Why volunteer?

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What better way to spend one's time than to share the blessings of the Kingdom with a group of eager listeners?  I have long wanted to find an environment where a constructive exchange about the Kingdom of God can take place - and I have found it by serving with Step.  By assisting in the presentation of Step sessions, I am able to initiate and contribute to discussions about the things of the Kingdom, sometimes seeing a real interest being stirred.  The sincerity and awareness of students impresses me - as does their willingness to engage in meaningful discussion.  Whilst accepting students are obliged to attend and take notice, I have found the challenge of awakening real interest very satisfying. 

I was seeking something worthwhile to do once I retired and felt the Lord ask me to be specific.  To this I replied something about explaining the Kingdom to real listeners.  At a Step prayer meeting I attended on behalf of my church, I heard Step had more opportunities than resources, then realising I could be a resource.  Since volunteering, I have always been impressed by the quality and relevance of teaching material and of the presentation skills of Step staff.  What can be more satisfying than to input the next generation with principles of the Kingdom whilst praying the listeners decide to follow Jesus?  

John Hopkinson (volunteer)

This year John has taught over 90 lessons in local secondary schools.

Below are some of the other Step projects John has been involved in leading or creating.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering please contact Terrie to arrange a visit.

Crime, Punishment and Second Chances

You’re a judge in a court of law. In front of you is the accused. He’s a short man, so he’s been given an extra step to stand on. He awkwardly brushes a sycamore seed off his shoulder, but the handcuffs prevent him from reaching the ones in his hair. 

He’s quite possibly the most hated man in town and for good reason; not only is he a tax collector, working on behalf of the occupying forces, but everybody knows that he takes more money than he’s meant to and keeps it for himself. He’s even done it to you. Working for the enemy and stealing from his own people! He’s a treacherous thief in an expensive suit. Now it’s up to you to decide his sentence. 

So what will it be? Community service? A fine? Banishment to a distant land? What would be a just punishment for Zacchaeus’ crime?

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Samuel Ryder’s Year 9 students have been wrestling with similar questions recently. In their Crime and Punishment lessons, they imagined that they were judges presiding over various cases with the power to hand down whatever sentence they felt was appropriate. It raised all sorts of interesting conversations about why we punish people. Is it most important to compensate the victim or to protect the rest of society? Should we help the offender to change, or is justice only served if we go after revenge? What do our answers to these questions reveal about our personal values?

When in doubt, Christians look to Jesus for help. But sometimes the example he sets can prove even more baffling. Many of the Year 9s were surprised by how Jesus treated Zacchaeus, the treacherous thief in an expensive suit, when he spotted him perched in a sycamore tree.

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

No community service, fines or banishment - just dinner. 

“Why would Jesus want to have dinner with that terrible guy?” asked one student. “I thought he’d be hanging out with the good, religious people.”

The people at the time were just as confused. But Jesus ate a lot of dinners with those on the margins of society, those who no one else wanted to be around. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” he explained. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

While we don’t know what Jesus and Zacchaeus talked about over that dinner, we know that it was the turning point of Zacchaeus’ whole life. There and then he decided to pay back everything he’d cheated out of people four times over and give half of everything he owned to the poor. It almost sounds like he paid a fine, but he paid it willingly and as part of an effort to repair the damage he caused and begin a new, better life. He was offered a second chance, by one who knew his name and saw value in him, and he grasped that chance with both hands. Shane Taylor, whose story you can hear about in the video below, is a living example of how transformations like this are still happening 2,000 years later.

So here’s the challenge Year 9 were left with: if change is possible for Zacchaeus and for Shane, is it possible for all of us? And if it’s possible for all of us, should our justice system allow us all a chance for that change to happen?

Stepping into Work Experience

This week I was lucky enough to be able to go to Step for work experience. I am a Year 10 student at Townsend School and as most of my year was on work experience this week, I was excited but also nervous. 

Resources I created for my project

Resources I created for my project

On the first day I was introduced to all the staff and sat in on a team meeting. This showed me how everyone works together. I was also introduced to my project that I would be completing throughout the week, which has helped me to understand how much effort is put into activities for the schools.

Throughout the week I have been to several different schools including St Columba’s College and Nicholas Breakspear. I have seen how Step teaches students in different years and I have also seen the lunch time clubs they do in schools. 

This has inspired me because I have seen all the work that goes in with young people and how much they are helped by Step.

