Praying For Schools Really Works

After posting my last blog regarding praying for our local secondary school, I received a message from an old school friend which I think is a real encouragement to be praying for the school. I’ve reproduced the edited highlights here, with his permission and with the names disguised for privacy reasons.

“Hi Paul! 

…the thing that spurred me on to get in touch was reading about your initiative for praying for your local school – what a great idea! I don’t know if you were aware of this, but there was a similar group that met to pray for our school about 10 years ago (when we were young whipper-snappers!). 

I used to go along to these meetings, along with a couple of other people, and I can remember that we once had a brainwave to pray for members of staff there, so I mentioned Miss P, my form tutor at the time in year 10/11. (If you can’t remember her, she was the R.E. teacher with blonde hair). At the time, she wasn’t a christian (AH asked her if she was once, to which she replied “Er…. no, definitely not!”), and we decided to pray that God would work in her life, and that she might hear the gospel and be saved. We did this a few times, and then to be honest, I think we kind of forgot about it…

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of going back into our school to speak in the CU, and guess what? Miss P  tells me that she became a christian just after we left the sixth form!!! Isn’t God good?!!

Another thing I remember is a guy in the year above us called L coming along to the CU. At the time, I think he came along because it was a good place to meet people and have a bit of fun, although again, he wouldn’t have called himself a christian. Again, he was one of the guys we prayed for at those meetings, and again, God faithfully answered our prayers – he heard the gospel at uni and was saved as a student!

Can I just encourage you with these two examples to pray expectantly for your school? You may not see answers to prayer immediately (although God is God, and He can do what He likes, so He may surprise you!), but be assured that He is powerful, and that prayer works!

By the way, your high school CU is in good company; our CU got banned from eating food in classrooms in 2003 immediately after an evangelistic meeting with free donuts!!! (Sounds familiar!) Similarly, it caused attendance to plummet, and again, it was very much an issue that we prayed about as a CU, and as part of that prayer meeting. I think in the end, after much prayer, we wrote a letter to Mr G explaining our predicament, and asking for exemption for the CU to be able to eat in classrooms. At first, this was fiercely refused by the powers that be, although about a week later, I was called to a meeting with Mr L and Mr G, where they said that they’d had a change of heart, and would give us permission to eat in classrooms! Bearing in mind the resistance that we’d previously faced, I still believe that was a clear example of God’s hand at work, and a real life (albeit mini!) miracle! 

So yeah, one thing I learned at our school is that God really is faithful and that he does answer prayer! (A much more useful lesson than Maths with Mrs W, in my opinion! :P) Do press on with praying for your school, even if there are only a few of you (there were 3 – 5 people at our one), and see what God does!

God Bless

Andrew”

What a great encouragement for us to hear as we start to think about praying for our local school. I hope that encouragement like this will lead us to come to prayer expectantly and trusting that God will open doors for the gospel.

Praying For Our Local Secondary School

One area of my work that I’ve never really felt like I’ve been able to get on top of, is working in our local secondary school. I feel like the school has become a bit of burden to me, not in the sense that I dislike working there, but in the sense that it feels like we’ve made very few in roads there and have constantly been knocked back.

In some ways, we’re incredibly lucky as a church to have as much involvement in the school as we do. The school is very open to using us and other churches to give assemblies and to come in to speak in religious education lessons. These are undoubtedly great opportunities but they’re also very hit and run, with no real chance to build any momentum. Having done a number of lessons there, I’ve seen first hand the spiritual darkness that seems to engulf so many of the young people, something I previously blogged about here.

There are very few lights shining in the school right now.

There was a very small Christian Union when I arrived but it eventually fizzled out and died. We managed to reboot it in late 2011 and we saw a great number of non-Christians coming along, mainly due to the enticement of free doughnuts and juice, but whatever their motivations, they were still being exposed to the gospel. However, it wasn’t long until the school banned us from bringing food in with us and number soon dropped again until we were left with only 1 or 2 people attending. The reasons given were mixed but I guessed that there was likely some anti-Christian feeling further up the chain of command which had put pay to our work. After a promising start, it felt like all the doors had suddenly been shut. With such a large amount of unreached young people right on our doorstep and having seen the vastness of the spiritual poverty there, I’m left feeling pretty dejected about the situation there as well as feeling alone in my efforts & desire to see any real change. But with all this in mind, I’ve come up with a solution.

We’re going to pray for young people in that school.

And I mean we’re going to pray for them regularly. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the church. If we want to see God make a difference in the lives of those young people, we have to be prepared to pray for them more than twice a year at First Priority. That’s why I’m starting a weekly prayer meeting for the school, where members of the church family who feel the same way I do will come together to pray for that school.

