I have always held that to be effective in the local community our churches need to build good strong links with the local schools. At the moment I am a governor at Stuart Road School, and we have some church members who have children or grandchildren there. I also am invited in for the big annual events of Harvest, Christmas and Easter, and I have similar opportunities at MoriceTown School although we have less direct contact with the children there. I am sure there is more we could be doing, and am always open to suggestions.
We don’t at the moment have any connections with Stoke Damerel Community College, although a fair few of our church children attend. But clearly children’s work doesn’t end once youngsters reach secondary school. It may be this is when many of them start drifting away from the church, and for me, this makes the task of building links into places of education all the more important.
This is why I was so encouraged to meet the project development officer for UTC Plymouth this afternoon. This will not be a local school in the traditional sense, but an opportunity for children from across Plymouth and beyond to engage with the world of marine and manufacturing engineering. Nonetheless it will be in our local community,on the site of the old Parkside School, and the signs are, we may have opportunities to support this new venture as it opens. I will let you know how our engagement with process progresses over the coming year.
Of course the other side to this ministry is to support the children and staff of many other different schools across Plymouth who attend our churches. I am not a youth or children’s worker, but I know how hard it can be express any kind of Christian commitment in the classroom. One area of our outreach surely must be to build our young people in such a way that they know how they can live out their faith there and make a positive difference. Maybe over the summer holidays we all need to reflect how we can grow our work, and develop what is already being done. And of course pray that those who are staff get the rest and break they deserve at the end of another hectic year!