New resource to help us love our neighbours from different faiths

P&E logo

From Toby Haworth:

I’m writing to introduce to you the new website for Presence and Engagement -, which you may of course have already visited since it went live a few weeks ago. The website aims to bring together resources for clergy, congregations, chaplaincies and schools who want to follow Jesus in loving their neighbours of different faiths.

Key features include religious demographic statistics from the 2011 Census mapped to dioceses and parishes which can be used as a tool in developing strategies for inter faith engagement. Other parts of the website provide stories and other resources for that engagement.

We intend the P&E blog to be a place for lively and thoughtful debate about inter religious issues and events which overlap with the Church’s work in our multi faith society. For example, a recent blog post from Birmingham (also published in the Church Times) focussed on the Trojan Horse investigations.

Please do be in contact with me if you would like to offer a blog post, update us on particular work in which you’re engaged or with any feedback on the website in general.

This comes with my warm good wishes,


The Revd Canon Dr Toby Howarth | Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and
National Inter Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England
Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU | Tel: + 44 (0)20 7898 1475 | Mobile: 07811 467 999 |

Church of England releases World Cup prayers


The Church of England has released Prayers for the World Cup, including prayers for the England Team ahead of England’s first match against Italy.

The Prayers have been written by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt. Revd. Nick Baines, who originally penned them during the last football World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and has posted them on his blog.

In addition to prayers for those participating in the World Cup and those travelling to “join in the party” there is also a prayer for those for who “are simply not interested” by the competition.

Bishop Nick has also written two prayers for the England Team, written after the end of the last World Cup. The first of these “Oh God…” reflects the lived experience of many England football fans, whilst the second prayer is a light hearted take on a traditional prayer used by the Church of England  in June each year to mark Bishop Richard of Chichester in 1253.

Speaking ahead of the release of the prayers, Bishop Nick, a die-hard Liverpool fan, said:

“God is not partisan and there are bigger things to pray for around the world, not least in Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan to name but three.  At its heart prayer is about expressing our desires honestly and having our vision of God, the world and one another changed by our praying.  For the next few weeks at least the passions and hearts of millions of men, women and children around the world will be focused on Brazil, where I’m pretty sure there will be lots of prayers being offered up throughout the tournament.

I know some have suggested it might take too much of a miracle for England to win the World Cup; we constantly over-rate, over-hype and over-anticipate England performance and then indulge in a collective intemperate bloodletting against team and manager when they fail to deliver on the big stage.  My hope is that the World Cup would be a reminder of the joy of a nation coming together in a common cause  – something that in itself is worth celebrating.”

Prayer 1
A Prayer for the World Cup

Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.
May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others.

Prayer 2
A Prayer for Brazil

God of the nations, who has always called his people to be a blessing for the world, bless all who take part in the World Cup.
Smile on Brazil in her hosting,
on the nations represented in competition and on those who travel to join in the party.

Prayer 3
A prayer for those simply not interested

Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.

Prayer 4
Prayers  for the England Football team

“Oh God…”

Prayer 5

“God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen.”

Talk on Psalm 84


Tonight as part of our Psalms, Pudding and Prayer series, for our 11-18 year olds, I spoke on Psalm 84 – you can download the powerpoint here:

You might know the words of this Psalm from the Matt Redman song that we sing at Soul Survivor. The Psalm is the musing of one unnamed pilgrim as he makes his way up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. He’s longing to get to God’s house – he has this intense desire for the House of God. He longs to be with God’s people, worshipping. We read about it in vv1-2.


This traveller is even jealous of birds! The Temple courtyards were open to the sky, and the great eaves provided a place for good nesting, so there were always these birds in and around the Temple.


Do you have a love like this – a longing for God’s house?


As we read through the Psalm I think there are four key things to reflect on. Firstly:


  1. Look to God alone for your strength

How many have found that the Christian life is impossible without God’s strength? Yet so often our greatest battle is about learning to trust Him instead of doing it on our own steam. That’s human nature.


We do not have enough resources in ourselves to make the whole journey. Christians burn out because they strive in their own strength. And you know, you can get so far, but you’ll never finish without God’s strength.


At some points there has to be refuelling. Refilling. It’s why it’s so important to stop each day to read the bible and pray – to live daily in God’s strength.


