Posts Tagged ‘The gospel’

This is an excellent series of clips debating some of the issues around the gospel, social justice and the mission of the church.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

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I am a physician with but one medicine to prescribe, and that is the gospel of Christ. It may need to be applied in various ways, various aspects of it may need to receive the right emphasis, and it may need to be administered in the right form. But only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal the deepest wounds of the human heart and enable us to prosper according to God’s design, bringing glory to our Lord.

So says Bill Kynes on a recent Gospel Coalition posting. See his article in full here. There is no more important treasure to our own souls, and to those to whom we minister, than the wonderful, saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Somebody once asked me why I feel the need to preach the gospel in every sermon on a Sunday. My answer? “Because we forget it every day of the week and we need to be reminded of its necessity and our personal need of returning to it again and again.”

Have a great, gospel centred  day today.

Many of you know that I was present at the T4G conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Those who know me well are aware that I am not the world’s biggest conference fan but, thanks to the generosity of people at 9Marks, I went along. Over the next week or so I want to do a small series of posts on the various messages I heard and how I think they apply to my context here in Niddrie. I hope people find them beneficial.

PART I: Thabiti Anyabwile

TITLE: Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?

TEXT: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

So, I have never had the privilege of hearing this brother preach before. I have read his book on, “What is a Healthy Church Member” (and, indeed, we have studied it as a congregation). His message had three parts (why wouldn’t it?):

  1. The Great Change in 1 Life
  2. The Great Cause of That Change
  3. The Great Celebration of That Change

The Great Change in 1 Life

Thabiti reminded us that Paul was an anti-Christian and an anti-church terrorist (Acts 7:54ff, Acts 8:1ff). He indiscriminately persecuted men, women and children (Acts 9:1-2). Paul wanted the job of chief persecutor and he always took the initiative when it came to hinting down and persecuting followers of the way. The Apostle recalls this in Acts 22:3ff and in Acts 26:9ff he tells of how far he went to wipe out Christians. Why does Paul recall these events so vividly? Because sin had left a crimson stain.

Application for us – We need to have confidence in the gospel to change anybody. This is a timely reminder to those of us who work in schemes with some of the most depraved and difficult people. They seem so hostile to us, the message and our whole way of life. Yet, we must not lose hope in the power of the gospel to transform. Paul was a nightmare because he was lost. That is why people behave as they do. They, too, are just as lost and they need repentance above anything else in their lives.

The Great Cause of That Change

  • The gospel supplied his need by giving him mercy (v13). Grace was poured out upon him (v14). All of this “given in Christ”.
  • The gospel is trustworthy and rest in the fact that it can bear the full weight of our confidence. Trust it.
  • The gospel reaches the worst of sinners and makes them trophies of his grace (v16). This is an examples so that others may believe. Our testimonies are important as long as they glorify Christ.

Application for us – Need I say it? It is the gospel which truly transforms and any deviation from it will provide false converts. In areas which can get caught up in dire social needs, we must put the gospel front and centre in all that we do. We must encourage one another to share our stories because they have the ability to impact many lives around us.

The Great Celebration of That Change

So, what does all this look like?

  1. We should be around the worst of sinners and constantly seek opportunities to share it.
  2. We should share the gospel slowly and clearly. Unchain it.
  3. We should redirect our fear from man to God. we should seek to be faithful more than fruitfulness (especially true for those of us who work in “slow burn” areas like this).
  4. We should preach the gospel in every sermon. Remember God has only 1 message – Jesus Christ!
  5. Be careful with evangelism and new converts. Not all conversions are the same and so we shouldn’t push for universality in how God calls and saves people.
  6. Study the gospel in deep and various ways. It can never be exhausted!
  7. Preach to open eyes (Acts 26:18). In other words, seek to draw people to the light.
  8. Where is our confidence? is it in our study, our prep, our prayers, our intelligence and our strategies? Or is it in the gospel?
  9. Rely on God’s power (1 Cor. 2:5). Ask the spirit to help us and to give us unction and the words so that people would turn to Christ.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This should be both our opening and closing prayer as we work in this hard field. May God help us to renew and rediscover our glorious hope found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

by Mike Stark (Youth & School’s Worker for NCC)

