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> Working with your local school

A resource for ministers and other school visitors
The Revd Ronni Lamont

It is often assumed that ministers know exactly what local schools need from them, as well as how to meet that need. Here are a few ideas to make you the best minister your local school ever worked with.

Important: You'll need Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) clearance to work with children. Contact your school for details.

Tips

Make an initial appointment with the head teacher. Ask for a look round, and discuss the things that are of concern to the head and the school.

You have valuable skills and experience to offer, so do ask the school where you can best fit in. It might not be in collective worship / assembly, and you might use skills outside your role as a minister, such as helping with sports events or music.

Spend time getting to know the head. He or she is often grateful for a listening ear the post of head teacher is usually a high-pressure one and sometimes quite lonely.

If you have the time, consider joining the governing body. It is a big commitment, but it provides a unique insight into the working of the school and gives you new networks of parents and local government, as well as allowing you to contribute in a valuable manner for which you'll be appreciated.

If the members of staff get to know you well, they may use you as a pastor, so put the governor hat to one side at that point, and make sure they know you've done that.

If you lead assembly, ask if you can help to choose the assembly songs. Ask the school which (for example) Christmas carols they are learning, and then include them at your church Christingle or other child-friendly services; the larger the overlap, the easier it is for the children and their families to slip into a church service.

Ask if you can stay in school after leading assembly and work in classes with the children, perhaps listening to readers, helping out as an extra pair of hands. It will take time, but you could be a real help to staff, as well as getting to know the children and their concerns, and becoming a good friend to the children and staff.

Read about children's psychological and faith development. Make sure you use language at an appropriate conceptual level as explored in Understanding Children Understanding God (www.spckpublishing.co.uk/shop/understanding-children-understanding-god/?st=shopp&s=lamont&search_x=10&search_y=10). But perhaps the best way to develop this skill, which you probably already have from your training and work in churches, is to work alongside teachers and classroom assistants.

Can you include other members of the church community in taking assemblies and / or visiting the school? You may find that devising and delivering assemblies with one or more others is beneficial in terms of liveliness and variety.

Look at the latest assemblies on this site to give you ideas to adapt to your personal style, but check that the head or another member of staff hasn't beaten you to it!

If you can, occasionally go on school trips, and / or encourage other church members to do so.

Consider the non-teaching staff, such as caretakers and dinner staff; they play a vital role and are probably more important to the children than you are!

Ask if you can leave a parish magazine in the entrance foyer; even better, if you can include in the magazine articles from the school, particularly children's views, poems, prayers, thoughts and pictures.

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