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29 November 2013

Christmas unwrapped brings Jesus into schools

Christmas unwrapped brings Jesus into schools

Wayne Dixon at Christmas unwrapped

Rapping, X-Factor, bubble gum and fluff; these aren’t immediately the things that spring to mind when it comes to putting together a presentation about the nativity. But a talented team at Slough Baptist Church are doing just that.

Christmas Unwrapped (25-29 November) is a week of dynamic, interactive 90 minute presentations on the true meaning of Christmas which draw on popular culture and the Bible to engage school children with the nativity.

The fast-paced presentations give children, many of whom have little or no contact with Christianity, a positive experience of church, dismantling the stereotypes surrounding Christianity. Using the church as the venue, children are treated to a vibrant, engaging presentation which includes baking mince pies, rapping, begins with a thundering blast from the piped organ, and listening to a German ‘nutty Professor’ answering questions about Jesus and the Bible.

This is not just something for schools in Slough though. Christmas Unwrapped has now been replicated in churches throughout the country from Gravesend to Glasgow in 45 locations reaching at least 200 schools, thereby impacting a minimum of 15,000 pupils each Christmas and Easter.

Christmas Unwrapped has its origins when Rev Jem Sewell and Wayne Dixon put together a one-off event to celebrate the centenary of Slough Baptist Church in September 1994. The first schools week was in March 1995. Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) began in May of this year,  supported by Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead churches.

The need for a relevant presentation of Jesus has never been greater. Wayne Dixon, who works for Christian Connections in Schools, is passionately committed to taking the gospel to school children and spoke of shocking statistics showing that in just over a century the percentage of children attending church has gone from 56 per cent in 1904 to 4 per cent today.

“I start with where they’re at then take them on a journey to hear about Jesus in an appropriate way through music, sport, TV and other cultural drivers,” says Wayne. “I’m trying to copy Jesus by using things that the kids can connect with such as X-Factor and music.”

And it certainly works. One group of fifty children attending a presentation respond with enthusiastic cheers at the prospect of carrying out their own votes for X-Factor contestants.

Christmas_unwrappedEven the prospect of making mince pies generates excitement: “Yes!” enthuses one girl to her neighbour at the prospect of baking.

Assistant Headteacher of St. Mary’s School in Slough, Gael Robinson said: “It’s a lot of fun, very engaging and the kids really love it.” “I’m a Hindu,” says year six participant Parth Gore. “Here I’ve learnt how Jesus came to earth and why.” Muslim pupil Nadia Jama commented: “It’s fun, creative and educational. I’ve learnt things I didn’t know before.”

Wayne, Rev Andy Perryman and Sarah Smart are clearly in their element as, with all the panache and professionalism of children’s TV presenters, they seamlessly move from one part of the presentation to the next.

“The team is just so enthusiastic,” says St Mary’s teacher Patricia Burke: “I wish we could always produce lessons like this in school.”

“It is the most significant initiative I have been involved with in 25 years as a schools worker because of the way it has developed in so many other areas,” says Wayne.

Observer Rev Julia Wearing, curate at Upton cum Calvey Parish said: “It would be good to get this kind of thing going in all churches and to identify people in congregations who have the gifts to be involved”.

CCiS and Scripture Union are keen to see more churches presenting Christmas Unwrapped. The team hope even more churches will lead this in their local schools. A complete set of resources are available including glossy booklets, Bible comics, banner ideas and videos. Christmas Unwrapped resources.