Engage Schools is an initiative of Telford Christians Together and Catalyst Youth Trust. We aim to support reflective secondary Christian education in Telford & Wrekin, helping young people to understand their own beliefs and inspiring faith in Jesus. One of the most important aspects of Engage Schools is that we work with existing church visions for secondary school ministry, and seek to encourage a cohesive approach across the area. This includes helping to resource evangelism and discipleship with events, training and coordination with other partners across the region.
GSUS LIVE & CROSSFYA
You may have been aware that in year one, Engage Schools undertook a massive research project to assess the needs of the area. At the beginning of year two, we got underway with the mission.
On the 1st November 2019, we hosted an evangelistic concert at All Nations Telford with the Crossfya band. One hundred young people came from Telford and Bridgnorth.
During the evening, 20 young people came through to faith in Jesus. Ten of the young people who responded came from groups in Telford. The following day, GSUS LIVE arrived.
GSUS Live is an exciting resource for secondary schools. It’s a state-of-the-art mobile classroom with a fully functioning multi-media computer suite designed to take classes up to 32 Key Stage 3 pupils for a 45 to 60-minute lesson. GSUS Live is a stimulating environment where students can investigate Jesus’ teachings on Forgiveness, Fear, and Rejection.
In the half term leading up to Christmas we took GSUS LIVE to four secondary schools in Telford, and we achieved this with Churches in the South, West, East & Central Church Together.
- 38 volunteers helped to set up, pack down, and teach sessions in Telford Schools.
- 1 of the four schools has had no prior Christian input in recent years.
- We worked with 1721 students in the four Telford Schools.
- 84 lessons were taught in the four Telford Schools.
What the teachers said:
“I think GSUS Live was a great experience for all students. Thank you. I think the ideas of forgiveness, rejection and fear worked really well to make Christianity ‘real’ to them.”
“GSUS Live helped to raise the profile of RS in the School – the presence of the trailer alone on the Hard Play area provided a talking point, and the experience provided the students with a memorable and engaging alternative way of benefitting from meeting Christian believers and thus bringing the faith alive.”
“It has been rewarding to see all the groups respond in such a positive way. I had the good fortune of meeting and working along with your dedicated team. The commitment and impact is evident to see. A lovely group of people. Thank you for sharing them with us too! The resource was very high quality, and we have benefited.”
Directly after GSUS Live left, we got straight on with a follow up for students, in the form of a small card. On the card we wrote advice for getting through the winter term. The resource was accompanied by a presentation for teachers to use.
Although this might seem like a small follow up gesture, this little project further cemented our commitment to the schools; communicating that we’re serious about helping, supporting and encouraging growth in young people’s lives.
More than anything, our role in Engage Schools, at least in these early stages, is to create as many opportunities to be present as possible, and I think ‘Winter Wisdom’ will help with that.
In January 2020, we gave out 1000 Winter Wisdom cards, but then our plans were seriously interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we changed our approach to match the needs of the schools.
Lockdown Video Resources
Adapting to lockdown schools ministry wasn’t easy. As a project that was only now a year and a half old, we needed to accept that our success would be linked to the small number of contacts we already had, so we chose to produce video resources to support them.
During the lockdown, we hosted 8 video assemblies which were sent out to secondary schools with a series of 6 personal development videos. In the assemblies, we talked about a range of subjects including Hope, Joy & Values and Racism.
It was quite a challenge to collect feedback from the assemblies we produced, but of the schools which used them, the staff were very appreciative.
“The idea of addressing Racism will be most welcome. Thank you.”
“This is a really positive idea. I have been sharing all the clips with the students and parents via the school on the online learning site.”
We also ran a series of youth events called Stir Gathering Online. These were great opportunities to connect with other workers and to get larger numbers of young people together for encouragement. One of the best things about running these larger events was that we were able to attract speakers from the national youthwork scene who were pleased to offer their time to record talks. At the first event, we had Ben Cutting from Youth for Christ. At the second Tim Alford from Limitless spoke, then the third time we met before the summer Pam Kershaw from Urban Saints spoke.
We were so encouraged with Stir Gathering Online. Around 50 young people watched each one live, and within a week, other young people and groups watched which raised the numbers considerably.