I have also been able to see some training on some of the projects that they are doing in schools which has shown me how much thought and process goes into creating these activities and helpful courses for students. 

Overall I have really enjoyed my time this week. It has really helped me to understand what Step is all about and how they are helping students throughout Harpenden and St Albans. I have loved getting to know the charity and how they work and I am very grateful for this opportunity and would recommend it to any students looking for work experience in the future. 

Olivia, Year 10

Information is the new black.

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A few years ago Moby wrote a song, asking the question ‘Are you lost in a world like me?’ The clip explores a society obsessed by screens and people dismissive of their immediate environment. Irrespective of your views on social media, it is grim viewing.

Thankfully, Moby’s predictions haven’t come to pass. We aren’t surrounded by social media zombies, enslaved to their screens. But it is not all happy news. Young people are having to navigate a world full of technological wonders, enabling an unprecedented access to knowledge plus an intense proximity to the (real or posed) lives of nearly every other person on the planet. Young people’s global awareness, be it the profound or the inane, is impressive. Information is now the new black. 

Sadly, the wonders of this world also seem to be taking their toll. Young people live with higher expectations of their performance and, as one young person put it, contend with a feeling of being socially ‘always on’. The result isn’t Moby’s predicted world, but young people are having to develop skills to navigate through the ever-present views of others including the constant comparison of achievements.

iMatter is Step’s mental health initiative to help young people develop resilience when it comes to others’ opinions and also their own achievement. Rather than deriving worth from others’ opinions and our own achievement, iMatter proposes that worth is imbued into every human being and that God should be our Google search engine, the source of true self knowledge. Lauren Daigle captures this beautifully in her recent release ‘You Say’, inspiring us to listen to what God says about each of us and to orientate ourselves around that rather than anything else. Have a listen and turn it up!

In a culture of comparison, information overload and performance-based approval, Step is encouraging young people to embrace Lauren Daigle’s sentiments in ‘You Say’ and discover: I am created, I am loved, I am responsible, I am connected and I am eternal. 

If you would like to find out more about Step’s iMatter initiative or its other youthwork in schools, do contact us to arrange a visit.

Mental Health Awareness Week

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We all struggle from time to time with our mental health and we are increasingly beginning to recognise this. This week I have had the privilege of speaking to all the students at Townsend School about Mental Health Awareness Week and the benefits of having a positive body image. I gave an assembly and arranged an ‘I am Loved’ Cafe each day to help students work through some of these issues.

After spending the weekend with over 1000 young people at Vineyard’s Dreaming the Impossible Camp, and seeing over 80% of the young people raise their hand in response to the call about struggles with anxiety, I was extremely aware of the importance and the potential impact of the assembly and cafes.

In the assembly we talked about the impact body image can have on our mental health. This is a particularly important message in a time where young people are surrounded by images of the ‘perfect body’ in the media or on social media. Most of these images have been heavily edited or filtered, which gives us an unrealistic idea of beauty - one which can’t be achieved.

Emma Scot, head of Year 8 and anti-bullying lead, said, “Mental wellbeing is so important for young people to understand. Helena’s assembly was informative and engaging - thank you.”

During the cafe we explored body image further by looking for positive and negative images of body types in magazines. We then cut these out to create a body image collage. It provided a great opportunity to talk to the students about their thoughts.

Below is a video that highlights some the problems with body image, which I showed to some of the students during the week.

If you would be interested in getting involved with cafes please email: cafes@stepschoolswork.org.uk for more information.

Helena :)

'Everyone has Influence'

As you will know from reading these updates, Step takes time to gather and focus on God – see The Grey Matter behind iMatter on 22nd March 2019.

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The Global Leadership Summit (GLS) is a learning space that the Step team have attended for many years. It takes the form of speakers from all walks of life (faith and none) delivering their wisdom. The theme for this year was  ‘Everyone has Influence’.

The speakers are recorded at a huge event in the summer in the USA. The DVDs are distributed around the world to form a two-day conference that could be run almost anywhere.

Usually this is an event hosted by a church. As we were unable to attend in the autumn term, we decided to run our own, much smaller, version and invited our volunteer team to join us on 23rd April and 1st May.

On each day twenty guests gathered together, chatted over refreshments, worshipped God and watched five speakers on each day (ten different talks over the two day conference). Each attendee had a booklet to make notes, jot down ideas and record whatever seemed important to them. The Step team will spend the next few months reviewing and discussing the items that we found useful at our team meetings each week. We also asked our volunteers to let us know of anything that they thought we should discuss.

