Assembly: Special names

This afternoon I did an assembly in one of our local Infant school’s on the theme of names:

Preparation and materials

  • You will need some name trays or labels from the new Reception class. If possible, choose children who have the same first name as someone else in the school.
  • Have available a class register from an older class.
  • You will also need a reader for the Bible passage, 1 Samuel 3.4-10 (Good News Translation).
  • Toothpaste, spoon and knife.

Assembly

Welcome everyone back to school after the summer break.

Explain that many new pupils have joined the school in Reception and that others have moved home and schools over the summer. Welcome the new children in particular and say that everyone hopes they will all soon settle happily into the school family.

Introduce a few of the new Reception children. Show a name tray or label and ask the child to identify him or herself. Welcome the child by saying what a lovely name he or she has and ask if anyone else in the school has the same name. Ask those children to stand at the front so that the children who have the same name are standing together.

Show a class register from a more senior class and explain to the new children that their teacher will often call out the names in the register to check whether the children are at school that day. Demonstrate by asking the children in the older class to respond as their names are called out.

Ask the new children if they have learnt the names of all the children in their class yet. Now ask all the children if any of them have found that the teachers haven’t yet worked out who they are. Ask if anyone has been called by the wrong name. Point out that this can sometimes be funny, and sometimes a bit annoying.

Share with the children a brief anecdote from your own childhood, illustrating the anxiety of a new school. Ask if anyone was feeling anxious about the new term, their new teachers or new classes. Explain that often the teachers are also feeling anxious about their new classes and trying to learn all the names!

Tell them that although you know quite a lot of their names it will take you some time to get to know the names of all the new children. Ask the children about their own names. Does everyone have a middle name? Does anyone have more than three names? Try to include a variety of names from different countries and cultures, reflecting the diversity of the school.

Explain that Christians believe that God also knows each child’s name. There is a story in the Bible about a child called Samuel whom God calls by name. Ask if any children in the school are called Samuel. In the Bible story, Samuel was very young when he found out that God knew his name.

Samuel lived with a man called Eli and he worked in the temple of God. Samuel had furniture, lamp stands and plates to polish and errands to run for Eli. It was Samuel’s job to make sure that the lamps didn’t go out before the sun came up. In the morning, it was his job to open the doors wide and let the daylight in. Samuel worked very hard.

As Samuel got older, he began to get to know God for himself, just like you are doing. One night, after Eli and Samuel had gone to bed, something unusual happened. All of a sudden, Samuel woke up. Someone was calling his name.

Ask the reader to read the Bible passage, 1 Samuel 3.4-10.

Ask the children to join in by speaking Eli’s words, ‘No, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed,’ every time you nod your head. When the reader has finished reading the Bible passage, continue the story.

From that time on, Samuel knew that God wanted to speak to him and he always listened. God blessed Samuel and when he grew up, Samuel became a priest like Eli and also a great prophet. God knew Samuel from the moment he was born. God knew Samuel’s name and he spoke to him.

Christians believe that God knows our names and wants to speak to us, too. God wants to tell us his wonderful story and he wants us to learn to follow him just like Samuel did.

Show the Mr Men books to the children and enthuse about them – their names are special because they tell us what kind of characters they are. For example, you could ask, ‘Why is this character’s name Mr Jelly?’ and seek the answer that it’s because he’s scared of everything.

Sometimes, God chooses to change someone’s name, for example, Saul became Paul after his experience on the road to Damascus when he saw the risen Jesus. And Jesus changed Simon’s name to ‘Peter’, which means ‘Rock’.

In Bible times, people thought very carefully when they named their babies, and every name had a meaning. The name ‘Jesus’ was chosen by God himself. It was announced by the angel, who also gave the reason for the name: ‘for he will save his people from their sins’ (the name ‘Jesus’ means ‘the Lord saves’).

Jesus has quite a few other names and titles: Christians call him, Son of God, Christ, Messiah, Lord, Emmanuel, to name but a few. These all tell us something about his nature and his importance to Christians.

Even God has a number of different names. He is called by different names in the Bible (Yahweh, Lord, Father, for example). These names mean different things to different people and show us something of the nature of who He is.