I recently attended “Deep Impact”, Scotland’s National Christian Youth Work Conference in Aviemore. I came back refreshed, inspired and excited about all the work ahead. I’ve got a lot to reflect on over the next couple of weeks: the people I met, the things I learned, and truths I just needed to digest. Since I got back last Sunday, whenever possible, I’ve been re-reading my notes and musing, thinking about how to apply some of these things to our Youth and Children’s work in Niddrie.

Gavin Calver, YFC

The whole theme of the conference was to ‘Boldly go…‘ encouraging Youth and Children’s workers to be bold in their lives and ministries for Jesus. The main speaker for the weekend was Gavin Calver, head of Youth For Christ in the UK, who seems to be a bit of a ‘have-a-go hero’ in evangelism – the kind of man normal people don’t want to sit next to on a long haul flight. During one of the seminars, Gavin talked about the Three Stories model of evangelism as a particularly good way to engage post modern people in a biblical way.

Three Story Evangelism is about connecting stories… three of them as you have probably guessed: me and my story, Christ and His story, and finally them and their story. The idea is to find connections between you and them, therefore connecting an unbeliever’s life and story to Christ and His story.

Image: Long Green Baptist Church

The more these stories and lives connect and the more we have in common, the better. This model also stresses the importance of nurturing our ‘connection‘ with Christ in evangelism even more than we would look to nurture our ‘connection’ with a lost world. So, our relationship with Jesus is of first importance in evangelism.

I confess I’m not always the boldest in my evangelism. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that because I’m not a gifted evangelist, I can leave the evangelism to others. Ellis is, on the other hand, a gifted evangelist – he’s bold as brass when it comes to sharing his faith – and so his gifts are complimentary to my own. However, that aside, every Christian has a role in evangelism, in sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost and dying world, and the three stories model is a very simple approach to use. In fact, most of us have probably used it without even thinking about it because it’s an approach that Jesus used in the Bible.

In John chapter 4, we read the extraordinary story of the woman at the well. Here, I’m taking for granted Christ’s ‘connection’ with his Father, and we will look at how he engages with the woman and her story. Jesus is tired, his disciples have gone into town to buy food, and he says to the woman “Will you give me a drink?”

What does Jesus have in common with this Samaritan woman? Well, they’re in the same place at the same time: Jesus needs a drink and the woman is equipped to draw water. And so Jesus throws social conventions (v.9) out the window to establish a relationship with this lost individual. From a very simple conversation starter, Jesus goes on to share some very profound truths with this woman. He cuts to the core of the woman’s idolatries (men, relationships, sex and intimacy) and brings the gospel to bear in her life. She is so profoundly changed that she forgets her shame (v.6-7), returns to her community and shares the good news there (v.28-30).

I was up at the gym last week with Mez and Andy. As I sat in the sauna thinking about all this, I decided I’d give it a go, so I asked the man next to me a question about the gym (seeing as I was in on a guest pass). This developed into, admittedly, a relatively superficial conversation ranging from golf, TV packages, and the recession, on to my job as a church youth worker. OK, he didn’t repent of his sins and put his trust in Jesus, but it was a little conversation that could have gone anywhere. And it’s important to recognise that it could have gone nowhere: if people don’t want to talk (as most in a sauna won’t!) pursuing conversation isn’t going to do us any favours.

How does all this relate to evangelism among young people in a housing scheme in Niddrie? Nearly every single Gospel opportunity I’ve had in the past 4 years has come because I’m in relationship with a young person. Although I still get opportunities, especially through my chaplain role at the high school, to stand in front of a class, house, or an entire year group and share the Gospel, but the only conversation I can remember off the back of one of these was a little chat with a girl about bullying. Yet, when I’m involved in a young persons life, as they see me day after day, and hear little bits of my story, that’s where the majority of my Gospel conversations come – it’s at these moments that I’m striking gold.