Only prayer will open doors in the school

I don’t know what we’re going to pray for, I don’t know how long the meeting will last or even where or when it will take place, and I don’t have any plans regarding what this will lead to. All I know is that if we pray for that school, and I mean really pray and are faithful in it, God will open those doors. I don’t know how, but He will. He’s the only one who can.

That’s why if you’re a member of my church and you’re reading this, I want you to come and pray with me. Like I said, I don’t even have a venue or a date yet, although I know it would most likely have to be a daytime thing. But if you want to get behind this as a church then get in touch with me. Comment on this post and tell me when a convenient meeting time would be for you, or message me back on Facebook which I’m hoping you’ve been directed here from. Once I have some people on board we’ll start praying and let God do the rest.

Please don’t let apathy stop you from getting involved in this. As Leo Buscaglia said:

“I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”

If we really loved these people, we’d pray for them. Apathy only shows our lack of any real love for these young people. So let’s step up our game as a church and get behind this.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Terminator Salvation – What Would The Terminator Make Of Jesus?

Below is a rough script I used for a Christmas assembly at our local secondary school. I didn’t follow it exactly but used it as more of a springboard to jog my memory and keep track. Hope it entertains and enlightens.

“As Christmas approaches you’ve probably already heard or you will do soon, plenty of people saying something like “it’s important to remember the true meaning of Christmas.” People will say that “Christmas isn’t just about getting lots of presents and eating too much. It’s a time for family and friends, remembering all the great things we’ve got to be thankful for and things like that.”

Maybe some of you’ll go to a carol service at a church and someone will say something like “it’s important we remember the true meaning of Christmas. It isn’t just about getting lots of presents and eating too much or even just about family and friends and remembering all the great things we’ve got to be thankful for. No the real meaning of Christmas is to remember the birth of Jesus.” You’ve probably heard things like that plenty of times before.

But the problem with leaving it at that, is that it doesn’t really tell us why we should be bothered about that and so it’s easy for us to misunderstand why Jesus was born. I’m going to show you a video from the American series Mad TV, which is a parody of Terminator 2. And in the video, the Terminator has been sent back in time to the night of Jesus’ birth with orders to protect him.

In the video, the Terminator doesn’t understand why Jesus was born and so it does everything it can to protect Jesus from any harm, including shooting the Roman soldiers and killing Judas so that he won’t be able to  betray Jesus. And it doesn’t seem able to grasp the fact that Jesus is supposed to die to save his people from their sins, despite Jesus’ best efforts to try and make it understand.

And that kind of shows us why simply saying that Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus isn’t really enough. If we don’t understand that Jesus came to die to save others, then we miss the point and Christmas doesn’t really make any sense. But often we don’t really think of the baby Jesus as the same Jesus who died on the cross all those years later. But the Bible is very clear from the beginning that Jesus is on a rescue mission. When an angel appears to Joseph he says “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

So right from the start, even from before Jesus was born, it was clear that he had come to save people. Even the name Jesus means “The Lord Saves.” And that’s why Christmas is important, because it’s the time that we remember that God has sent a rescuer into the world to save us.

Imagine that you’re climbing a mountain, isolated from anywhere else and miles and miles from anyone else. You’ve been climbing for ages and ages and you’re exhausted from the struggle of the climb. And as you take another step up the icy mountain, you lose your footing and you slip and you fall down the mountain, landing heavily on your leg a little way further back down cliff. After being dazed for a few seconds you try and stand but  as you do, excruciating pain shoots through your leg and you collapse. As you look down at your leg, you realise that it’s broken. You know this isn’t good as there’s no way you can get  down off the mountain by yourself. You fumble in your backpack for your phone and locating equipment but as you pull it out of your bag you see that all of it has been broken in the fall. You’ve got a flare but you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of anyone seeing it are miniscule. It begins to get dark and you do your best to create a little snow hole, but in your weakened condition, it’s not really the best shelter you could have made and as the darkness sets in the cold really begins to bite. You have a little bit of food and water which you decide to ration, just in case, but you know that it won’t last you long, another day at most. Feeling hopeless, you drift in and out of sleep.

Bu then in the morning you’re woken by the sound of someone calling your name, not far from where you are. You cry out and moments later a man appears at the entrance to your snow hole, wearing a search and rescue jacket. He says “I knew you were out here, so when you didn’t come back I came to find you. I’ve searched every inch of this mountain but now I’ve found you.” You can’t describe how happy you feel. You were sure that you were going to die but now you know you’re going to be OK. And you cheer and shake the man’s hand and hug him. And with that the man picks you up and carries you back down the mountain to safety.

