories which are important for them to know.

Children are overwhelmingly positive about Open the Book – many have never heard the stories before. They say that it seems as though the stories are really happening, that Open the Book is their favourite assembly each week and that they love seeing the teams in school.

If you work in a school, perhaps you could think about inviting a team into your school. If you love sharing Bible stories with children, perhaps you could become a trained volunteer. If you are part of a church, perhaps you could encourage your church to form an Open the Book team. Whoever you are and whatever your role, as a parent, governor, member of staff or a member of a local church, you could play a part. You only need to Google ‘Open the Book’ to see just how many schools are enjoying the opportunity.  Why not make your school one of them?

To find out more, visit the Open the Book website, which is full of information for schools, churches and volunteers. To get involved or if you have any questions , email the team at enquiries@openthebook.net