2. Put your heart into the journey

Put your whole heart into the journey. We shouldn’t be people who are just letting life pass us by – being dictated to by our circumstances – “waiting out” our time until Jesus comes – we must have our eyes on the finish line, but our energies, our heart, our hands and feet, ought to be occupied with making the journey count – living for Jesus – Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ”.


3. See the opportunity in every trial

Trials are on nearly every page of the Bible. The Bible talks about them a lot, because they are common to every person on the face of the earth. And if some well-meaning person has suggested to you that Christians aren’t supposed to have trials – that we’re never supposed to ever have a cold, that we won’t ever experience sadness or loss, that we shouldn’t ever feel a financial difficulty – then I think you should go back to that well-meaning person and invite them to read their Bible through again.


The 3rd key is not to pretend trials don’t exist but rather to see trials as opportunities. “The Valley of Baca” is literally: “The Valley of Weeping”. Haven’t we all passed through some Valleys of Baca? Some Valleys of Weeping. But here it says that, if the Lord is your Strength, and if your heart is set on the journey, you can see the Valley of Weeping become a spring. What to others is a place of bitterness can to you become a place of blessing. A place of growth.


It might not always be apparent, but the opportunity for growth and blessing is always right there in the middle of the trial. It’s not always easy, but with God’s help, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can use trials as opportunities.


We all love the “mountain top” experiences; times of blessing and sunshine – but where does the fruit grow? You won’t find many orchards on mountain tops – oh, the view is nice up there, but the fruit grows in the valleys. And it’s those trials in our lives that God can use best to bring us on “from glory to glory” by His Spirit.


And this leads us into the fourth, and final, key:


4. Remember that God is in control

He’s always in sovereign control. He will never surrender His position on the throne to any person or any thing. He cannot be defied. God is in control!


Let’s read together verse 6 of this great 84th Psalm … [Read]. Here is the promise of God. If I am (1) looking to God alone for my strength, and (2) if I’ve put my heart into the journey, and (3) I’m looking to see what opportunity God might have in every trial, then the sovereign God will do two things for me:

a)     He will direct my steps in strength, and

b)    He will bring me right through to my eternal destination


He will direct their steps in strength: When you allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your life, you will go from strength to strength, until you bear the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Oh, let God do that in your life! Submit to Him, I urge you today.


He will bring them through to their destination: This pilgrim is just longing to get to Jerusalem – to the House of the Lord. And here is the assurance – God will bring him through, safe all the way.


Can you be sure that you’re going to make it all the way to Heaven? Can you really know? ABSOLUTELY. He IS the Author and the Finisher of our faith!



I don’t want to just limp through life – by the grace of God I want to go from strength to strength! With faith in God I believe I can outgrow my difficulties. I believe YOU can outgrow YOUR difficulties.


Here again are the 4 keys to a successful passage through life, as we see them in Psalm 84:


  1. Look to God alone for your strength
  2. Put your heart into the journey
  3. See the opportunity in every trial
  4. Remember that God is in control

CMS and Greenbelt launch Missional Entrepreneurship competition

Pickwell Manor

There’s an interesting new missional entrepreneurship competition being launched by Greenbelt and the Church Mission Society:

The Church Mission Society, in partnership with Greenbelt, is launching a missional entrepreneurship competition ahead of this year’s festival.

Submit your entry by 18 July 2014 >

RS37572_United_Kingdom_Events_98066-scrWe are asking festivalgoers to submit an idea that is both transformational and includes a means of generating income.  

The shortlisted entrants will get to pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs at Greenbelt 2014.

The Prize

The winner will receive a free place – worth £400 – on CMS’smissional entrepreneurship week, an annual residential atPickwell Manor in Devon (pictured above). They’ll be taught with other budding entrepreneurs, the expertise necessary to work up their idea into a realistic money-making venture and have the opportunity to present to a panel of potential funders.

RS58016_ME_2013-8-scrHow to enter

Simply tell us, in 20-25 words each:

  • What is your idea to make a positive difference in the world?
  • How will it generate income to be financially sustainable in the long term?

Entrance criteria

The other beach nearby!

You must be:

  • over 18
  • a UK resident
  • able to take up the prize from 16-21 November 2014
  • attending Greenbelt Festival 22-25 August 2014
  • and willing to pitch at a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event over the Greenbelt weekend.

