Put yourself in the picture

At our Step Day this week, we were able to invite adults who were keen to see first-hand how Step works, what the resources are like, how the team interacts with the students and how the students respond. 

The Step Days are simply the best way to see all of these things in practice. 

There are people who would love to work with Step, enabling them to go into their local community and share their faith to help young people engage with Jesus. But these same people have an amazing array of doubts about how they might fit into Step and the bigger picture. They can’t see themselves standing in a classroom full of students, let alone leading a lesson. They feel they don’t know how to do any of the things that Step does. 

The Step website has a section for volunteers. If you’re interested in what a Step volunteer can expect, do take a look at this section to find out what some of our volunteers say and watch a video of John, one of our current volunteers, explaining why he loves working with Step. You can also find the testimonies of past interns and volunteers under The Step Experience.

If you would like to discuss how you could work with Step, please contact terrie@stepschoolswork.org.uk.

Youth work is all about moving chairs!

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Why? Because youth work is about creating room for God. Whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or even chronologically. To do that you have to move things. You have to make space.

Regarding change and growth, some people say you should wait for a stroke of serendipity, but youth workers don’t. They aren’t content to wait and hope the universe cuts someone a break. They don’t sit back and watch others become overwhelmed by their situations. Youth workers intentionally make moments and spaces where young people can be changed forever. They support during hard times, they hang out during the normal times and cheerlead during good times. Christian youth workers go one step further and try and create space for God. They believe that Jesus is the best possible thing for young people and He is the one who is best positioned to help us experience life in all its fullness.

With this in mind, yesterday Step spent the day with 30 amazing sixth formers from Nicholas Breakspear School. The aim of a Step Day is to create a hallowed space for the students to reflect on how to move on from school and into what God has for them next. Through four diverse activities, 14 amazing volunteers enabled the students to consider God’s technicolour gift to them (think Joseph), to reflect through being creative, to practically challenge fears attached to change and finally, through using Dare to Engage’s OPEN activity, encounter some of Jesus’ thought regarding how we cope with liminal moments.

Do you move chairs and create space for God? Would you like to? If you’d like to do it with us, through physically moving chairs or praying for us as we make spaces for God, or you’d like to help support the growing work of Step, please do contact Terrie.

New year, same fabulous me

In their first week back at school after the Christmas holiday, students at Loreto had the delight of listening to me rant about why I can’t stand New Year. 

It’s not so much a new year itself that I don’t like (although when you have 45 minutes spare, I’ll happily elaborate on everything that’s wrong with the omnishambles that is New Year’s Eve). My biggest problem is with the phrase “New year, new me.”

I’m all for making positive, realistic, healthy changes. Of course we all have room to do better, whether that’s in the love we show to others or in the care we take for ourselves. We don’t need a new year to start a good habit, but it can be a useful prompt to reflect and begin afresh.

What isn’t good is when we set unrealistic or unhealthy goals in an effort to transform ourselves, because we think that we are inadequate and need to become something different. That’s why the phrase “New year, new me” drives me mad.

In their assemblies this week, each year group at Loreto were reminded that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Bible doesn’t say that you’ll be a fearfully and wonderfully made creation just as long as you can remain a sugar-and-carb-free, thrice-weekly gym attendee. It says that you have been a fearfully and wonderfully made creation since you were first knitted together, before you were even born and long before January 2019. 

Maybe this year will bring you some exciting changes and personal growth. But let’s not start 2019 by thinking we need to be something we’re not. Let’s do away with this ‘new year, new me’ nonsense and join with the Loreto students in saying, “New year, same fabulous me, maybe doing things differently.” 

Sara

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Psalm 139

Cheers to our Step Reps

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On Wednesday evening, we said a big thank you to our Step Reps with a lovely meal at Forest Town Church. It was a great evening of encouragement and fellowship. A special thank you needs to be said to Gillian, one of our Step Reps and volunteers, who helped organise the event, but alas, she wasn’t able to attend the evening due to illness.

