For many years Gideon members have been privileged to speak to school pupils at assemblies and offer each a copy of the New Testament & Psalms. We are very grateful for the prayers of members and Friends who pray for this important aspect of Gideon work. Your prayers have ensured that the doors of many schools remain open to Gideons. Please continue to pray that this will be the case, and where doors are closed pray they will be opened.
However, although God’s Word never changes, the way that Gideons are operating in schools is changing. Many schools are no longer holding traditional assemblies and so Gideons need to adapt their approach. Often we are asked to take classroom lessons, usually a Religious Education (RE) class. This obviously puts additional time and manpower pressures on Gideon branches. The task of covering say ten one-hour lessons in a week is obviously much greater than one fifteen-minute assembly, in order to speak to the same number of pupils and present the same number of Testaments. Your prayers are much needed and greatly appreciated.
In addition to the obvious requirement for more time to be given to schools work by local Gideons, we were also faced with the need to provide training to Gideons who are called on to deliver lessons. Most Gideons have no teaching experience and therefore need to be trained. When the Gideon leadership was praying and considering what to do about this, they were introduced to Lat Blaylock from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE).
Lat is the editor of RE Today magazine and an adviser with them. He provides professional development opportunities for several thousand primary and secondary school teachers every year in a variety of local authority, diocesan and other contexts, and has a national reputation for practicality and inspiration. Over the past three years Lat has worked with the Gideon Schools Working Group to develop practical and inspirational material, including lesson plans for Gideons and teachers, and has delivered training to many Gideon members in locations around the country.
As well as producing lesson plans for members and teachers, Lat has produced a Code of Conduct that Gideons present to schools in order to explain how they will work with them. Amongst other things, this document explains how Gideons work in different school contexts (see box). You can obtain a copy of the full document by contacting Gideon National Office. Please continue to pray for this important ministry.
How we work in different school contexts
Members of The Gideons who visit schools recognise that there are three main contexts in which visitors from religious communities participate in school life:
- collective worship or school assembly
- the curriculum (including RE lessons for example)
- voluntary groups, such as lunchtime or after school Christian Union groups.
Each context is distinct, and requires a suitable approach.
In collective worship pupils are offered opportunities for spiritual and moral development. A visitor from The Gideons might explain with a story or personal experience why the Christian Scriptures have proved so valuable to so many, and ask pupils to think about the ideas presented from their own point of view. The invitation to receive a copy of the Scriptures always respects the right of the pupil to say ‘no’ politely!
In lessons, including RE lessons, pupils are engaged in the task of learning. Gideon visitors are not teachers, but are pleased to work with teachers to contribute to lessons in which the wisdom of the Bible is explored in interesting ways. Such lessons can build on the free gift of copies of the Scriptures, aiming to be informative, to help develop pupils’ understanding, and maybe also challenge pupils to reflect on their own commitments. Visitors will want to think carefully about the educational aims of the session(s) or contributions that they offer so careful shared planning is always welcome.
In voluntary extra-curricular groups, such as a Christian Union in a school, some pupils may wish to share their belief through a regular meeting or club outside curriculum time. Pupils, teachers, parents or visitors may take the lead in organising this. Visitors to such groups from The Gideons are pleased to be participating in the life of the community of religion or belief, on school premises. This special opportunity is taken seriously, and Gideon volunteers seek appropriate liaison between staff and pupils in the school.
Extracted from the Code of Conduct
Schools Testament retrieved from kitchen drawer
In 2001, I was working at the then Midland Bank. I was in the office when a colleague came in saying that the twin towers had come down. My initial thoughts were one of shock and amazement that people would actually do something like that. I rushed home and watched the footage on the TV, but I realised that it was a spiritual battle that we were all involved in. This I believe was the starting point to my conversion.
I had always believed in God, but I was not born again. I had lived a sinful life in the world for 37 years, and had no relationship with the Saviour. Then three things happened to me in close proximity.
Firstly, as a family we had gone to York for a short weekend break. This was a very difficult time for me as I became convicted of my sin. The Holy Spirit had brought conviction into my heart, and I was reminded of past sins, and the way I had lived apart from God.
I returned home very unsettled, knowing I had to search for forgiveness. At that time, Christian TV had just started to be broadcast. I realise that it’s very much a mixture of good and poor teaching, but as I listened to a Pastor explain and talk about Jesus I knew I believed.
We had always kept a small Gideon Bible that was given to Karen, my wife, in the kitchen drawer. I began to read the pages and it helped me understand. It would have been given to pupils at Stanley High School, by Gideons in the 1970s.
My wife Karen gave her life to the Lord six months after myself, praise God! How thankful we are, for God’s grace, the conviction of sin, and the Bible, the Word of God. Please be encouraged in your work that God’s Word does not return to Him void.
Pastor Richard Hardy (Birkdale Bible Fellowship)