In or Out?

I’ve finally finished all of the lessons I was doing in our local secondary school. They were a completely mixed bag and I’m pleased to say that there were actually some more encouraging groups than the ones I mentioned in my previous entry, which is a good thing considering how appalled I was at some of those.

The best groups I had were actually the two lowest ability sets. The school had asked if I could do some shorter sessions with them as they would probably struggle to engage with the subject. The plan was to do 15-20 minutes with them and see how it went. It was the same teacher for both groups. Before the class began she mentioned that when she had told the group a Christian was coming in, they were threatening not to turn up. Tough crowd then! But they did turn up and it was a great experience. They knew that they were just going to have 15-20 minutes and if once that time was up they had lost interest, we’d call it a day.

I was in with both groups for the full hour. The questions just kept on coming and these kids really wrestled with the scenarios we were discussing, bringing in their own experiences, listening to each other and me and re-evaluating as they went along. They were the two easiest lessons I’d done and the most encouraging.

The teacher and the teaching assistant were made up. Apparently some of the kids in the group normally just give one word answers but during this lesson they really took off. It was a great feeling and a really fruitful day with three great consequences.

Firstly, the kids in both group said that I wasn’t what they had been expecting when they heard a Christian was coming in and that I was actually OK, even normal. So it’s great that their preconceived stereotypes have in some way been broken down.

Secondly, the teachers were really encouraged by the whole thing so this will hopefully open the door to be more involved in lessons at the school.

And thirdly, I got to explain the gospel and that’s really what it’s all about. Three birds, one stone!

I’ve also done two assemblies based around Easter. They were probably my most daring to date in terms of stating what the death and resurrection of Jesus means and I probably wasn’t quite as careful as I’m supposed to be in stating what I did. Schools tend to like it if you say something like, “as a Christian, I believe…” as opposed to “this is the way it is,” and I think there was definitely more of the latter. But it was a great chance to share the gospel and I was really pleased with how they went. One of the Christian teachers came up to me afterwards and asked to pray with me about what had been said and also about some things in her family life which was a real privilege. She said that next time I did an assembly it would be great to be prayed for up the front as she thinks it would be good for the kids to see. So in terms of schools work it’s been a good few weeks with plenty of encouragement.┬áMaybe things aren’t quite as bleak as they could be.

Just before I did all these lessons, a man from church asked me how the work was going in the local secondary. I told him that it wasn’t that great generally and things were a bit of struggle there. What he said struck a chord with me. He said that it’s interesting that the apostles did the majority of the their ministry outside of the church, but yet we tend to do most of ours inside the church, with those who already believe. It got me thinking about where our priorities should lie in terms of our ministry. Should we be focusing on the ones we’ve got, building them up an encouraging them or should we be more outsider focused, realising that people are living in spiritual darkness and we need to tell them what Jesus has done? It’s more comfortable on the inside, but maybe the real work needs to be done outside.

 

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Great is the Darkness

Over the last few days I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get in to our local secondary school to take a few lessons. The school have been doing some sessions on morality and they wanted to get a Christian in to talk a bit about the effects their faith has on their morality.

I was that Christian.

And very happy to be. I really love getting into the classroom with the students. It doesn’t matter what subject I get asked to speak on you can always guarantee some good discussion. In all honesty I tend to find that unchurched kids ask better questions than the kids in the church youth group. That’s why I love it. People are (for the most part) genuinely thinking through what you’re saying, evaluating it and coming back at you. I love it because, at the very least, it keeps me on my toes instead of getting comfortable and at best it’s a great opportunity to get the gospel into a generation that is growing up with almost no knowledge of Jesus whatsoever.

The basic outline for my lessons was to get the students to define what morals are before brainstorming where we get our ┬ámorals from and how they’re formed. Then I would explain a little about where I get my morals from as a Christian and give some basic governing principles that are always in my mind – basically love God and love your neighbour, and how all of God’s commands basically come back to those two ideas. Then I would hand out some scenarios for them to discuss in groups before they fed their thoughts back. I would then be able to explain my response to the situations from a Christian perspective, pointing to some relevant verses and drawing on the 10 commandments as I knew they had already covered those in class. We could then have some discussion around that.

So I did the lessons and I enjoyed them, as I always do, but I have to say I also found them deeply disturbing. At the risk of sounding like an old man, “where are these kids morals”? I was really shocked at the general attitude to the moral dilemmas and I was even shocked that I was shocked by it. I began to wonder whether I’d been working in the church too long, insulated from the reality of the outside world. It just saddened me to hear some of the attitudes to the dilemmas.

The scenarios touched on things like stealing music, drugs, lying in court and abortion and I was shocked at some of the responses. The general attitude was that stealing is OK if you can get away with it and the people are rich, drugs are fine as long as it doesn’t effect me, you can do what you think is wrong if it’s part of your job and abortion is no big deal. The blase attitude that some of the kids talked about abortion as “yeh I’d just kill it,” was just horrific.

Of course when I put some real faces to situations some of their attitudes changed or they at least began to see other points of view to the situations. No-one was happy for poorer people to steal from them, that was out of order. It’s a bit different when the shoes on the other foot. The school also has a special needs school within it’s site and I posed a question or two about who has the right to judge someone’s quality of life as being deserving enough of life or not. The kids in the special needs school all have varying levels of disability and differing qualities of life so I posed the question; where is the cut off point? What boxes need to be ticked before you say no this child won’t have a good quality of life, therefore abortion is preferable.

I think working primarily amongst Christians, flawed though we all are, has lulled me into a a bit of a false sense of security. It’s easy to look around at the church and think ‘yeh, we’re all sinners but we’re not that bad.’ The Holy Spirit is at work in the church and has changed people to be more Christ-like. We’re all far from perfect but people are generally moving forward and becoming more like Christ. When this is what you see all the time, you start to assume that most people are like that, that there are basic levels of morality and even humanity out there.

And of course there are, but there’s also a lot of darkness. Hearing those kids during these lessons drew the community of the church into sharp relief with that of society. It reminded me just how bleak a state the world is in, how sinful it is, how no-one really loves God or their neighbour and what darkness and evil these young people are living their lives in.

The cross has never looked more important.

There is a plus side to all this though. It certainly made me look at the kids in our church youth group through different eyes. It’s so easy to look at some of them and be disappointed and frustrated that they don’t seem to be maturing or ‘getting it’ but when you look at their lives and attitudes next to some of those I’ve witnessed in the last few days God has clearly brought them a long way. It’s an encouragement to see how distinct some of them really are.

As I talked about this with some of my colleagues, one of them also pointed out that the fact that the darkness in the school grieved me so much was a testament to my own walking in the light. And I suppose that’s true. As the Holy Spirit works in us more and more our priorities and values should start to align with God’s. We should love those that God loves and be grieved by the things that grieve God. A personal positive then.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done in that school.