Telford Youth Fusion update
Telford Youth Fusion (TYF) is a local youth group that gathers young people together from churches across Telford, grows young disciples and enjoys meeting up and socialising together. We have young people from age 11-18 attending from numerous churches and secondary schools across Telford and into Shropshire.
Recently TYF has come under the umbrella of TCT and Engage Schools in order to continue as a source of support for young people locally. The transition from the central Telford Parish to TCT came at the beginning of lockdown, but with limited opportunities to meet we were able to spend our time planning.
We started online Zoom meetings weekly on the 23rd of March and continued weekly for 19 weeks. We also established an Instagram page to communicate with the group. We had good engagement overall. We started with around 16 regular members online, and by the end of the 19 weeks, we averaged about 9 young people.
After a few weeks, we started an additional half-hour session called ‘@7’ which was a short bible study around a key subject for our young people. Our first topic was Social Justice, prompted by the awful news of the murder of George Floyd. We followed this with a four week series on Identity.
We’ve learnt so much as a team during this time. Looking back, we had a lot of adjustments to make, establishing under new oversight, getting used to online meetings and being creative about how to engage and encourage the group in a new way. We found the older young people remained as the majority each week. So looking ahead, we have been thinking about how we might engage with our younger members. We are conscious that this period has affected individuals differently. Although young people are an ‘online generation’ there has been something about meeting online that has not been easy for many.
We are excited for the future, if anything this time has taught us to lean on God, go deeper in our relationship with Him and not rely on programmes and previous ways of doing things to connect. In this changing time, we can be sure of our foundation in Him, and this is what we want our young people to be sure of too.
TFY: Team leader
East Telford Benefice
Holy Trinity Academy
As you may know, HTA has its own SALT team of lay chaplains that provide prayerful and spiritual spaces each week. I have been able to visit them on a number of occasions and chatted with children and staff. The school also hosted the Living Hurting Dreaming artwork, and I went along to share in a session with the children. The creativity and imagination of the children blew me away, and their appreciation for art was phenomenal.
With the support of the RE team, I set up a regular service of Holy Communion for the children and staff, and this runs bi-monthly alternating with the Roman Catholic Priest. We regularly get 15-20 in attendance and once the chapel at the school was full to bursting. I have assisted in numerous activities in the school alongside staff and ecumenically such as: Welcome Assemblies, Advent and Lent Liturgies, Distribution of Ashes to the whole school. The school hosted a Carol Service at St Peter’s Church at the end of term, and I was brought to tears by the amazing singing and atmosphere of the event.
Telford Priory School
John Prockter, through engage Schools, and a team of willing volunteers staffed the GSUS Live truck at Telford Priory School in November. This involved a whole days training on how to set up the truck! GSUS live is an interactive classroom that introduces people to Jesus by interacting with characters on screen. It then offers a number of dilemmas for them to work through. The hope being that the youth choose the more moral and Christ-like options to help the character resolve their dilemmas. It was an event that was thoroughly enjoyed by both students and volunteers. Some members of the Alpha group had an opportunity to take part in the event to see what the schools were doing.
Contact with the school has been sporadic. Thanks to the work with John Prockter and Engage Schools doors have been opened and there is hope of doing some RE sessions and worship with the school at a later date.
Revd Lisa Harper
East Telford Benefice
PRISM is a Community Bereavement Support Service, working out of Telford Elim Community Church based in Hadley Telford.
Launched in September 2019, with 3 Saturday morning bereavement café’s a month.
In October 2019, we supported a student at Idsall, followed quickly in November with bereavement support workers going into Hadley Learning Community twice a week. January and February we began to support children at Millbrook Primary School, Muxton Primary School and Thomas Telford.
We supported 14 children and young people during lockdown.
We held 3 Zoom meetings a week for our adult clients.
Since the start of the new school year in September, we are continuing to go into Hadley Learning Centre, William Brookes in Much Wenlock, Lillishall Primary School, St Matthews Primary school, Hollinswood Primary and Burton Borough in Newport and Telford Park.
We aim to bring all the people who we support together once every half term, to socialise with each other over pizza, cake, and an activity.