And we’re told that that’s what Jesus came to do. He came to rescue us because we couldn’t help ourselves. And that’s why we remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas, because it’s like that man appearing in the entrance to your snow hole. It’s the arrival of a rescuer when all hope seemed lost. And because he came to rescue us we want to welcome him with joy and celebration, just like we would the man on the mountain.

If you want to know what Christmas is really all about, it’s the first step in a rescue mission for all mankind, which is completed by Jesus’ death on the cross.

So this Christmas, why not try and find some time to think about how you might welcome your rescuer.”

Pizza & Jesus Anyone?

The Christian Union at our local secondary school died a bit of a death last year. With a grand attendance of zero, I felt it was best to pull the plug for a while. After all, there were probably better things I could be doing with my Wednesday lunch times than sitting alone in a slightly dilapidated classroom, wondering how long I would have to wait before it became acceptable for me to go and sign out at the reception desk without getting an odd look from the receptionist (for those interested it’s about 12 minutes).

Looking back, I’m convinced it was a good idea to let the ground lie fallow for a while. Last year was a bit hectic for a number of reasons and to try and pioneer a new group would have probably been a bit of a strain. But with the advent of a new school year and a bit more man power, I thought it’d be worth having another crack.  So the curate and I put our heads together and had a think. We thought to ourselves “what is it that kids with a limited lunch time want out of that lunch time these days?” and of course the answer we came up with was “Jesus!” Then we came to our senses and realised that neither of us were quite that out of touch with reality and that the actual answer was more like “food, drink & enough sugar to finish off a diabetic just by looking at it.”

With that in mind, we decided to do pizza and drinks each week, along with a short talk about Jesus and a chance to ask questions. The groups main focus would be evangelistic and we hoped that the free food and drink would be suitably enticing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the gospel needs a hook to hang it on, but in my experience, kids really like pizza, especially if it’s good pizza and with a Dominos just around the corner, we’d be missing a trick not to capitalise on it. Not to mention that the combination of pizza and Jesus is clearly awesome, as demonstrated by the photo below.

Someone order an Almighty Meaty & a Pepperoni Passion of the Christ?

So we decided to give it a go. The first week would just be a social in order to (hopefully) get to know some of the kids before really getting cracking. I spread the word amongst some of our young people and told them to bring their friends along. After all, they were gonna get free food and drink, that had to be an attractive offer. As Wednesday lunchtime approached, we headed to the school with pizza and drinks in hand along with a slight sense of trepidation. Would anyone turn up? What if we were overrun and couldn’t meet demand? It was a bit scary, but with no CU running for the last year, we didn’t really have anything to lose either.

Our local secondary school has two lunch breaks, both lasting 30 minutes (whatever happened to a lunch hour?!) and with different parts of the school being present at each. The first lunch rolled around and we had 6 kids turn up, which was great. At the second lunch, we had about 20. They all wanted to know why we were doing it and we were completely up front and told them that this was the new CU and that if they wanted to come along each week we’d be talking to them about Jesus. Most of them seemed happy with that and it was great that doing some lessons with classes last year meant that I had already crossed paths with some of them before. One kid even asked me how he would go about getting baptised!! I told him to keep coming along and we’d see how it went.

So our second meeting will be this Wednesday. Will anyone turn up this time, knowing that we’re going to be talking about Jesus? Who knows? Our first week was more successful than we could have hoped for. All we can do is keep praying that they will come back and that they’ll have the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

Christians to the Lions

I’ve just had the pleasure of doing 8 “Christians to the Lions” sessions in the local secondary school. For those of you not familiar with the format, it’s the same thing as a “Grill a Christian” session, where a number of Christians are grilled about any and every aspect of their faith.

This is the second year I’ve done this and it’s by far my favourite part of being involved in schools work. You will most likely never get a better opportunity to tell the gospel clearly in school than you do in these sessions. It’s worth doing the sessions for that one question by itself. Who knows what seeds might be sown?

It’s also just great fun. Well, it’s what I call fun. I love the fact that you have no idea what question is going to come next and it’s a great way to keep you on your toes. I had a great time doing some apologetics and it just reminded me how much I enjoy that side of things. It’s also great to see some of the young people clearly thinking deeply and reflecting on what is being said. Obviously there are always going to be those who are out to mock or try and throw you a curveball but that doesn’t bother me. It’s quite amusing when someone asks a question that they think is going to embarrass or throw you and you just reply, completely unfazed by it. They always look so disappointed.

But although that is quite good fun, it’s not really the prime reason to be there. Like I said, the best thing is the seeds that get sown. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time and that nothing is going in, but God’s word is never wasted.