As ever, our attendees were very complimentary. But a particular conversation stands out. A team member had explained to Graeme, one of our newer volunteers, how the event was usually much bigger and hosted by a church. Graeme looked a little puzzled when he was discussing it with me. I had agreed and explained that this was the first of its kind for Step, much smaller and only our team. His response was just what I needed to hear: “Really? You mean you don’t always do it like this?” 

What an encouragement!

It was my first working day after the Easter break and I was worried, assuming I had missed something. But I hadn’t. Thank you Graeme - your response reassured me.

Special thanks goes out to The Verulam House Fund Trust for generously granting money towards training Step’s volunteers and staff. Do follow the link to find out more about them and their work.

If what we do interests you and you would like to know more about our work, please do contact us.

Come and do what you do, but do it for Him.

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Step’s recruiting mantra is ‘Come and do what you do, but do it for Him’. Some people respond by saying, “I love what you do, but I can’t teach and I don’t like teenagers. Do you still want me?” The answer is we do. We want to share our love for teenagers with them, but we also believe God has apportioned talents to everyone to be used for his work, so therefore they have something to offer Step’s work.

So how could you help Step if you don’t want to go into school?

Once a month we gather our volunteers to provide a boost to the administrative work of Step. These wonderful volunteers come in and build, cut, research, edit, fold, post and create. They could be working with card, jelly, Lego or Play-Doh. The admin team’s aim is that where ever we need a push, or extra help, they give it. They are amazing! Step would not have its brilliant resources without them.

Recently one volunteer commented, “Last week I was part of the admin team and we were asked to come up with 'Wow' facts to write on a Lego head, to point the students to a creator God. It was surprisingly difficult to come up with bite-size facts and it made me realise just how creative the Schools Coordinators are, as they are producing resources like this all the time."

This leads me onto another team that meets each month. These volunteers don’t build or make anything. They dream things. They play with ideas. They come up with ‘Wow’ facts. They are called The Braintrust. They look at what we have and try and improve it. They look at what school culture needs and envision ways to meet it. They are also amazing! Step would not have its resources without them either.

The combination of both these teams draws together two sets of incredible talents and makes something beautiful. It also paints an image of God’s church embracing diversity and seeing a cumulative gain. A local church leader recently wrote, regarding my impending church visit, that they’d “personally quite like to experience the resources” Step makes. I’m looking forward to sharing them, but also pointing out that Step didn’t dream up, design or make the resources – they came into being through the local church. Step simply found the opportunity for them to exist. What a wonder God’s Church is.

As I mentioned earlier, our recruiting mantra is ‘Come and do what you do, but do it for Him’. We stole it from Jesus, who said to some fishermen, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” It’s the same thing.

If you would like to join our admin team or attend our BrainTrust and use your talents to help Step, please do contact Terrie to find out more.

Could Hitler be in Heaven?

This week we have been teaching our Life After Death lesson in Sandringham and Townsend. The students have had the chance to debate what the purpose of life is, whether they would want to live forever and what they think happens after we die. Needless to say, there is a plethora of opinions in a room of 30 young people including ghosts, nothing, reincarnation and Heaven & Hell.

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The schools invite us in to explore Christian views about the afterlife so after researching what the Bible says Heaven and Hell are like, we put the power in the students’ hands to decide who they think should go to Heaven and who should go to Hell. Many are adamant that the murderer, the liar, the drug dealer, the thief and the racist should be in Hell and the charity worker and doctor should be in Heaven but the most common response, more often than not, is that ‘it depends’. The young people consider the severity and motives behind the characters’ offence. They also recognise that the characters have a secret life that we don’t know about and that the complexity of the task when the doctor may also be a murderer makes this decision virtually impossible.

Even if we could have a sophisticated point-scoring system and line people up from the very best person (Mother Theresa or our very own Reverend Graham Clarke) to the very worst (Hitler perhaps?), where we draw the line becomes another discussion point. It’s easy to compare the best and worst but what about those who are either side of the line? What would the difference between their lives be that warranted such vastly different eternal destinies? Surely, even for an omnipotent God, this becomes impossible and frightfully unfair.

