Dylan Harper of Lochside Parish Church writes...
I wholeheartedly believe every school should have an SU Group. I have been working in the local community at Lochside for almost four years and although we had children’s clubs, holiday clubs, trips, residentials and all the usual outreach activities, I felt something was missing in our relationship with the children and community we serve. As someone who first heard the gospel themselves through a primary school SU Group, I reached out to David to talk about an SU Group in Braehead Primary.
The first step was a coffee with David where he gave me SU’s group leaders pack which had some useful info in it – I’d definitely recommend reading this if you’re new to SU Scotland and schools work. I managed to get the headteacher’s email address and sent a really long-winded email explaining the benefits of having an SU Group, how we work with their students already and explaining out vetting policy. Within two days I received the world’s shortest email: “Great – when do you start?” I couldn’t believe it! From this point I arranged to meet with the headteacher.
I also got to spend a bit of time learning more about the school’s challenges and how we as a church could support the school, as well as confirming all the important details of what, when, where, who and what was allowed/not allowed in the school. With this the date was set – Monday 26th October. Again the worries set in: who is going to come? What if they don’t like it? Well, as is often the case with worry, it proved pointless, as we had 28 children on day one who had an absolutely fantastic time! Since then we have close to 50 children attending on a regular basis – thankfully not all at once, but we average around 30 per week.
My top tips for SU Groups would be to over prepare but always be prepared for the unexpected... Some of the children we work with are quite challenging, and this can mean having to completely change a session plan on the spot if they just aren’t feeling the joy of learning about how bullying and Joseph tie in together and instead having to talk about “why God has a white beard”. Also games are so important for building the right atmosphere, and giving a little back to the children who are giving up their lunch times.
One of the challenges we have is the sheer number of children who are coming and the mess that 30 children eating creates – we have had to be quite strict in regards to our session plan to allow them enough time to eat their food and clear up before the fun starts.
My final words of “wisdom” might sound a bit like teaching your granny to suck eggs. However, as a youth and children’s worker I know how easy it can be to forget and just rush from session to session, but always make time to pray. As a team we pray before and after each session, and we always feel the difference from the weeks when we haven’t made the time before the kids arrive.
Other than that – go for it! Your church can make a huge impact in the lives of children and teachers in your local schools by providing an SU Group.