07 April 2015
Schools get the gospel
School children in Kent are discovering that Christianity is relevant to their daily lives through the work of an expanding Christian organisation.
The Family Trust (FT), which began over 25 years ago, is working to bring the gospel to primary schools in the Maidstone, Medway and Swale areas of Kent, while Churches and Schools Together (CAST), which came out of the Family Trust in 2004, is serving secondary schools in Maidstone. The Trust delivers a new assembly to 170 schools every six weeks, as well as lunchtime and after-school clubs called Kingsquads.
Around 800 children attend these every week in 40 different schools. Through the provision of prayer spaces, play, religious education lessons, Christian festivals and residential holidays, the FT sees around 34,000 children and many hundreds of school staff every six weeks during term time. CAST aims to develop and facilitate partnerships between Maidstone churches and secondary schools in order to help young people to make decisions on moral, physical, social and spiritual issues. It offers a wide scope of support to secondary schools, which includes mentoring, lessons, creative arts, visits and organising events.
“Our approach is to facilitate faith development of children throughout their childhood into teenage years and beyond,” says Tony Hillier, one of the original trustees. “Through initial contact with Family Trust assemblies that awaken their spiritual eyes we encourage them to attend Kingsquad at their school where they can explore the Christian faith. Our residential camps give great opportunities for children to become real disciples and start or develop their early walk of faith. Over the years, a great number have returned to camps in their mid-teens as leaders to encourage their younger peers to follow in their footsteps. As they serve we see their Christian faith being solidly rooted in their lives.
“FT began in response to a number of clear words from God that our schools were effectively enemy controlled territory. We felt challenged to take action to counter the marginalization of Christian teaching in schools.”
The trust was initially established with one member of staff in 1986 who was employed as a Children’s worker in conjunction with a local church. It soon became apparent that this didn’t allow the directness and flexibility that was considered appropriate and eventually the Family Trust model emerged.
The team includes full and part-time staff, associates and a huge network of volunteers, as well as educational professionals and others with specialist skills, all with many years practical experience working with children. They are supported by a team of associates from local churches who offer their time to help run Kingsquads in their local school.
“We have seen students in secondary school prayer spaces have some quite profound responses,” says Tony. “One student, when asked to model out of clay his response to the question: ‘What does the idea of God mean to you?’ made the shape of a tick. He said: ‘When I came in here, I wasn't sure whether God existed or not, but I can sense that he is here so my tick means: Yes… God exists.’
“In schools ministry, the biggest challenge is always building relationships with the schools and gaining their trust. We are now reaping the rewards of many years of hard work building these links. It doesn’t happen overnight but we are proof that it is worth Christians investing time and effort into schools.
“Initially some people have preconceived ideas of what a school assembly or club delivered by Christians will look like, and it’s not always a positive image! This means that we have had to place an emphasis on professionalism and make the most of new opportunities when they have arisen.
“We would like to see more churches catching the vision to serve their local school and run a Kingsquad. 170 Kingsquads would change the direction of the next generation for God.”