There are some really exciting things happening in the youth work at NCC just now. There are lots of little pockets of young people interested in finding out more about Christianity because of conversations they’ve had with us. We have a little group of girls going through the Christianity Explored ‘Soul’ DVD series, one of whom’s been coming to church every week for about 3 months and it’s really cool seeing her understanding of the Gospel grow. I’m doing ‘Soul‘ with 2 young men in our one-2-ones. The Chaplaincy Room isn’t even officially open yet, but already we’ve had numerous conversations with a little group of boys who have been really keen to take away and read Gideon’s bibles – and not just to use as skins (for rolling joints)! In fact, it looks like a little group of boys up at the school will be doing ‘Soul‘ with us too. I feel as though, very soon, we’re going to have a little group of Christian young people to disciple. So we’re in the thick of planning beyond ‘Soul’ what we can do with these young people.

In all of this, the greatest lesson for me has been to stay close to Jesus. He’s the difference young people notice in our lives. He’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. And He’s the one who has power to turn the hardest of hearts towards Him in repentance and faith. If everyone involved in our Children’s and Youth work are walking hand in hand with our Saviour in prayer and through His Word, if we’re living in dependence on God, in step with His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then we’re in the right place to be of use to others in evangelism.

Image from schoolwork.co.uk

Being the new chaplain on the scene, it falls to me to deliver this year’s Christmas assembly in the local high school next week. The expectation is for me to deliver a short seasonal message to a large group of teenagers (who don’t really want to be there) to help them think more about Christmas. And all this in a way that’s interesting, contextually relevant, light on the cheese, and isn’t going to end up with me being lynched in the playground by angry teachers (although that might be more entertaining and memorable for the pupils). No pressure then!

I’ve always been quite clear that my purpose for being in school is rooted in the gospel. I’m there because I’m a Christian and I have good news to share. I’ve been upfront with the school management and teachers in this: that my faith is the motivating factor for my work in the community. I do what I do because I love young people, I want to serve young people, and I want to introduce them to the man that changed my life: Jesus. Like Spurgeon said, I’m just a beggar telling other beggars where they can find bread.

I don’t always get many opportunities up at the school to say something significant about my faith. Everyone up there knows I’m a Christian, so that in itself presents a good number of low-key, informal opportunities to talk about Christ with staff and students. RME (Religious and Moral Education) classes and assemblies are the formal opportunities – if I’ve been asked to speak, then I’m expected to talk about my faith – so it’s important to take them seriously.

Although the following resources might be a helpful starting point for anyone preparing a Christmas assembly, perhaps helping to get the creative juices flowing, we still need to do a lot of work in terms of contextualising the message for our audiences. Just because an ‘off the shelf’ assembly idea worked in some high school in middle-England doesn’t mean it’s a sure fit for an Edinburgh housing scheme or any other school for that matter. Know your school, know the staff, and be diligent in faithfully representing the Saviour at this significant time of year.

Assembly Ideas (and other bits to connect church and schools) – does what it says on the tin.

ReJesus.co.uk – Christmas articles, stories and illustrations.

Schoolswork.co.uk – resources, inspiration and training for Christian schools workers.

The Brick Testament – if the bible was lego…

One of the things that we notice about the young people in Niddrie is that many of them like bikes, both the pedal kind, and the motor kind. So bikes present us with a great opportunity for contact with many young people and also with other organisations working in the area.

As a church, we want to build bridges and relationships in the community to enable us to share the gospel with the people around us. We have a number of significant partnerships in the community on the youth work side of things. These include Castlebrae Community High School (our local high school), Make It Happen (a Church of Scotland social care project), and The Bike Station (a local cycling charity) to name a few.