Closing date for entries will be Friday 18 July.

Announcement of the successful shortlisted entrants will take place on Monday 21 July.

Submit your entry now >

All-Age Talk: Jesus turns water into wine


This morning I spoke at our all-age service on John 2:1-11 looking at Jesus turning water into wine, and here’s the PowerPoint:

The first miracle of Jesus took place in Cana of Galilee. The event was a wedding. Cana was a inconspicuous little town that lay outside of Nazareth. Cana had no social prominence in its day.  It’s interesting to note: Jesus ministry, like his birth, began in a small, unimportant town, to common every day people.


Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus and his disciples had all been invited to the wedding.  Weddings were, and are, a big deal in the Jewish culture.  The wedding ceremony would take place late in the evening after a time of feasting. The father of the bride would take his daughter on his arm, and with the wedding party in tow, would parade through the streets of the village so that everyone could come out and congratulate the bride. Finally the wedding party would arrive at the home of the groom. The wedding actually took place in the front door of the grooms house. It was no short ceremony … no the festivities lasted for days. It was a time of great celebration.


After the wedding ceremony the bride and groom walked through the streets accompanied by flaming torches. Their attendants walked with them keeping a canopy over their heads. The wedding party always took the longest route through the village so that as many people as possible could wish them well.


There was no such thing as a honeymoon! No, the couple kept open house for a week. They were treated like royalty. They dressed in fancy clothes and many times actually wore crowns on their heads. Whatever desire they spoke for…they received. Their word was law!


The groom’s family was expected to provide all the refreshments for this week of festivities.


That’s where we pick up today’s Bible reading.  Suddenly the host discovers that they are running out of wine. They had more guests than they anticipated. It would have been improper for the culture of this time to not have wine. Jews did not get drunk at these celebrations — drunkenness was considered a disgrace. But the host could have actually been sued for a breach of hospitality to his guest.


We can assume that Jesus’ mother was a close friend of the groom’s mother and she heard about the problem.  Jesus’ mother comes to Jesus and says, “Son, we’ve got a problem here, and we need your help. The groom’s family is running out of wine.”  The fact that Mary came to Jesus with such a problem is a reminder that Jesus is concerned with the everyday things in life that we face.


Jesus answers his mother in what seems like a harsh way. He was not being harsh, he was just simply already focusing on his life and ministry, and had began to detach himself from his family.


John calls this first miracle a sign. Signs are usually placed in places to give us information, or point us in the direction. The miracles of Christ were always meant to reveal to us the glory of God, and point us to who He truly is.


Let’s take a look at what this first sign means for us today.  Notice that first of all:


The wine can run out.

Mary realises the seriousness of the issue. You can hear it in her words… “They have no wine.”  To the Jewish people wine symbolised joy. The Jewish rabbis had a saying, ‘Without wine there is no joy.” At the wedding in Cana their joy had run out!  It is a reminder of the emptiness of our life without Christ.  This statement by the mother of Jesus goes beyond liquid refreshment at a wedding. It is symbolic of our lives. It is a scary thing when the “wine runs out.”


There are times when the wine runs out. The joy is dry!  For example, families that once began with exuberant joy are now ending in the pain of divorce – why? There is no more joy in the relationship.  You and I have no resources available within ourselves to replace the joy. Only new wine can come from Jesus Christ.


When the wine runs out, Jesus can turn the water into wine.

Mary came to Jesus and told him of the problem that they were facing. I can just imagine her telling the groom’s mother, “You hold on just a minute! I know just what to do with this situation.” She came to Jesus and told him.  I love her instructions to the servants. “Whatever he says to you, do it” Just Do It!


Jesus took the waterpots that were filled with ordinary water for handwashing. When the guest arrived someone would pour some of this water over their hands in a symbolic purification. To eat with unwashed hands would have been a defilement.  Jesus took this water and made approximately 180 gallons of wine.


It’s interesting to note that Jesus took the water for purification and used it for his first miracle. The water in those pots was merely for an external cleansing. Jesus ministry over the next three years would teach people about an inner cleansing.


