The Department for Children and Young People is refreshing its initiative to encourage congregations across the Diocese to take the fruitful but sometimes neglected opportunity of engaging with schools in their communities.
John Swainston, Director of Education, has in the last few months visited each deanery chapter meeting to share the vision. He says:
Our prayer for this initiative is to see many more churches actively involved in schools lives. Beyond supporting these relationships - whether they exist already or are there to be made - we will be working to boost the Curates in Schoolsscheme and to re-launch Be the Link (more news soon) to recruit, train and commission lay volunteers.
Churches can make a huge difference to schools. For example, state schools are required by law to provide acts of collective worship of a broadly Christian character every day. Similarly, religious education at primary school level is supposed to reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are, in the main, Christian.
Unfortunately, amongst so many other pressures, schools do not often have the resources to make spiritual life a priority. Assisting with RE and assemblies is just one of many ways a congregation can work with a school relieving it of some pressure and getting onto its agenda these great opportunities to reach children.
The Gospel is forever breaking down boundaries and for our churches to be the bringers of good news in our communities, we have to look outwards to make relationships, says Ecumenical Partnerships Adviser, Chris Dobson. Schools are given such a significant role in the life of an area we should be looking to support and enrich those roles.
Stepping outside familiar patterns of mission can be daunting though. Over the next few months, the department will be putting together a brochure of case-studies, full of great examples of ideas to begin and grow relationships, support schools, and bring children, parents and staff into the life of the church in different ways. There will also be training events alongside the availability of the Childrens and Youth Work adviser, Dan Jones.
Of the initiative, Bishop Mike says There are so many ways churches can be involved with schools and the Diocese already has lots of great examples. This kind of growth for God's Kingdom may look very different in different places - lets make sure were on the lookout for all opportunities so we can better nurture them.