Names are special and we should be careful how we use them. We should not be unkind about names, or make fun of people’s names, or give people cruel nicknames. Ask the children, have they ever done things that they knew were wrong but just couldn’t quite stop themselves? Give some examples, such as joining in with name calling, or being silly in class just because everyone else is doing it.

Say that you’re a bit like this with a new tube of toothpaste. You were always told by your mum, ‘Squeeze it from the bottom’, but it’s such a temptation to squeeze it in the middle and watch the toothpaste ooze out like a long worm. Then ‘accidentally’ squeeze the tube. Realize with horror what you’ve done! Oh no! What am I going to do? How can I get it back?

Begin to take suggestions and invite some of the children to have a go at putting it back in. Have a few things ready to assist – e.g. knife, spoon, etc. – plus tissues or wipes!

Realize that it’s a hopeless task – once it’s out, it can’t be put back in easily. The damage is done. Compare this with the idea of saying things we know we shouldn’t – upsetting or rude things. Once the words are out we can’t put them back in. We can try to mend things afterwards but it would be so much better if we thought before we spoke or acted. Before we let the words squeeze out – we should THINK!

Time for reflection

To become a good listener like Samuel, we need to learn to be quiet and still. Let’s be very still for a few moments. What can we hear inside? What can we hear outside?

Think for a moment about your own name. Say it silently in your head. Does it have a special meaning? Are you named after someone in your family? Do your family and friends have a shortened version of your name they like to call you by?

Prayer
Dear God, thank you for a new school year. Thank you for everyone in our school family, from the youngest to the oldest. Thank you that you know our names and they were specially chosen for us. Thank you that we are each very, very special to you. Help us to learn more about you so that we can follow you like Samuel did. Amen.

Children accidentally added to the menu of wedding dinner

The moment when are “kid’s menu” becomes “children on the menu” rather than “a menu for children”.

A fancy wedding accidentally made that less-than-fancy mistake on RSVP invitations they sent out. In a photo uploaded to Reddit’s r/funny, the RSVP card asks you, sir or madam, for your name, whether you’ll be attending, and whether you’d like to eat beef, pork or young children (12 and under) for the entrée.

Just check off your favorite dish, and let them know about any dietary restrictions. They’re free range, completely organic and just a bit whiny.

children-on-wedding-menu

Archbishop: Church of England schools can help shape ‘hopeful’ society

Archbishop Justin Welby visits St Bartholomew’s CofE primary school, London, 26 January 2016.
Archbishop Justin Welby visits St Bartholomew’s CofE primary school, London, 26 January 2016.

Read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s on the vision for CofE schools in this week’s TES:

Education is at the heart of the work the Church of England does for the common good.  Through its 4,500 primary and 200 secondary schools, it educates around one million children a day. It is estimated that around 15 million people alive today attended a Church of England school.

The fundamental purpose of Church of England education is to nurture people to live life in all its fullness, inspired by Jesus’s message in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.” Non-church schools also have inspiring visions, albeit articulated in different language; to inspire and educate the whole person, building them up to flourish in the world.

Click here for the rest of the article.

8 Reasons to Rethink Teens & Sexting

megan-maasMegan Maas has written a blog on 8 Reasons to Rethink Teens & Sexting for the Huffington Post.  Here’s a few snippets from the blog which are essential reading for any youth worker:

… In order for us to address sexting in a realistic way with teens, we must first understand the sexual culture they live in that normalizes sexting.

1. Teens think everyone is sexting and it’s no big deal. 

2. Boys and girls engage in sexting for different reasons. Girls feel pressure to send sexts and are more likely to do so than boys. Boys feel more pressure to collect sexts and are more likely to receive sexts and share them with friends or post them online than girls. This poses an issue because it sets up a type of marketplace, where the boys are the consumers and the girls are the products to be consumed …

3. The sexual double standard is alive and well in sexting. We think nothing of a boy requesting a nude image or video, but when a girl participates, we think something is wrong with her …

4. Sexting can be a sign of self-objectification

5. We have a victim blaming culture, even when it comes to sexting. When I do educational seminars about sex and technology with parents and teachers, I overwhelmingly hear stories of “sexting scandals”. Usually followed by a, “Why would she send a nude photo of herself in the first place? Something must be wrong with her.”