Jesus takes the ordinary things and makes it into something amazing.  But not just that, if we look at the first miracle of Jesus we see this truth: “Jesus is not just the giver of joy…he is the giver of “abundant” joy.” He not only met their immediate need, but he gave an abundance.  Jesus did not just make some ordinary wine. No, the wine that he produced was better than that which they had started the celebration with.


Jesus didn’t just doctor the water so that it tasted like wine. No, the water in those pots was transformed into the finest wine the people had ever tasted.  The truth for us is this—Jesus is not going to just doctor up our lives a little bit, just put a plaster on our needs—no he wants to transform your life, just like he transformed that water. Our lives will take on a new nature.


Jesus is all about transforming power. Changing people—that’s what its all about.  This Sign teaches us that…


Jesus offers an abundance of new wine at the end.

Sometimes its hard for us to understand God not only meeting our need but providing for us an abundance.  That’s the story of grace. There is no measure to grace. There will always be enough grace to meet our needs. That’s the story of God’s love. There is nothing that you can do that will cause God to diminish his love for you.


Understand this principle of God today…God is not just a God of the required—he is a God of the abundance. Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, If I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it”


Not “just enough”—an abundance  Look at creation – the New Forest, there is an overabundance. God didn’t give us “just enough” beauty, it is all around us. Have you ever been to the seashore and looked out over the ocean. There is far more beauty that our eyes can absorb. Have you ever seen a field of wildflowers? Not just enough to fill a vase in your living room, but more than enough. This is the picture of grace…God always gives more than you will ever need!


So the wine is poured out and all the people who are present rejoice at the richness of this “new wine”.  This was completely against custom. The best wine was always offered first.  Isn’t that just like our Lord? The best always comes at the end. The grace we once tasted cautiously—we now drink freely. Jesus has poured out in us the richness of his love and forgiveness.  There is one among us who is pouring out the rich “wine” and there is enough for everyone!



What do you do when the wine runs out? Mary showed us by example. She told the servants that if they would just do what Jesus commanded they would see a miracle. A miracle that not only met their immediate need…but a miracle of abundance.


Has your joy ran out today? Jesus wants to transform you! Bring your need to him!

Why don’t we see miracles all the time?

Justin Holcomb:

Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).

Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?

To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

Read the rest.

Under 30s now represent 23% of those becoming Vicars


Statistics from the Church of England for 2013 show that the number of young people (under 30s) accepted for training for the Church of England ministry continue to be the highest number in the past 20 years. Young people now represent 23% of those entering training.  The statement went on to say:

The Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council is continuing to be proactive in recruiting young ordinands through providing conferences and training opportunities such as the Ministry Experience Scheme being piloted in 2013/14, which is looking to be extended from four Diocese for the academic year 2014/15.

The Archbishop of York will be hosting a conference, Step Forward 2014, for young people considering ordination. The event will take place at Bishopthorpe Palace, and the Archbishop will be keynote speaker for the day.

Liz Boughton, Young Vocations Advisor, Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council said: “We are delighted with the number of young adults recommended for ordained ministry last year. It’s great that an substantial number are having the confidence and support to hear and respond to God’s call to the priesthood. We welcome young people and value the gifts, enthusiasm and insights that they bring.”

The Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Revd Steven Croft, who is Chair of Ministry Division said: “The Church of England has a fresh vision and commitment to see people in their teens and twenties exploring God’s call to ministry.

Why did Jesus die on a cross – 7-11 year old Sunday School session

Jesus - wordle

This morning our 7-11 year olds spent the morning looking at ‘Why did Jesus die on a cross?’:


Equipment required: A blindfold.
Designate one young person as the ‘caller’. Stand this person in the middle of the room and blindfold them.Number each of the corners of the room.

One of the leaders starts the game off. Each of the young people have to choose one of the corners of the room to run to. When everyone is waiting in the corner of their choice the caller shouts out a number (1 – 4). Everybody in that corner is out and should sit down.

Keep playing until there is only one player left in.

Once there are only eight players left you can add the rule that there can not be more than two people in each corner. With four players left you can only have one player in each corner.

If you have time you can select a new ‘caller’ and play again. You could see which caller manages to get everyone out with the fewest number of numbers shouted out.

Quiz: HOW MUCH IS. . .?