This activity always brings plenty of animation and curiosity, especially when we reveal that the Bible says no-one deserves to go to Heaven and we are all behind God’s metaphorical line, whether we are Mother Theresa, Graham Clarke or Hitler. We’re all in the same boat, in need of a saviour and in need of the gift of eternal life, which Christians believe is given to us through Jesus’ death on the cross - our sin (however bad) is exchanged with his righteousness. This gift just needs to be accepted.

The title of this article – ‘Could Hitler be in Heaven?’ – is a question I have been asked by students many times at the end of the lesson. The answer I give is ‘Yes’. He might not be, but he could be. This may sound completely unpalatable, and I believe this reaction to the idea reflects our God-given desire for justice. But if the message of God’s forgiveness is for everyone, then that even includes Hitler. Simply by asking this question, the students demonstrate that they have grasped the audacity of the grace and forgiveness God shows, even to the worst of sinners.

The lesson ends by revisiting C. S. Lewis’ views that those who miss out on eternity with God are ‘successful rebels to the end’ and that the ‘gates of Hell are locked on the inside’. God doesn’t shut anyone out of Heaven. It’s a free gift, open to all. What an amazing message we have to share with the next generation!

Geoff

When God has a better plan

Early starts on a Monday morning were never my thing! However, this Monday started out particularly badly.

I woke up feeling off colour and couldn’t manage breakfast, arrived at the school and the reception computer refused to sign me in (wasting about 15 minutes of precious briefing and prayer time). Then it turned out that a treasured team member had mysteriously found themselves in the wrong school and was now late and struggling to find me. Not to mention that the ‘Resurrection and Ascension’ lesson plan was a particularly wordy one, which I tend to struggle with and had been worrying about.

To top this off, the class teacher wasn’t feeling well either and half the class arrived 5–10 minutes late. Pretty much everything which could go wrong had gone wrong.

As the teacher took a snappy register 10 minutes into our precious hour, I looked around at the Year 7 class, took stock of my inward anxiety, and fired up a brief yet sincere prayer: “Lord, help me!”

We whistled though the first half of the lesson material, fuelled by a celestial energy. The class were responsive and interactive. However, what happened in the remaining 20 minutes made me excited beyond words. Many of the Year 7 students were inquisitive about the lesson’s explanation of salvation, grace and heaven and hell and where pets go when they die - and so what followed was an entourage of hands raised to ask heartfelt questions and curiosity to hear the answers. I love these moments because this is why I work for Step.

As I left the lesson I felt the energy drain from my body (later I spent the afternoon in bed sleeping off this sudden sick bug). I smiled inwardly, aware that I had spent the previous hour in the presence of a God whose strength is made perfect in my weakness. Oh His Resurrection Power!

Happy Easter to all.

Jez

Incarnation, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus

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In July 2017, I remember sitting in a booking meeting with the Head of RE at Verulam School and she wondered if we could teach a lesson on the Incarnation, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. The idea of fitting those three topics into a 50-minute lesson was quixotic to say the least. To overcome this unrealistic task, we created a double lesson to give each word the justice it deserved. 

After the success of the pilot of this double lesson last year, we are in the midst of teaching them to the current Year 9s, which have once again gone down really well (so far at least!) Below is just a little flavour of what these lessons look like:

The students were first set scenario that they were an all-powerful God coming to Earth as a human for a lifetime and they had to consider what powers they would give themselves, what their mission would be, how they would spend their time, whether they would make themselves immune to suffering and how, when and where they would enter the world. In doing this they were left to reflect on how their creation would view them (God) in light of their answers. They then answered the same questions about Jesus to introduce the idea of him being God Incarnate – the visible image of the invisible God. 

The resurrection is taught through journeying through The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, comparing the story with the Biblical account of Easter. It still amazes me how many students and staff members are unaware that CS Lewis wrote the story to explain Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

Finally, two ‘willing’ volunteers act out a Jewish engagement/wedding to show that just as the groom would go away to prepare a place for his bride, Jesus ascended into Heaven to prepare a place for his bride- the church. One day, Jesus will return, as the groom would too, to take his bride to their new home. The role of the church now is to get themselves ready and wait with eager anticipation for the moment Jesus returns in the same way he left. 

As we approach Easter, this has been such a privilege to help the young people grow in their understanding of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and coming return of Jesus.

The Case for Christ

Easter assemblies are a well-trodden strip of tarmac but for some, understanding Easter is a life changing event. 