6. We need to redefine female sexual liberation

7. We need to support girls to foster their own talents and abilities in multiple areas of life, and encourage boys to support them too. You don’t want your teen to sext? Try telling them not to do it. That didn’t work you say? Shocking. It’s important for parents of boys to acknowledge the pressure girls feel to prove they are sexy and to encourage them to recognize girls’ interests, talents and knowledge above their looks whenever possible. For parents of girls, it’s important to focus on their abilities and not just their looks or dress from a young age. It’s not that it is bad for teen girls to express sexuality, it’s just that we don’t want their only dose of daily self-esteem boost to come from a sexy selfie because her sexual worth is her only worth.

8. We need to hold boys and men accountable for their actions, they are capable of not acting on sexual impulses. 

How has the UK student population changed?

September is the time in youth work where we say “hello” to new young people and goodbye to older young people who are making their way into employment or off to university.

The ONS has produced some very interesting data about student population in the UK.

Student numbers have almost doubled since 1992

percentage-of-18-to-24-year-olds-in-full-time-education-who-are-in-employment

Download the data

In the period March to May 1992, there were 984,000 people aged 18 to 24 in full-time education. In May to July 2016, there were 1.87 million, approximately 1 in every 3 people, aged 18 to 24 in full-time education.

Looking at the employment rate amongst this group you can clearly see students gaining employment during the holidays. Surprisingly for me, students in 2016 are less likely to be in employment than 20 years ago, with on average 35.4% having a job in June to August 2015 to May to July 2016 compared with 40.3% in the same period 20 years previously.  However, those that do have a job are more likely to keep it throughout the entire academic year, this is reflected by the fact that the peaks and troughs in the data are less pronounced in 2016 than they were 2 decades ago.

percentage-of-18-to-24-year-olds-in-full-time-education-who-are-in-employment

Download the data

International student numbers have fallen and are at their lowest since 2007

Over a quarter of immigrants come to the UK for formal study. In 1977, there were 29,000 international students, rising to a peak of over 8 times this amount in 2010. However, recent years have seen a decline in long-term immigrants arriving to study, with numbers falling to 164,000 in the year ending March 2016.

long-term-international-immigrants-arriving-for-formal-study

Download the data

 

Assembly: The Olympics and Friendship

Here’s an assembly I did this morning in our local junior school on the theme of the Olympics and friendship.  Here’s the PowerPoint if it’s useful.

 

I have loved watching the Olympics. One of the most famous moments was this in the heats of the 5,000m.

 

Runners Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin may not have won their 5,000 meter heat in the Rio Olympics, but their attitudes are gold-medal caliber.

 

Hamblin, who is representing New Zealand in this summer’s games, tripped on the packed track partly through the race, taking American D’Agostino down with her.

 

After the fall, a a clearly discouraged Hamblin lay motionless on the ground for several seconds. Get ready to cry, though: D’Agostino instantly helped Hamblin get to her feet.

 

“This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this,” D’Agostino reportedly said. And finish the race they did. Fortunately, the Olympic dream wasn’t over for either runner. Because they were tripped, both were allowed to run in the final later in the week. But talk about Olympic spirit.

 

The International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented D’Agostino and Hamblin with the Fair Play award, for their acts of selflessness and exemplary sportsmanship. The Olympic award recognizes the values of excellence, friendship, and respect in an athlete and both runners exhibited those values as they helped each other to the finish line.

 

An International Olympic Committee statement read : “The D’Agostino and Hamblin story is one of humanity and sacrifice which has already captured the hearts of people across the globe.”

 

Then there was the example this week of brothers Jonny & Alistair Brownlee at the World Triathlon Series. Video capturing Alistair coming to the aid of Jonny has gone viral and led to enormous praise for the elder Brownlee, a two-time Olympic champion who sacrificed his own chances of victory to help his sibling.

 

 

Let me share one last beautiful story of two Olympic athletes from Japan who knew exactly how to share with each other.

 

At the 1936 Berlin Games, Japanese pole vaulters Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe tied for second place. They were offered the opportunity to compete against each other for the silver medal, but because they were friends and respected each other so much they said they didn’t want to. In order to keep the Olympic rules, Oe agreed to take the bronze medal while Nishida took the silver.

 

When they returned to Japan, the other people in their team decided to do something different. A jeweller cut their two medals in half and put them back together, making two half-silver, half-bronze medals called ‘Medals of Friendship’.