For those of you who don’t know, Step Reps are members of church congregations who help us connect with their church through distributing and displaying promotional material, helping us arrange church visits and ensuring updates about Step are shared. Every Step Rep’s role will look slightly different to reflect their own situation and the nature of their church. You can find out more about the role by clicking here so please get in touch if you’d be interested in getting involved in this way. Even if your church already has a Step Rep, it may be possible and beneficial to share the role to be even more effective.

New Beginnings

Happy New Year!

When the clock turns to midnight to draw one year to an end and the fireworks announce the start of the next, it is a natural time to think about ‘new beginnings’. New Year Resolutions are made and many will already have been broken (and it’s only the 3rd January as I write this). It is easy to feel disheartened as we make the same mistakes time and time again.

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The Christian message is one of new beginnings, but not just for New Year’s Day. At the end of last term, Verulam’s Year 8s had the privilege of acting out stories from the Old Testament in our Walk Through the Bible lesson. They (and we) had a lot of fun dressing up as they retold the accounts of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Exodus, David and Goliath and Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

We helped fill the gaps between the stories so they understood the bigger story that each of their performances fitted into. What becomes clear is that God is constantly giving second chances. His people continuously mess up and make mistakes, despite the resolutions they made not to. They don’t live as they should and betray God leading to very real consequences. However, God always sends a rescuer to bring His people back into a right relationship with Him.

As they reach the end of the Old Testament, the students hear that the people of Israel are awaiting the Messiah, a saviour who would be the ultimate rescuer to deal with the mistakes all humans have made from Adam and Eve to us here in 2019. We turn over a page to the New Testament and hear about the birth of a little baby - a boy whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus was and is that ultimate rescuer, the ultimate ‘second-chance giver’.

What a wonderful message to share that new beginnings are not just for New Year.


Do you ThinkWell?

This autumn term Step worked with local sixth formers to develop a resource called ThinkWell. The aim is to create a student-inspired teaching resource to help others enjoy playing with the big ideas behind life, the universe and everything. In essence, to ThinkWell through toying with ideas. The sixth formers played with ideas, creating resources to help younger students think/play through some of the key arguments regarding the existence of God. 

Categorising arguments regarding God

Categorising arguments regarding God

Through a process of categorising the arguments and exploring the opinions of key philosophers/theologians, the sixth formers created prototype resources which they then presented. Views inspired by Epicurus, Albert Eistein, Adwin Abbott, C. S. Lewis, Michelangelo, William Paley and Nicky Gumbel were judged by a discerning panel.

The sixth formers’ work was often insightful and several students made profound observations and challenges. They utilised lego, board games, playdough, toy clocks and drinking bottles to illustrate their points.

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Step’s next task is to fine-tune the best ideas and develop the resources. We will then begin to use ThinkWell in Step Explore Clubs and Philosophy and Ethics classes. 

If you would like to see the ThinkWell workshop run as part of our sixth form work with your school, do contact your Schools Coordinator to arrange this.

On reflection, the students involved were practically exploring apologetics and many of them were very good at it. If you would like to be involved in helping Step develop resources, why not attend our next training on apologetics on the morning of 8th January? Contact Terrie to find out more.

Happy Christmas From Step

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Everyone at Step would love to wish you a Happy Christmas and that you will have a fresh revelation about the amazing message of God coming to Earth as a baby.

It has been an incredible term with nearly 800 activities being delivered in schools so the team will be taking a much needed rest. Although people’s holidays will vary slightly, Step is officially closed after today (Friday 21st December) and we will get back to work on Monday January 7th.

If you would like to support Step by making a Christmas donation, please click here to see details on how to do that.

Launching 2019: The Snug at Loreto

I don’t know what adventures 2019 holds for you, but at Step we’re very excited about opening up a brand new lunch club space at Loreto!