Equipment required: An Argos catalogue.
Call out various products from the catalogue and get the group to guess how much they cost. Give four possible price options and four corners where the group members must stand if they think it’s a certain amount, e.g. How much is a Barbie doll?Go to corner A if you think it’s £9.99. Go to corner B if you think it’s £16.98. Go to corner C if you think it’s £13.50. Go to corner D if you think it £17.99

We used this powerpoint to run it as a quiz: How much is it worth?

At the end of the game ask how much a human is worth.

Explain that Jesus died for us, we are so important.


Equipment required: Some or all of the following items (optional): 7 bars of soap/fat, iron to make 1 nail, 7 cups of sugar, phosphorus to make 2200 matches, 6 buckets of water, sulphur to rid a dog of flees, 5 tablespoons magnesium/salt.Ask the group “How much money are you worth?” Get them to put a price on a human. £10,000,000?  Tell them that actually what’s actually in their body adds up to about £7

Read or show which actual items, what their bodies are made up of.

  • 7 bars of soap/fat
  • iron to make 1 nail
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • phosphorus to make 2200 matches
  • 6 buckets of water
  • sulphur to rid a dog of flees
  • magnesium/salt- 5 tablespoons

Explain that no one would sell you for just £7, you’re far more important than that. Jesus died to save all people. God loves us all so much and thinks we’re priceless!


Equipment required: 2 white t-shirts.
Start the session by reading the crucifixion story (see ‘CF04 drama’ for the text). Talk a bit about the pain that Jesus must have gone through.Tell the group that people often say ‘Jesus died for our sins’. What does that actually mean? Discuss any ideas.

Ask for a volunteer. Put a white t-shirt on him/her. Ask the group what sins they all do (lie, gossip, swear, mock, bully, boast, be rude, be unkind).  As the group say these things, write them in black marker pen into the t-shirt in big writing.  Ask “what would God say if he looked at all those wrong things we do?” He wouldn’t be able to let us into heaven because we’re not perfect as God is.

Now explain that Jesus died for all of those wrong things that we do. So, if we love Jesus, when God looks at us, He sees a brand new white t-shirt that Jesus has given to us. We’re now perfect and allowed into heaven because Jesus took our sins and made us clean. As you’re talking, give the volunteer a new white t-shirt.

Show the group this verse from the Bible (maybe write is on a big sheet of paper).

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—

   our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,

   that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,

   that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Isaiah 53:5 (The message)

Talk about what it means and tell the group that anyone can have that white t-shirt, it’s a free gift.


Equipment required: Paper and pens.
Ask the group if they have to write thank you letters after Christmas and birthdays. Why do they write them? (to thank someone for giving them a gift).Encourage the group to thank Jesus for dying for them and for the gift of eternal life in heaven.  You may prefer to write this as a group.

You could also use this time to talk about any further issues or misconceptions that may have arisen.


Dioceses vote in favour of Women Bishops

General Synod

The Church of England has issued this press release now that all the Dioceses have finished on voting on the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops:

Dioceses vote in favour of women bishops
23 May 2014

The Church of England’s dioceses* have now all voted in favour of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops. Manchester was the last diocese to vote and they approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod yesterday. In 2011 both London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.

The February 2014 meeting of General Synod referred the current Women in the Episcopate legislation to the dioceses.

Diocesan Synods all voted in favour of the motion: ‘That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.’

For the motion to be carried the houses of clergy and laity had to each vote, by a simple majority, in favour.

The table attached records the votes in favour and against, and any recorded abstentions in each house. The draft legislation will now go before General Synod in July for a Final Approval vote.

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation for Women in the Episcopate said:
“The dioceses have now expressed their view very clearly and the matter now comes back to General Synod in July. I pray that the Synod will continue to approach this decision in a prayerful and generous way as we move towards voting on the proposal that women may be bishops in the Church of England.”

The table of Diocesan Synod results can be found here.

*Due to logistical constraints the Diocese in Europe was unable to convene a meeting in the three month period allowed for this Article 8 reference.

WATCH has issued this press release.

A clean sweep this time: 100% of Dioceses support Women Bishops legislation
Posted on May 23, 2014

Women and the Church (WATCH) is delighted and hugely encouraged by the overwhelming support given by 100% of diocesan synods for the new Women in the Episcopate legislation. Such a resounding endorsement, including from the dioceses of London and Chichester which voted against last time, gives us significant hope and encouragement for the final vote at General Synod in July.

