In the run-up to the Spring break, between them the Children’s and Youth Teams visited, either virtually or physically, 49 of Birmingham’s primary and secondary schools. Their mission? To share the Easter story and explain what it means to Christians.
Religious literacy, or understanding, interpreting and respecting religion wherever you encounter it, has been in decline for decades in the UK. According to Scripture Union, 95% of under-18s now don’t go to church or hear about Christianity at home, but many are interested in and open to faith. John Platt, BCM’s Youth Team Co-ordinator explained:
‘We find that some students have very little, or a mixed understanding, of Christianity, so our job – through assemblies and lessons – is to point out what the Bible actually teaches about Jesus. This enables students to compare and contrast that with what they know.
Teachers often express the desire for their students to hear from practising Christians themselves – not only to help with exam preparation but also to open minds to a different perspective. As Christian youth workers we are able to offer students insight into what we ourselves believe and how it impacts our lives. The boys at one Islamic school were interested in how I practised my faith and I talked about the assurance of forgiveness that I have.
Most students are respectful and inquisitive too, about the person of Jesus, his deity and humanity, the Trinity, whether Jesus really died, the reliability of the Bible, God’s love, justice and forgiveness. It was really encouraging to hear students say:
“Really enjoyed the lesson. I now have a better understanding of Easter.”
“It’s good to hear about other religions and Christianity.”
“I enjoyed the assembly, Sir! I didn’t know much about Easter before.”
Kathryn Hindley, BCM’s Children’s Team Co-ordinator, added:
‘We had a lovely time leading Easter assemblies, and delivering Easter lessons which led to good discussions. We talked about Jesus’ trial and death, his response to suffering, about humility and pride and who Jesus is.
One school said to us, “Thank you for delivering a fantastic assembly which was informative, fun and spiritual. Not just the children but all the adults really enjoyed it. It was great to have four artists from BCM and the set-up, the way the Easter story was told using visual aids, drama and a fun quiz to end with was just great.”‘
Another part of the Youth Team’s work in schools is pastoral ‘Friendship Clubs’, a great platform for discussion on topics such as generosity, forgiveness and conflict. One topic students want to discuss is mental health. John said:
‘After 2 years of fear, anxiety and disruption more and more children and young people are struggling with their mental health, feeling lonely and experiencing eating problems.
Youth Worker James Lawton, who co-ordinates the Friendship Clubs, has found that students are very open in them, willing to share about feelings they’ve had in the past that were difficult to deal with.
We are sometimes asked by teachers to speak directly with young people who have been having friendship issues, to help support them in problems like this.
After one discussion about dealing with conflict, a teacher told us that the message of ‘maybe it could be me who is wrong’ was very timely and just right for one boy, involved in some significant issues in school, to hear.’
‘We are aware of the atmosphere of fear and mental health struggles we are speaking into in schools and so try to choose our assembly themes accordingly. Last term we thought about how God gives hope to those who trust him, and that that hope means looking forward with confidence, not just wishful thinking. We regularly share our own personal testimonies, how we as individuals have turned to God, said sorry and received his forgiveness and help.’
Please pray for Birmingham’s children and young people as they begin a new term. Some will be facing the pressure of sitting SATs, GCSEs, BTECs and A Levels – the first formal exams held in 3 years – and feeling unprepared after months of disruption. Some will still be missing school having fallen under the radar during the pandemic. Pray they will understand the Easter story and have hope in their lives.