The school has generously offered us our very own room so, from January, I’ll be in there twice a week hosting a cafe-style club for the students. I can’t wait to build on the connections we made with the girls during our retreat days earlier this term, and to continue the fantastic conversations they started with us. I’ll have to thank them, too - their overwhelmingly positive feedback about the retreats and their requests to see more of Step are the main reasons we’ve been given our own area onsite. 

I’m having great fun transforming the room into a relaxed, welcoming space that we’ve named The Snug. We’re going for a ‘cosy living room’ vibe and would be enormously grateful for any donations.

I’m particularly on the look-out for:

  • Beanbags

  • Mugs

  • Neutral cushions and throws

  • Photo frames

  • Fairy lights

If you’re having a clear out and happen to stumble across anything that might fit the bill, please do email sara@stepschoolswork.org.uk

A huge thank you must go once again to everyone who made the retreat days so impactful for the girls. Having had no connection with Loreto at the start of 2018, we now find ourselves with a brilliant opportunity which wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of our volunteers and the support of everyone who prayed.

Bring on the new year!

Sara

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Barn Dance The Night Away With Step!!!

Our Barn Dance Fundraiser is on Friday 25th January 2019. Come and join us for an epic night of food, friends and fun! Whether you are a dancing novice or a Strictly pro, there is something for everyone in our all-ability barn dance.

Your ticket will include a ploughman’s dinner along with some wonderful desserts. There will be a live band for you to enjoy whilst you’re either dancing the night away or watching the dancing from your table.

You’ll be able to buy raffle tickets and enter a game of heads or tails to win some fabulous prizes. Most importantly, there will be a chance to see the Step team dancing in fancy dress! To vote for the person you would most like to see dressed up, click here to make a donation (vote Chris). The three Step members with the most donations referenced with their name in the messages will be dancing in fancy dress after the ploughman’s dinner.

Don’t miss out on this event of the year - book your tickets now by following the link or email helena@stepschoolswork.org.uk

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The power of one

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The power of one

In Step lessons, workshops and courses you would expect to have an interactive element, a student response space. It could be as simple as writing your question on a Post-It note for the lead person to answer.

As you can see from the photo, there has been a theme to some of the questions lately.

You may remember reading about Tony, who has moved away to start a new adventure, in our Quarterly Prayer Update.

Clearly some of our students are missing Tony too. It is amazing the influence that one person can have on others.

Step aims to:

· Establish and support Christian witness in every school

· Create opportunities for local Christians to contribute to the life of each school

· Support and encourage all Christians involved in the schools in any capacity

· See young lives changed for the better

· See young Christian believers integrated into church, becoming disciples and growing to maturity

This is exactly what Tony did and he clearly had a positive impact on several lives.

If you are encouraged and would like to be able to do the same, please contact Terrie to discuss joining us.

"I once was a gymnast for Team GB!"

At the start of our Who is Jesus lesson, which I’ve had the privilege of teaching this week, someone from the team introduces themselves and makes a claim. For me I always say “My name is Geoff and I once was a gymnast for Team GB!”

Then the fun starts, as the young people work out the various options for this claim, leading to three alternatives.

  1. I was telling the truth

  2. I was lying

  3. I was crazy (I thought I was but I wasn’t)

I am always encouraged by how many people think I am telling the truth, but unfortunately, it’s one of the only times I genuinely lie in a classroom. I did, however, go to Loughborough University to study Sports Science and I was coached by a GB gymnastic coach in a gymnastics module. I wasn’t quite good enough to make the national team though!

We then consider the claim made by Jesus- that he was the Son of God, the Messiah - that he was God himself, coming to Earth on a rescue mission. Jesus’ claim has the same three options- it’s the truth, he was lying or he was crazy. The rest of the lesson explores the life of Jesus and various opinions about Jesus, so that the students are provided with enough information for them to make their own mind up.

The young people get to hear that Christians are people who look at the miracles of Jesus, his life, his death and his resurrection, and come to the conclusion that he was telling the truth. His actions lead Christians to believe his claim in the same way that had I been able to perform a triple somersault in the classroom and produce a perfect dismount after swinging from the light fittings, maybe my claim could have been true as well.