We have just taken on 4 support mentors and 5 counselling students on placement to support our adult clients and one support mentor to support our work in schools.
Sue Jinks CEO
PRISM Community Bereavement Support Service.
We have been running Prayer Space in Hadley Learning Community since 2012, and also regularly doing Assemblies. One of the big challenges for us in 2019-20 was that the school has significantly increased its number of students and therefore space is at a premium. We used to have access to classrooms during lunchtime to host Prayer Space, 12:15-12:45pm and 1:15-1:45pm, but this year no rooms were available; therefore, we set up the Prayer Space in the corridor and in the dining room. It had two advantages:
- A more visible presence
- Much greater engagement with the staff. The disadvantages included not being able to offer the retreat space and the personal interactions for those who normally would come in away from the rest of the students.
We again led Assemblies and began a weekly after school club. This allowed us to engage much more deeply with a number of the students. This all was suspended at the beginning of March because of Covid-19. We had plans to increase the after school engagement, including a monthly worship session in the school theatre and offer, in conjunction with the school, targeted group support. One of the great outcomes of our ongoing engagement is that it created an open door for PRISM to go in and offer one to one support in the school. This is an amazing ministry and is making a real difference to many young people struggling with grief.
Telford Elim Paster
St Christophers Trust
In January (2020) St Christophers Trust in Wellington welcomed Ruth Watkins on to their team. This appointment was great news for us because, from Engage Schools’ inception, the trust had begun to talk about a youth working appointment.
During Ruth’s first month in position, she spent time with Engage Schools in training and developed resources, which gave her confidence and fresh ideas for what she could develop and offer to Charlton School.
Unfortunately, Ruth’s time was cut short due to the 2020 Lockdown; however, thankfully she was able to establish herself with some students and staff, including speaking at an assembly, taking part in an RE lesson, and beginning to offer support with pastoral lessons – Self-esteem, friendships, anger management. There was even the opportunity to run a lunch activity with Caroline Gwilliam from All Saints Wellington.
In the photo above, Ruth is delivering a workshop on the theme of Wellness and the Christian Faith. In the workshop, she encourages young people to engage in conversation about their thoughts and feelings and opens up key scriptures to help the students understand the Biblical themes of peace, hope, joy and restoration.
Ruth has also developed a series of assembly and group resources which she’s eager to use when her work can resume.
Written with Ruth Watkins on behalf of St. Christophers Trust
Since the inception of Engage Schools, I’ve been working with John to bring a cohesive approach to secondary schools work in the Town. Over the years I’ve brought numerous projects here, including people like Tom Elliott, the motivational speaker and magician. During the months of September – January, I worked closely with John on GSUS LIVE, and we aimed to plan the future schools work programme together. The lockdown obviously put a stop to that for the time being.
In addition to the work we did together, I also visited Thomas Telford School and worked with the RE head to provide lessons on Baptism and the Holy Spirit for Year 11. I was also honoured to be the speaker for the Year 7 Carol Service at Christmas, something which has been a long-standing tradition for me to do.
I very much look forward to continuing to support secondary schools work in Telford and plan to work with Engage Schools to increase our impact.
Dawley Baptist Church
The Salt Team is a small group of Lay Chaplains based in Holy Trinity Academy. Before the lockdown we were in the school, available to all the young people.
Before the 2020 lockdown we were able to run a range of projects with young people. One in-particular was a large cross. When the large display was finished with, students took small parts home or gave them to someone on their heart, as a symbol of of the gospel.
We supported the school in their sessions with Jake Levers Triptych artwork Loving Hurting Dreaming. There was some great engagement from students in what they could see and how they interpreted the work. It was nice to hear them explore ideas, feelings and faith through the work without any explicit aim or prescriptive right and wrong answers.
Another fruitful project we undertook was prayer walking. Prayer walking around the school and area opened up more opportunities to talk to students about God, what we were doing and why.
We also made Christingles in December, mainly with the younger years although there are always a few older ones who want to join in too. Again another practical way to talk about the gospel, and engage with students about what’s going on in their lives and how God is interested in each of them as individuals, not just in corporate acts of worship.