 

The Bible contains a famous quote about friendship. It comes from the book called Ecclesiastes:
‘Two are better than one, because if one falls over the other one will pick him up.’

 

Ask the children what they think this verse means, and then allow them a few moments of reflection to think about how they can ‘pick up’ other people.

 

Time for reflection

Think about the words from the Bible and the words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

‘Two are better than one, because if one falls over the other one will pick him up.’

 

‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.’

 

Think of a time when someone has been a true friend to you. Maybe you’ve been lonely or sad and someone has looked after you. Maybe you have been stuck with work and someone has helped. Think about opportunities that you may have to be a good friend to someone. Decide to be a good friend today.

 

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for our friends. Thank you for the fun we can have with them and the happy times we spend together. Please help me to be a good friend. Please help me not to be selfish but to think always of other people and their needs. Amen.

More than half of secondary school pupils think people have souls and life has a purpose

secondary-school-pupils

New research has been published showing that more than half of secondary school pupils believe that people have souls, a survey has revealed.

The majority of those questioned (52 per cent) also said that they agreed with the statement “I believe that life has an ultimate purpose” and 45 per cent believe in God.  But a an equal number – 45 per cent agreed with the statement “the scientific view is that God does not exist”.

Prof Berry Billingsley, of Canterbury Christ Church University, surveyed 670 pupils aged 14 to 17 across eight English secondary schools, asking them 43 questions about science and religion.

The survey found that 54 per cent of pupils agreed with the statement “I believe humans have souls”, with a further 24 per cent neither agreeing or disagreeing. The remaining 23 per cent disagreed. The proportion of pupils believing in a “soul” is larger than the number who believed in God.

Prof Billingsley said it may reflect the fact that many people believe there is more to their identity than what they may be being presented with in science lessons. The figure for young people believing in god, 45 per cent, is lower than the proportion of adults who described themselves as religious in the last census – 67 per cent.

The findings are being presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference today.

 

Self evaluation

self-evaluation

I loved Andy Blanks’ article on Evaluating Yourself Before The New Youth Ministry Year Begins.  The summer and early autumn is a time where many youth workers evaluate and shape the programmes and activities they run, but too often we forget to shine a light on ourselves.

 

How is your personal life going? How are you spiritually? How are you physically? What’s the status of the important relationships in your life? Are you growing in your relationship with God? Are you improving as a leader? In short, are things going well? Or are they going not-so-well? It’s important as Christ-followers that we are in the habit of taking stock of our lives to make sure we’re living the full life that Christ has enabled us to live. It’s much more vital, however, as leaders and teachers that we make sure we are growing in our faith and that there aren’t areas of our lives that are hindering this growth. So, how do we begin to address these concerns?

He then goes on to pose questions and challenges for your spiritual life, physical discipline, relationships, leadership and work.

Grab a coffee, click here and spend a little bit of time evaluating and reflecting on your own life.

The Good Childhood Report 2016

Over the last decade the Children’s Society have asked over 60,000 children how they think their lives are going.  The Good Childhood Report 2016 is their fifth in-depth study into children’s well-being, produced in partnership with the University of York.

good-childhood-report-2016-coverThe media picked up on some of its headline findings:

  • 1 in 3 girls are unhappy with their appearance
  • Girls are less happy than they used to be
  • Children’s direct experiences of where they live affect their well-being more than factors further removed from them

It lists three main policy recommendations:

  1. The Government should introduce a legally binding entitlement for children and young people to be able to access mental health and well-being support in educational settings in England and Wales. This must include sufficient funding.
  2. The Government must commit to understanding and acting on children’s well-being. At the moment there is no firm commitment from the Government that children’s well-being will continue to be measured. With a new Government in place, now is the time to reaffirm the commitment to monitoring well-being – and particularly children’s well-being – across the UK.
  3. Local authorities across the UK should develop a process to make sure that children have a voice in decision-making about their local areas, including:
  • Developing a process to allow children and young people to debate the issues affecting their lives and to assist in decision-making over setting priorities for the year ahead.
  • Bringing people together at a neighbourhood level to improve children’s access to, and their perception of safety in, their local environment – including local parks and open spaces.
  • Producing an annual children and young people’s local profile that brings together the range of data that is available on children’s lives in the area.

You can read the summary report here or have a look at the full report.