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Pray and play more!

Stress is a reality for most of us. Stress can unlock God’s gift of heightened speed, alertness and strength. Because of it we are able to effectively fight or flee. Stress is life saving in short bursts, but sadly it can cripple when encountered for long periods of time. 

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Yesterday, 82 year 11 students explored some of the issues associated with the prolonged stress we live with in the 21st century. In an attempt to help the students explore managing excessive stress they were given Gideon Bibles, played with clay, built lego, designed marblerun towers, wrote prayers, deflated balloons, prioritised, let go, laughed, competed  and attended a workshop on stress. 

Watching these fantastic students ‘retreat’ from their normal lives clearly demonstrated the power that ‘play’ has to ease stress and bring perspective. The Step team felt they learnt as much as they imparted. 

The day concluded with a reflection on Jesus calming the storm. The students were encouraged to approach Jesus during the stress storms in their lives.

So if you're feeling an unhelpful amount of stress - pray and play more!

If you would like to be involved in Step Days, we are needing people to run workshops, take photos, play games, make lunch and serve drinks. Please do contact Terrie if you would like to find out more.


A question of experience

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A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting around the table with a group of 10 Year 13 students for an hour and a half, discussing religious experiences whilst chewing on Haribo and Starburst!

The students had prepared some fascinating questions for myself and the team. These are just a few of their questions:

·     Do you believe in the Toronto Blessing being something religious or psychologically caused, and why?

·     How do you think religious experiences help to prove the existence of God?

·     Do you think there has to be a specific reason or circumstance for someone to experience a religious experience?

·     Do you believe religious experiences are everyday experiences of God or once-in-a-lifetime experiences with God, and why?

·     How do you know that the experiences you have experienced are religious experiences of God?

·     Why do only some people have a religious experience when God is omnibenevolent?

·     In what way do religious experiences further our understanding of God?

Our conversation weaved in and out of the questions and linked up with many of our personal experiences including answered prayer, healings, sensing God’s peace and dealing with disappointment, giving us an opportunity to illustrate God’s love for us and his involvement in the world.

We were challenged that some of the students felt that God is inconsistent. We explained that God doesn’t choose to be tied down to a formula, but the most notable pattern is that he seems to respond to people’s faith rather than to any sense of entitlement.

Clay + Plasma Balls + Mr Potato Head = Step Day!

Last week Step spent two enjoyable days with Nicholas Breakspear’s wonderful Year 7 students. 

The day included:

250 clay pots

160 Gideon bibles

32 presentations on ‘What is church?’

12 Step team 

8 Alpha sessions

4 plasma Balls

3 Mr Potato Heads

1 Amazing Jesus

During the day we explored some of the basics of Christianity. The students considered and presented their views on the purpose of church, took part in a taster Alpha course, reflected on Step’s interactive Space Mat and considered what Christians and jars of clay have in common whilst creating clay pots. 

Step Days aren’t simply about thinking hard and considering life differently. The students also competed in various games - shockingly, these Year 7s’ favourite game included ‘tidying up’. The day concluded with the students being entertained by photos of their day and a final challenge regarding Jesus’ inaugural speech.  

If you would like to be involved in Step Days, we need people to run workshops, take photos, run games, make lunch and serve drinks. Please do contact Terrie if you would like to find out more.

Philosophy, Ethics and Ariana Grande

Last week, Step was invited to join in with Beaumont’s Curriculum Enrichment Day. 

The school wanted to give Year 9 a taster of Philosophy and Ethics before they make their GCSE choices, so we ran a carousel of our more challenging sessions. We wrestled with arguments for the existence of God, debated abortion, and talked about why Jesus’ attitude towards women was so controversial. 

The Year 9s threw themselves into the discussions and asked superb questions, including: 

  • How can people keep faith in God when so many bad things happen?