Chair of WATCH, Hilary Cotton said, ‘This is really, really good news in the lead-up to the Final Approval vote. In most dioceses over 90% of votes were cast in favour: surely General Synod cannot turn their backs on this again?’

How to cope with exams

Under Pressure

Tonight we did a session for our 11-18 year olds on how to cope with exams and stress, the PowerPoint can be downloaded and here are some tips that we handed out for revision and the exam itself


Ask the group to sit in a circle. Ask each person in turn what animal best describes them and why. Make sure the leaders join in as well!


Ask the group the following questions.  Indicate a side of the room for each answer and ask members to move to one side or the other depending on their answer.

Would you rather:

  • Eat a worm or drink the washing up water
  • Listen to an hour of Justin Bieber or never listen to music again
  • Watch Neighbours or watch paint dry
  • Clean the toilets at school or wash all the windows in Buckingham Palace
  • Hold a snake or hold a spider
  • Play rugby or straighten your hair
  • Eat prunes or eat porridge
  • Sing in front of the whole school or dance on TV
  • Walk up a mountain or knit a jumper
  • Take the dog for a walk (knowing what you have to pick up when you do) or clean out the cat’s litter tray


Watch the funny answers to exams video.


Show the picture of an Exam Room to the group.  Discuss: How do exams make you feel?  Explain that today we are going to be looking at how we choose and cope with exams.


Ask the group to reflect on all the different ways they can make choices e.g:

  • The people we might ask for advice – teachers, parents, friends
  • Randomly
  • Thinking through pros and cons
  • Pray

Explain that today we are thinking about exams, and how we choose our subjects and cope with the exams we have to take.


Neo has been seeing lots of strange things recently. He wants to find out about The Matrix although he has no idea what it is. He meets Trinity, who takes him to meet Morpheus.  Neo first meets Morpheus, and is given the choice of whether to pursue his curiosity about the matrix or not.

Neo has a choice to make; to take the blue pill and give up his quest, never knowing what the matrix is, or to take the red pill and find out all he’s been wanting to know.

Discuss with the group:

  • Do you think it’s an easy choice? Why/ why not?
  • Would it have been better for Neo if Morpheus had just offered him one pill as the answer to his quest so Neo didn’t have to make a choice? Why/ why not?
  • What do you think made Neo choose to take the red pill?
  • Do you like making choices? Why/ why not?
  • When it comes to choosing what subjects to take at school, what kind of things influence your choice?
  • Would you rather someone chose for you? Why/ why not?


Ask the group what people worry about when it comes to doing exams. Ask them to think not just about what they might worry about but what they think others worry about too.

Write their answers on a flip chart (or get one of the group to write them up).  Discuss:

  • Does God care about any of the things they’ve listed? Why/ why not?
  • Which things does God think are important? Why?

Ask the young people to find Philippians 4:6-7. Ask one of the group to read through the two verses.


  • Look back at the list. Have you changed your mind – does God care about any of the things we’ve listed? How do you know?
  • What do you think we should do if we’re getting stressed about our exams?
  • Why should we thank God when we are praying? What could we thank Him for?
  • What does God promise us when we pray?

If you are coming up to a period of exams, why not organise an exam timetable for the group. This could be a grid showing everyone’s exams. You could distribute it around the group (and throughout the church family) so that people can pray for each other.

If members of the group complain that they find it hard to get down to revision, you could also organise some revision sessions. You, or other leaders, could offer to supervise the sessions (to make sure they don’t just chat!).


Exams are important, but they are not the most important things in the world.  I have taken a few exams in my life, some I have passed, some I failed, but I always aimed to give it my best and achieve my potential.

So what pressures do we feel:

From Parents

They want you to succeed but sometimes their “enthusiasm”/help can make you feel under too much pressure.  Often they don’t want you to waste opportunities, but you also need space to make your own decisions.  Communication is key in this area, so talk about it.

From teachers

Teachers want the best for you.  If you are concerned then take the initiative and talk about your worries.  Don’t bottle it up.  Don’t feel you are the only one who doesn’t understand or is struggling – there will probably be others who aren’t brave enough to admit it – so just ask.