These partnerships have either come about, or have benefited from NCC’s interest in bikes. I confess, we wussed out a bit when it came to the idea of motor bikes – health and safety, and insurance concerns probably got the better of us – maybe we could/should have made it work…

Anyway, if you’re not already aware of our Bike Project, have a look at this short promotional video.

 

If you’re involved in community based youth work, I’d encourage you to look at what the young people in your area like doing, and see if there are contact points where you might bridge the gap between the youth and the church. And look at other organisations in your area that you may be able to partner with. Are there ways you can scratch each other’s backs? Here’s a couple of examples from our situation.

E.g. The Bike Station is an Edinburgh charity that takes old, unwanted bicycles and strips them for spare parts or refurbishes them and sells them on. They aim to promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice, and they receive funding from various sources including the National Lottery and the Scottish Government. In addition to the sales, they also run training courses. Through our relationship with The Bike Station, we’re offered places each year for our young people to attend their Build A Bike course. It’s a course that runs for one week, (Monday to Friday) for six young people, they get to build a mountain bike from scratch and keep it when they’re finished. They learn all the mechanical skills along the way, and even get an outing to a Glentress Forest to do some downhill biking on their new bikes. For the past few years, we’ve used this opportunity to help support the local high school, Castlebrae Community High School, and broaden our contacts up there by asking the school’s guidance department to nominate pupils who they feel would benefit most from such a course. Everybody wins.

E.g. Make It Happen is an early intervention initiative designed to identify children and young people that may become at risk and vulnerable, in the east side of Edinburgh (including Niddrie). I can’t remember when I first met Mark, the project worker, but we’ve since developed a very positive working relationship. We regularly meet for coffee up at Starbucks and discuss our work. It helps that Mark is another committed Christian youth worker and has similar aims in his project to me. Mark’s main involvement with us has also been through our Bike Project. Every few months we take Mark and 2 or 3 of his young people for a downhill biking day, again at Glentress Forest. We charge Mark’s project a nominal fee which helps us to make our Bike Project financially sustainable – maintaining our equipment and paying for petrol to Glentress. It also gives us the opportunity to make contact with young people in the community that we don’t have existing relationships with. Mark gets to take his young people mountain biking, and open them up to this new experience at very little cost. Again, everybody wins!

What is it about the Bike Project that makes it a great way of building relationships with other organisations, particularly those who don’t share our faith commitments and values?

It’s probably because there are aspects of the Bike Project that other youth work organisations (both secular and Christian) can buy into, and even benefit from. Schools and other public funded agencies are under intense pressure to demonstrate that they’re collaborating with others in their fields. If there is no outright statutory requirement for this, there will almost certainly be funding limitations imposed by grant making bodies on organisations who are not engaged in partnership work. No partnering, no funding!

The church doesn’t have these same limitations – there is certainly no statutory requirement to engage in collaborative work with others. If churches are applying to similar grant making bodies to fund particular projects, they may be subject to similar restrictions; though I think the majority of churches generally fund their activities in the same way they always have: through the wallets and purses of the individuals in their congregations.

In all this talk of partnerships however, we must be careful to maintain our distinctions as a church. The church isn’t the same as other organisations, agencies or institutions in the community, it’s a life-and-love entity built around the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. We have a unique identity and purpose as God’s people on earth. We do what we do in community because of the gospel – it’s our desire to see young people transformed under the Lordship of Christ. And we need to be up-front and clear cut about this, otherwise young people will get confused and our message, witness and impact will be diluted.

If any professional ever had a claim to the title ‘Jack of all trades’, it would surely be the church Youth Worker. What other profession can boast such diversity in roles as: counsellor, entertainer, artist, cleaner, cinematographer, people manager, taxi driver, web developer, teacher, caretaker, DIY expert, technology guru, chef, referee, befriender, musician, theologian, administrator, shepherd and pastor? That’s by no means an exhaustive list, and very few of these roles feature on my job spec. Why is it that Christian Youth Workers will almost certainly have to try their hand at most of these roles (and others we might add) throughout their time in ministry?