At the start of next week I will be attempting to bring some new insights into this well told event by exploring Lee Strobel’s investigation into the Case for Christ. Lee was a strong atheist for many years and was horrified when his wife became a Christian. In a bid to change her mind Lee began to investigate the evidence for the resurrection determined to prove that it didn’t happen. However what Lee found changed his life forever.

Lee’s journey through the evidence took him nearly two years to complete. He looked at the crucifixion and whether Jesus really died, he explored the early accounts of the resurrection, took apart the evidence for the empty grave and cross examined the eyewitness accounts. The evidence he found was remarkable and led him to the verdict that he would have to have more faith to hold on to his atheism than to believe that Jesus really did die on the cross and resurrected from the dead three days later.

These days the Easter story can sometimes find itself being told like a fairy story. I truly believe it’s a healthy reminder or a helpful revelation, as we head into this time of remembrance, that this event has a solid core of historical evidence. Which shows us easter is not just a fairy story but a real event.

I am very excited to be able to share some of Lee’s findings with the students and I would strongly encourage you to read his book or watch the film (both entitled The Case for Christ) to explore the evidence he found for yourselves.

Helena :)

Happiness, Need, Action - FEED!

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Recently I’ve been thinking about happiness.

When conversations arise about the purpose of life (as they often do when you spend time with inquisitive teenagers), someone will usually declare that the ultimate purpose of life is to be happy.

But happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes like the sunshine. When our purpose becomes the pursuit of a transient feeling, what does this mean for us during the 90% of our lives when we’re not experiencing that sky-high elation?

Contentment, however, is described as a deeper state of happiness and satisfaction that comes from having everything we need. Not everything we want, mind you, but everything we need. 

We talked about this with KS3 and KS4 at Beaumont School last week. During morning assemblies, we thought about how companies create discontent in us by persuading us that we don’t have everything we need until we’ve bought their latest product. They confuse our ideas of what we want and what we need, and become very successful through our discontent. 

So what’s the remedy? Gratitude. Appreciating what we have is one way to combat the discontent that comes from feeling like we don’t have enough. Our friends across the pond dedicate a whole public holiday to thankfulness, but just ending each day by jotting down three things we’re grateful for has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Why not give it a go yourself?

Then we talked about a different kind of discontentment. It’s called ‘holy discontent’ and it doesn’t have anything to do with what you have. Instead it comes from knowing that your neighbour doesn’t have what they need. That there are families around you who aren’t content because they really don’t have enough. That there are things wrong in our world that need fixing.

And the remedy for holy discontent is action. As James puts it, what use is it to see someone who doesn’t have food or clothing, and to just give them good wishes? 

The FEED food bank at Vineyard, St Albans

The FEED food bank at Vineyard, St Albans

So the students at Beaumont are currently taking action to remedy their holy discontent and address the need that’s right on our doorstep. They’re collecting as many items as they can for FEED, the food bank run by Vineyard Church which serves our local community.

Verulam School currently holds an impressive record for the most items collected in a two week period, so we will let you know whether Beaumont manages to top 7,181!

Whatever the grand total, a huge thanks to all the students who are getting involved and choosing to make a difference to the community of St Albans - you are at the top of my ‘Things to be Grateful For’ list this week.

Sara

From Buffets to Banquets – A BIG THANK YOU!!

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Step’s current supporters gathered together last Saturday over a lovely meal at Beales Hotel in Hatfield, to hear the latest stories on how Step has impacted the lives of young people in St Albans and Harpenden.

Why the title “From Buffets to Banquets?”  It is to highlight not only the Dinner last week, but also our annual Barn Dance in January – that was accompanied by a sumptuous buffet!  These two events allowed Step to speak to a variety of people, some who champion and encourage us in various ways, and others who have no idea who we are.  

We were able to showcase and promote the work that we do in schools and talk about Jesus - there is something very powerful about sharing food and talking about Jesus together!  The Dinner and the Barn Dance has raised nearly £11,000 and we are very grateful for the generosity our guests offer Step.  

However, Step is still in the unfortunate position of having a projected deficit of £18,000 by the end of this academic year.  If you would like to help Step, here are the three ways you can:-

Giving

Praying 

Promoting Step.

Thank you everyone for all your efforts to ensure Step continues to offer all it can to the local secondary schools.