  • If God existed before time was created, and the word ‘eternal’ is all to do with time, is it accurate to describe God as ‘eternal’?

  • Why do we call God ‘he’ and ‘father’ if he’s not human? Does he even have a gender?

And a personal favourite:

  • Do Ariana Grande’s lyrics actually have anything to do with the Bible?

The Step team thoroughly enjoyed our mind-boggling day with the next generation of philosophers!

- Sara

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Everything is Spiritual continues...

At Townsend we are on week two of three on our Everything is Spiritual journey.

This week we were thinking about how we can define spirituality and deciding what makes us human. We continued to listen to Rob Bell who was talking about the weirdness of the smallness. Exploring DNA, atoms and protons along with lots of other complicated sciencey things.

Luckily he explains his point very clearly, which is that you can not break down the small things that make up our world and our very existence and explain how they create life. They are too complex and cannot be predicated.

Once again the sixth formers drew some wonderful creations through their pondering which you can see below.

A time to remember... I am eternal

Last week, the students at Townsend had the chance to explore more about the First World War and to ponder eternity. We ran a Remembrance cafe all week with a number of activities for the students to take part in.

In the pictures below you will see the eternal mirror, the peace buttons and pinning hopes, along with the empty chair which helped students to remember those they had lost.

I also had a small team of dedicated students who returned every lunch time to help create the poppies for the Remembrance service which ran during Friday break time. This team did an incredible job making over 180 poppies.

It is an incredible privilege to run the Remembrance service at Townsend. It is so important to share with students the sacrifices made by many so that they can live in the country they know today. The Year 11 music GCSE students created a wonderful musical item which used the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McRae. Two fantastic Year 8s read a poem called ‘Remember Me’ and the Head Girl finished the service with a reading from Romans 8:38-39 and a prayer.

Helena :)

Do you talk about Tough Stuff?

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Last week Step launched its next Tough Stuff course.

Life is full of emotional rollercoasters. The highs are easy to manage, but the lows can be devistating. It only takes a few minutes in school before you come across someone who is living through a low time. Step has been well placed to help students with these lows and has just launched its next course to support students experiencing Tough Stuff.

The Tough Stuff Course material helps young people to explore feelings related to loss in all its forms, for example bereavement, family breakdown or a move to a new area.

At the end of the course your young people will have developed:

- A greater awareness of their feelings

 - Strategies to cope with difficult emotions

 - Confidence talking about their situation

 - Empathy through hearing from others 

It runs for 6-8 weeks for up to 10 students at a time.

Our trained Step team deliver an assembly or lesson to introduce the course, interview students to check they are ready for the course and provide all the required resources free of charge.

If you would like to help young people managing their feelings of loss, or would like to help young people in other ways, please do contact Terrie.

100 Years Later: Why Remember?

Every year, when 11th November arrives, we pause our busy lives for a moment and remember those who gave up everything while on active service. 

But why do we do this? Why is it important to remember wars from so long ago and the people they affected?

I put this very question to Beaumont’s Year 7 students in yesterday’s Remembrance Assembly. We concluded that it’s important to remember the past because the past isn’t separate from us; it’s part of who we are now.

For example, we talked about how people’s actions during the First World War impacted our world in ways that we can still see 100 years later.

We also thought about the imprints we leave on one another and how we carry those with us through life. Even when death takes people away from us and we have to move forward without them, it doesn’t mean that those people are no longer significant - they’ve helped shape us, and that lasts long after they’ve gone. Remembering the people who’ve shaped us is a way of celebrating those people and it helps us to understand more about ourselves.

So after the assembly, Year 7 joined the rest of the school in an act of remembrance. Every student wrote the name of someone they’d like to remember on a poppy, which they then placed on a Remembrance Hill in the school’s reception area. 

The display they’ve created is a moving reminder of Armistice Day for everyone who passes through the school. It’s also a wonderful tribute to the many individuals of the past century who have shaped the Beaumont community of 2018.

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