From friends

This can be a positive and a negative.  Working together when you are studying the same subjects can mean you help one another.  But it can be negative – trying to live up to someone else’s achievements can be daunting.  It is important you focus on achieving your potential.  Also don’t be put off by the few who think it is cool not to work, to be disruptive – it can seem like fun at the time but you will probably regret it later.

From Ourselves

It is good to have dreams and ambitions, but make sure they are yours and not what someone else wants you to do.  Set yourself realistic goals – not so high that you don’t stand a chance of achieving them.  I wanted to be a lawyer – that didn’t happen!

So what can you do?


Most people pray at some point in life, and at exam time it is usually “HELP!”.  Pray for peace and calm in the exam.  Pray for discipline to study and ability to achieve your potential.


As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

  • Have a revision timetable but make sure it is realistic!
  • You need a balance of revision and relaxation.  Always take one day off a week from school work, no matter how much pressure you feel, God designed us to have one day’s rest per week.
  • Split the day into three: morning, afternoon and evening – use two of the three for focussed study and revision – the other is for relaxing and exercise.
  • Revise for an hour and then stop.  Have a break, have a kit kat!  Then come back to it.  Take time to switch off and do something completely different.


  • Organise your place of revision – make sure you have your notes, text books, writing implements, computer, drink and nibbles etc. all in easy reach.
  • Create a playlist of motivational music to get you going.


  • Ensure that you have regular food and drink, and exercise breaks – exercise helps to release endorphins – the feel good feeling and is an important stress factor.


  • Different ways to learn include:
    • Going through past papers (and model answers) is often very helpful.
    • Read it, doodle it, hear it, write it, speak it, etc, the more different ways you find to express it the more you will remember – also be aware that your teacher’s favourite teaching style may not be your best learning style.
    • Use different colours so you can quickly scan the really important stuff.
    • Make short notes, revise them the following day, then a week later. Repetition transfers info from short to longer term memory. Cramming not productive.


  • Stop all electronics at least half hour before bed.
  • Make sure you still make time for the one thing you love, the thing that fuels your energy rather than just saps it.
  • Get your parents to chill a bit!


  • Get a good night’s sleep, set your alarm, have a good breakfast and give yourself plenty of time, allowing for traffic hold ups, etc.
  • Check you have all your necessary stationary and equipment, including a watch!
  • Know exactly where the exam is going to be held – I still have nightmares about not being able to find the right room and I left school a long time ago!
  • Go to the toilet before the exam.
  • Avoid talking to people about the exam, what you have revised etc., while waiting to go in as it can make you feel nervous that you haven’t revised enough – instead make plans for fun things to do after the exams or chat about last night’s TV!
  • Listen carefully to any instructions, read the top sheet and complete it properly.
  • Know your candidate number.
  • Always take a deep breath before you start and know that people are praying for you
  • Go for it – if you don’t know the answer go onto the next one – don’t sit there panicking.
  • Read all the questions and make sure you know what you are being asked.  Possibly start with stuff you are comfortable with, which may not necessarily be the first question.
  • Know how much time to spend on each question.  Time is crucial in exams – don’t waste it.  If a question is only worth a few marks don’t spend ages on it.  Always answer multiple choice questions even if it’s only a guess.
  • If something is not clear then ask (just not the person sat next to you!)
  • Check all sides of the paper – don’t miss a back page!
  • Label all answers clearly and be as neat as you can.  Show all working out and attach any notes made on questions you fail to complete.
  • Leave 5 minutes at the end to go through and tidy up.

What about the exam results?

If the results are not what you expected – don’t panic – get advice.  It needn’t be the end of the world.  If they are what you hope for – well done!  Congratulations!


Ask the young people to stand in a circle. Ask them to turn to their right and place their hand on the shoulder of the person in front.  Then ask everyone to pray for the person they are touching – that they would know God’s peace in their worries, and His guidance as they make decisions. You can either ask everyone to pray out loud at the same time, or quietly in their heads.  Then ask everyone to turn around and pray for the person standing to the other side of them.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Encourage them to look up the verse above in the Bible and copy it out.  If possible, laminate the cards to increase their lifespan! Encourage the young people to try learning the verse as they write it, testing each other, and to keep it in their purse or wallet to remind them to pray.