Part of living in a community is being aware of the needs around us, having compassion on those in need, and being flexible and prepared to meet the needs of those in our community to the best of our ability. This is community living, and it’s not just limited to the realm of Christian Youth Work. Most of the staff team at NCC will relate to the feeling of being a Jack of all trades too.

What do young people need?

Youth UnemploymentSo the question is: what are the needs of the young people in our community? Let’s first differentiate between perceived needs and actual needs. As bible believing Christians, we know that the actual need – the fundamental need – is to hear the Gospel, to trust in Jesus and be transformed from the inside out, under the lordship of Christ. Obviously, few young people will approach you directly looking for the antidote to their sinful heart condition, and demanding an introduction to the Lord. For the young person, their perceived need will be quite different, though not insignificant. This is where we need to be alert to the perceived needs and flexible enough to work with them. And as we begin to meet these needs, we actually find ourselves with many more opportunities to address that more fundamental need.

For those within the 16-20 year old category in Niddrie, getting a job is one of the biggest perceived needs. In fact, quite a number of the opportunities I’ve had with this age group have come off the back of what you might call careers advice. So we can go ahead and add ‘careers adviser’ to the list above…

Careers advisor?

This week, UK Chancellor George Osbourne outlined plans for a £1bn package to tackle youth unemployment, which has been on the rise since the turn of the millennium, and hit a record high of 1.02 million in the months running up to September this year.

The ‘Youth Contract’ proposed by the coalition government hopes to provide nearly half a million new opportunities for young people, including apprenticeships and work experience placements. Employers are being offered cash incentives to take on apprentices between 18 and 24 years old.

[Read more about the Youth Contact scheme on the BBC: “Clegg: £1bn scheme will ‘provide hope’ to young jobless“]

How does this apply to us? In Niddrie, we have young people who want a job but aren’t motivated enough to find one, as well as young people who are desperate for a job, any job, and will do whatever it takes to get one. It’s the latter group that I seem to find myself working alongside most often.

What I do is help guys put together their CV, help fill in  job applications (web based and written), provide potential employers with character references, and coach young people through interviews – I’ve even loaned out one of my ties. All the while I’m keeping an ear to the ground for any jobs that might be going among employers I know personally, and looking for ways to develop the relationships I have with these young people beyond ‘careers advice’ to genuine friendships where the gospel naturally comes out. It’s a different approach to that of all the other youth organisations and careers agencies (and there are many!) that are working in the community. Not better… just different. The sad reality is that there are loads of employable and motivated young people who still can’t find jobs in the current climate, especially in areas like Niddrie, and that’s disillusioning.

Micro-businesses and apprenticeships

With so few suitable jobs going, what more can we be doing for these young people? Of course we can continue to offer advice, polish their CV’s and point them in the direction of suitable vacancies, but is there a way in which we can actually provide gainful employment ourselves? Can the church be that vacancy? As I read these articles about youth unemployment and the government’s Youth Contract proposals, different individuals and situations were brought to mind and I couldn’t help but dream of the possibilities.

Some of the ideas we’ve had in the past have been focused on training; for example, young people working alongside Christian tradesmen, learning new skills and being exposed to the gospel. This would be a more accessible, manageable step towards an actual trade apprenticeship.

Lately, we’ve been thinking about helping young people establish micro-businesses: 1 or 2 person businesses with little overhead costs and a reasonable profit-margin. These might include: gardening, cleaning, pet-sitting, selling crafts, or anything we can imagine. I know of a guy who makes bracelets in his spare time out of high-tensile parachute chord which can be undone in such a way as to provide a length of chord of several feet for use in emergencies. He makes them while watching TV each evening and sells them on eBay to Jack Bauer wannabe’s and makes a fortune!

Might we offer Christian young people church-based apprenticeships, covering the gambit of work we do as a church? Maybe training them in adventure activities and outdoor education, giving them experience of work with the elderly, serving in the café, or in the schools? Wouldn’t it be great if, in the not so distant future, the church could plug into initiatives like the government’s £1bn Youth Contract scheme, and actually offer young people short term employment and training opportunities ourselves?