The grey matter behind iMatter

Each term our Schools Coordinators and admin staff take a day out of our usual routine to focus on God. This term, on Wednesday 20th March, we invited along our extended team of volunteers to share more about our iMatter theme and its impact in schools. 

We are often asked what inspires our ideas. It’s a very good question but not a simple answer, so on Wednesday we explained how our iMatter theme developed. Chris explained the juxtaposition he found himself in that created the discomfort and challenged him to look for the response Step should be offering, because of our faith, to mental health discussions. 

Coming soon: our brand new iMatter mat

Coming soon: our brand new iMatter mat

Helena went on to explain the resources we have developed because of our iMatter theme to address some of the issues faced by our students. 

Our guest speaker was Kate Middleton, a church leader from Hitchin who works with young people to support their mental health. Kate was very passionate about her role and talked a lot about expected behaviour of teens and how to build resilience in them. 

The conversations on the day were fascinating and very productive, resulting in volunteers signing up to join our lessons and Step Days. It was a wonderful opportunity to build friendships, especially with our newest volunteers who spent much of the day ooh-ing at our resources and cackling at tales of our antics in schools. Click here if you’d like to know more about becoming part of this magnificent volunteer team.

Going forward, some of what we learned on Wednesday will be the inspiration for our next resources. When the team sit to debrief (and the feedback comes in), there will be nuggets of wisdom that shape our thinking and we will certainly be better for them.

Terrie

Who is the most powerful? Who has the most influence? Who is the best leader?

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As some of the team walked down the tarmac to Verulam School to deliver Leadership Foundations, they discussed how so many young people have missed the point regarding leadership. Young people often believe leadership is simply delegated power and authority, probably because of their experiences and examples.  Step wrote a course called Leadership Foundations to address this attitude. Step’s intention for these sessions is to equip young people to be our next generation of leaders. Leaders we would respect, admire and trust. Leaders who have the skills for the job, but also are suitable for the job - full of integrity and positive values and of good character.

Leadership Foundations has just finished its third week. This week 12 students were faced with the three questions mentioned in the heading and many others. The students were presented with some of the best leaders known to mankind and were asked who is the most powerful, the most influential and the best leader. Their response was very millennial - they chose to measure leadership by counting who had the most followers. Jesus won each category. They voted Putin as second, so more work is needed…

The students are attending this after-school course to learn about leadership as they prepare to be Senior Officers at school. They will learn about Skills, Teamwork and Influence. But more importantly they will also learn about Identity, Character and Perseverance. Step provides scenarios for the students to lead in and then work with them to explore how they lead. The following week, students present what they learnt about each aspect of leadership.

If you would like to support Step’s courses or any of Step’s work, please do make contact to find out how.

Safe Haven

Increasingly we are hearing reports that young people’s lives are being wrecked by anxiety and stress-related problems. Recent government advice was that all schools should provide support to enable students to deal with their emotional wellbeing.

“Schools have an important role to play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children by developing whole school approaches tailored to their particular needs.”

- Department of Education, November 2018

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As Christians, we believe that our Heavenly Father cares a great deal about the state of our wellbeing, not only in an eternal sense but in terms of how we live our lives whilst here on Earth.

The Haven in Schools was launched as a joint initiative between STEP and the 2:67 Project in order to create a safe space for students to receive help with their anxiety and learn some basic but life-changing tools to help them overcome anxiety in their lives. The course lasts for 6 weekly sessions.

7 students from Year 11 have just completed the course. One student said: “I would recommend Haven because it helps you deal with the way you are feeling & it shows you how to calm yourself down when you are panicking.”

Another 9 students from Year 10 in Nicholas Breakspear school are now at week 3. We are also in the process of approaching other schools we have a relationship with to offer them The Haven.

Ultimate Questions Marathon

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We are nearing the end of a fortnight where our Ultimate Questions lesson is being taught in 3 schools. This means that by the end of this marathon, approximately 1,300 students will have been in one of these lessons since the school year started in September, which is a remarkable statistic. 

The lesson involves moving the tables to the side of the room to create a big space for students to sit in with the room divided by masking tape and 10 A3 laminated question cards placed on the ground.This in itself creates an environment that is so different to the norm that they enter with great anticipation (and on occasions, confusion). 

A volunteer is chosen from the class on the basis that they are open-minded and able to make judgements about the best arguments given. This volunteer reads out the first Ultimate Question, which is always ‘Is God real?’ The students then discuss this in groups before having to vote with their feet, as they move one side of the masking tape or the other, depending on whether they think the answer is yes or no. 