And if you want to tackle some of the issues raised by the report such as self-esteem, relationships and well-being, get hold of the Seriously Awkward resource which has 6 creative sessions to use with young people.

24/7 Prayer Celebrating 17 years!

24-7-prayer

24/7 are celebrating 17 years since a group of young people gathered in Chichester to try and get a little better at praying – and inadvertently launched the very first 24-7 prayer room.

They’ve written a great blog sharing 17 achievements from the past 17 years, here’s a few highlights:

1. PRAYER SPACES IN SCHOOLS

Over 500,000 children have accessed a prayer space in a school, enabling them to experience prayer and learn more about what it is.

3. THOUSANDS MORE PRAYER ROOMS…

Since that first prayer room, others have taken place in locations across the globe – from the Houses of Parliament in London to underground churches in Asia. And across the nations of Ireland and Switzerland, there has been a whole year of unbroken prayer.

6. A WHOLE ARCHIVE OF PODCASTS

Our Christmas and Lent devotionals get downloaded 1.5 million times a year and are watched all over the world, reaching number 1 on the iTunes video podcast chart multiple times.

7. PRAYER ACROSS NATIONS

24-7 prayer has taken place in over half the nations of Earth and has become a cross-denominational movement with Anglicans to Pentecostals to Baptists to Roman Catholics joining to pray 24-7.

8. OUR YOUTH PRAYER COURSE

Origins, our Youth Prayer Course for 11-18s has been used across the UK and has already reached America and Australia…

10. WHY PRAY?

Our short snappy video explaining prayer has been viewed over 100,000 times online – and in countless churches, youth groups and conference around the world.

11. A VIRAL VISION POEM

Words scribbled onto the wall of the first prayer room went viral across the world, and now a brand new film is going to be released to celebrate this monumental poem.

12. THY KINGDOM COME

Last year we gathered to pray and to worship in 5 cathedrals across the UK simultaneously in one of the biggest Anglican prayer events in England. And plans for next year are well under way…

16. MISSION TEAMS

As well as long term 24-7 Prayer communities serving in all kinds of places from Ibiza to Cape Town, we’ve also sent short-term teams to Turkey, Macedonia, Spain, France and Greece to serve pray, and encourage.

 

Summer Christians and Discipleship

soul-survivor-worship

Jo Dolby, a brilliant youth worker from Bath and works for Bristol CYM as a youth and community work lecturer has written a fantastic response on the importance of discipleship over at Youthwork Magazine’s site to Will Jackson’s blog on new Christians at Soul Survivor.  Here’s a snippet:

 

But (you knew a but was coming!) there is something Will said in his blog that I can’t not respond to, something actually quite dangerous: “Sadly some of these young people probably won’t still be walking with God later down the line [i]but these things are not for us to worry about; that stuff is all in God’s hands”[ei].

In my opinion, these are exactly the things we are called to worry about. These are the things God has placed in our hands as his body … We were never asked to make people into Christians or converts. We were commanded to go and make disciples, and how do we do that? Baptising and teaching… or initiating them into the family of God and helping them live out everything Jesus taught. That’s our call, that’s our commission and we absolutely must stick to it, and not get distracted with the easy, adrenaline filled, fast-food business of convert-making.

Let’s be honest, getting converts is actually quite easy. We all know the emotional persuasive power of a room full of thousands of your peers, away from home, with the lights, the music, the talks – getting hands in the air and bodies to the front is not that hard.

But while making Christians is easy, making disciples is messy and difficult and takes flipping ages. In fact it takes forever. Hear me right on this: I’m not dissing Soul Survivor. I’m not even saying that emotive music, lights and altar calls are bad things, but they are bad when they are isolated, when they are not part of a bigger plan, a more concerted effort, a strategy and passion for the ultimate goal of making lifelong disciples of Jesus. They are bad when that is what we aim for, when the decision is the end goal rather than the beginning of something amazing.

So let’s have a giant party, let’s laugh, dance, celebrate and rejoice. But let’s remember that while these moments feel good, they are just a small part of the bigger mission we’re called to …

 

Suicide in England and Wales

10 September 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.  It serves as a call to action to individuals and organisations to prevent suicide.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, that’s 1 person every 40 seconds.

There were 5,199 suicides registered in England and Wales in 2015.  Read the full overview of the latest suicide registration statistics.