Nick Clegg says that the £1bn scheme will ‘provide hope’ to the young jobless. It would certainly be great to see more and more young people finding work, but at the end of the day we’re not careers officers. We know that the real need of our community goes beyond jobs and financial security, important though these things are. So we, through whatever means, seek to share that real, deep-seated, lasting hope that we have through the gospel.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Pray for us as we think these things through.

Mez_Record_030907

by Mike Stark

True story!!

OK, so this isn’t exactly new news, but it is very funny none the less and well worth a read – click on the photo to see an enlarged copy.

This is from Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper on 3rd September 2007, describing a memorable incident that happened shortly after Mez took up his new post as pastor of Niddrie Community Church.

He was pulled over by the police because he looked a bit dodgy (still does by the way)! Things didn’t get any better for Mez when the police national computer search revealed the rightful owner of the car to be the Reverend Mez McConnell. It took Mez 10 minutes to prove his identity and convince the police that he was the Rev. Mez McConnel!

In a culture where people are suspicious and disrespectful in general when it comes to any authority figure, especially the police, they certainly did Mez a bit of a favour here. They inadvertantly:

  • Gave him and the church a bit of free publicity
  • Bolstered his ‘street cred’ in the community
  • Gave him a platform to share a little about his background, and his heart for the community of Niddrie.

Unfortunately much of the ‘gospel content’ of Mez’s interview didn’t make the editorial cut of this national newspaper, but it still served a meaningful purpose.

People relate to Mez in the community: he breaks the stereotype of the typical church minister; he understands their mind-set; and in a culture that likes to hear peoples’ stories, Mez is first-hand evidence of the power of Gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ, to bring salvation and transformation to even the toughest of nuts.

What about those of us who don’t have Mez’s testimony; those who, like me, have had a fairly normal, even sheltered upbringing: can and should we be concerned with building our own ‘street cred‘ in a community like Niddrie?

“Street Cred: Commanding a level of respect in an urban environment due to experience in or knowledge of issues affecting those environments.” (www.UrbanDictionary.com)

Well, for what it’s worth, I think we can, and should, so long as we’re not bringing the gospel into disrepute, or allowing popularity to be an idol in our hearts.

The Apostle Paul used whatever he could to his advantage to win the lost. He used his Jewish credentials (‘cred’) among the Jews to win the Jews; among the non-Jews, he became like a Gentile to win the Gentiles; he says: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). How does a Jew (Paul) “become a Jew” when he already is a Jew? Well, Paul’s identity in Christ supersedes his old culture; the Gospel disengages him from his own culture and frees him up to engage in other cultures.

To the Niddrons, I become like a Niddron, to win the Niddrons. We can begin to build credibility in the community firstly and fundamentally by moving into the community. By moving into the community, you’re identifying with it – you’re no longer an interfering outsider, you are part of it. After moving in, the next step is to engage people in meaningful ways. You can live in Niddrie and still have no credibility in the eyes of the people. Credibility comes as you begin building relationships.

Generally, people will give you the time of day if you’re open, authentic and have a genuine concern for them. A number of school staff members have commented on the church’s youth work and involvement in the community and have been impressed at the way we try to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Living out your faith in community is a very powerful witness.

However, we need to be careful that credibility or popularity doesn’t become an idol, and something that you hunger for, over and above your relationship with Christ. Paul’s ultimate goal was not to achieve credibility or respect in the eyes of man, but to win these men by the Gospel for the glory of God!