The volunteer then facilitates a debate with a variety of different arguments given, including a chance for the Step team to share the Christian response. Although the debates get a little lively and animated from time to time, I sometimes think Her Royal Highness should insist the Houses of Parliament take note of and learn from the general civility of discussions and respect given by the teenagers.

The chosen volunteer then needs to weigh up the arguments and decide which side gave the most persuasive reasons. This determines what Ultimate Question is asked next. The route is different in different lessons but we always get to debate several of life's big questions, such as 'Was the Universe an accident?', 'Does God allow suffering?', 'Is there a purpose to life?' and 'Is there an afterlife?'

It is always a privilege to spend an hour discussing these questions and helping young people process them for themselves, sometimes for the first time. Perhaps it’s something you would like to be involved in or you know someone who would thrive in this setting. Why not get in touch to find out how you can join the team.

Time to change

Well, it had to happen. These things have a way of creeping in and we're now at that point where something has to change (I realise some people reading this are worried about what is coming next!).

Atonement is often spoken about in terms of our faith; we talk about atoning for sin, for the reconciliation of humankind to God through Jesus as our atonement. 

Today I’m talking about atonement, but in a different context. There is an understanding in the Step office about my IT skills - or to be more specific, an understanding that my computer skills are not great, or even good, and in some cases completely absent! I have managed over the years, but the truth is that my attitude to learning these skills is poor. I don't understand the language most of the time and to be honest, I couldn't see the benefit of taking the time to learn as I was never convinced it would speed up the processes I use in Step in the long term. 

After years of resistance, Terrie finally gets to grips with Step’s database

After years of resistance, Terrie finally gets to grips with Step’s database

But now. Well. Now the diversity of what Step can offer each school is growing, the number of volunteers who help us to make all of this happen is bigger than ever and I'm in a position where unless I do something different, I will sink.

To atone for my bad attitude towards learning anything to do with my computer, I will now make a concerted effort to learn, understand and use the Step database (I have been putting this off for a long time). The old way of doing things won't work and something needs to change. I know I'm not the only one to have found themselves in this place like this. It is not comfortable - but it has to happen.

If you would like to join Step as a volunteer and journey with me, please do get in touch. If you would like to support us by praying for our work, you can join our prayer email.

Terrie

How much are you worth?

What is the value of a human being?

Science holds plenty of answers to this question. For example, if you were chopped up into different bits, your heart could sell for a hefty £425,000 on the black market. You’d get another £5,000 for your skeleton and £15,000 just for your corneas. All in all, as an illegal (and probably reluctant) donor of organs and other body parts, you’re worth rather a lot.*

The human mind: £2,500 or priceless?

The human mind: £2,500 or priceless?

Someone has calculated the value of our brains by working out that we can store about 100 terabytes of data. That’s the same as 25 4-terabyte hard drives, at a total cost of £2,500 - so we could argue that your brain is worth £2,500.

You wouldn’t be worth as much if we broke you down into your chemical elements, though. We all have a tiny bit of gold present in our bodies, but it would take 40,000 of us before we had enough gold for one UK sovereign coin. Not much value there. 

When students have the opportunity to discuss science and faith, a common assertion is that science holds all the answers we need. But when I presented the above question to a Year 10 class at Beaumont this week, they weren’t at all satisfied with the answers that science could provide. Students often tell me that they only trust what can be scientifically proven - yet they won’t hesitate to declare that human life is of infinite value. They look positively horrified when I suggest testing that hypothesis in a lab!

A chap called Professor John Lennox noticed that there can be many true explanations for things. For example, we can look at a kettle and ask, “Why is the water boiling?”

a) Because the heat is being conducted through the base of the kettle and that’s agitating the molecules of water

b) Because I’d love a cup of tea

One of these answers is a scientific explanation, and the other is a personal explanation. Both are true. Both are important.

Christians look to their faith for answers to life’s biggest questions. We may know for a fact that your organs are worth a lot of money, but our iMatter page holds a very different answer to the question, ‘What is the value of a human being?’.

Sir William Bragg won the Nobel prize for physics in 1915 and was one of many Christians who feel that the different answers offered by science and faith complement, rather than contradict, one another. When asked whether science and religion are opposed to one another, he said:

“They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

*Please note that Step does not condone the illegal chopping up and sale of human beings.