By the way… if you want to know how you’re faring on the ‘street cred’ front, you can score yourself using this guide from Urban Dictionary. This is obviously an American scoring system. On a Scottish housing scheme it would be as follows:

5 points – Born in a single parent home
10 points – Born poor
50 points – Sold ‘Hard’ drugs (crack, cocaine, Heroin)
100 points – Been shot and survived
500 points – Been shot multiple times and survived
100 points – been stabbed and survived
250 points – been stabbed multiple times and survived
50 points – hang out with your mates on street corners or outside local shops
65 points – Been to a YOI
70 points – been to a HMP
30 points – understanding each of the above acronyms (lose the points for understanding the word ‘acronym’)
20 points- Have at least 10 tattoos
20 points – In an approved school
20 points – been expelled from at least one school (10 extra points for each one thereafter)
20 points – got a girl pregnant before your 16th birthday
30 points – been in a fight ‘down the town’ with some students
50 Points – swear every other word
75 Points – a nice meal out is a visit to the chippy on a Friday or, if its a really, really special occasion, a takeout.
50 Points – own at least two pairs of tracksuits
-75 Points – Born in a nice area
-50 Points – Speak proper English
-60 Points – Have  friends around for tea
-100 Points – go to a church for something other than a wedding/baptism/christening/funeral
-100 Points – No criminal record
-50 Points – Live with both parents
-35 Points – Smile when someone takes your photo
-60 Points – Straight A student
-50 Points – never been stopped by the police for anything ever (asking for the time or directions doesn’t count!)
-50 Points – never swear
-100 Points – eat out in a restaurant
-500 Points – think trackie bottoms are ‘chavvy’

My score was about minus 500!

It’s been nearly 3 years since I first got into the local high school. Since those early days, my job as Niddrie Community Church’s youth worker has involved an increasing amount of time and energy spent there.

Last month, I was invited to consider becoming the school’s chaplain, an official position within the school community that would give Ellis and I a whole new range of exciting opportunities for ministry. Naturally, I accepted and today I was officially introduced to the pupils and staff at an assembly. I spoke about what chaplaincy is, and what we’ll be doing, and Ellis was able to share his testimony, explaining a little about how the Gospel has transformed his life.

Being made school chaplain is a great encouragement, and affirms us in the work we’re doing in the school. It’s particularly good considering that chaplains in Edinburgh City Council schools are generally required to be ordained Church of Scotland ministers (Ellis and I are neither ordained, nor part of the Church of Scotland!)

Initially, our chaplaincy role is going to include the following:

  • Fulfilling the school’s statutory requirements in religious observance, for example doing assemblies at Christmas, Easter, and on other occasions throughout the school year.
  • Supporting the RME (Religious and Moral Education) curriculum, including teaching different classes (we’ve already been doing this for a year or so).
  • Providing pastoral care for pupils and their families, meeting up with young people on a one-2-one basis or with their families for support/guidance.
  • Being available at community events (we’re already doing this to a certain extent).
  • Providing support for the school and for pupils in times of difficulty.

We’ve also been given a classroom, next to the RME classroom, to be our ‘Chaplaincy Base’. Having a space of our own up at the school has been a great leap forward. We’re free to kit it out as we see fit, using spare furniture from the school, and stuff of our own, maybe a fridge, kettle, etc. We’ll open it up for people to come in and have lunch with us, perhaps even use the space for after school clubs and such like.

As you can tell, there are a whole host of new opportunities opening up in the high school, and ways in which we can develop and grow the existing work there. We’re really thankful for the continuing favour we have with the school senior management team, and for all God’s doing in and through us.

There’s no telling how long this season of good favour will last, but the intention is to make the most of it while we have it. With more and more public sector cut-backs, people are looking increasingly to the voluntary sector, and particularly to the church to fill the gaps in youth work provision. Less money for schools like ours, and greater competition for funding among other local agencies working with young people, present the church with really exciting opportunities to serve our communities and bring the gospel to bear in people’s lives.

We’re excited about the future of the work in the local high school. And as we have meetings next week with the head teacher at the local primary school about potential for involvement with this younger age bracket of children, we’re praying for God’s guidance. And as the work in the school’s grows, so too will my need for a team of Godly and committed volunteers to get involved.

Pray with us.