John Prockter offers you his very best advice from decades of schools ministry. If are not in schools, this will kick start your engagement

Reinvention might be the most exciting aspect of youth and school ministry. Some larger organisations have programmes that run year in and year out. Still, most of us approach each year with a fresh sense of calling, recommissioning, and a very open heart, ready to respond to young people’s needs and the emerging needs of the schools. For some of us, larger plans are agreed for the Autumn term at the start of the summer term, but even those things tend to get shaken once the new school year begins. 

For 26 years, I’ve devoted the first few weeks of each academic year to understanding what’s happening. You should never underestimate the effect of the new term, new staff and fresh challenges on your plans. It would be best to think of your plans as a menu of possible things you might do. Of course, I can’t tell you the right goals, strategies, or vision for your work, team or area, but I can offer some insight in the form of a restart toolkit to get you thinking, to help you keep focus on the most important things and to get your diary moving.



Share your vision with the head teacher

The first tool in your kit is your ability to cut through the bureaucracy of a school and get in front of the head teacher.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have existing relationships with schools; however, at the start of this new year, I recommend meeting with the head to keep them up to date with what you’re doing and hope to do in the future. The best way to do this is to ask for a meeting with the head teachers PA. 

When I ask for meetings, I will expect to be asked, “What is it you’d like to speak to the head about?” and I’ll generally respond with something like, “We have a couple of new things to offer the school, and I’d like to find out if the head has any priorities for us to consider too.”

The most important aspect of this is to ensure you have a leadership relationship that supports your presence in the school and understands your vision.


Offer something the school needs this year

The second tool in your kit is your ability to change your working practice to fit the needs of your environment. 

As Christian youth and school workers, it’s understandable that we’re likely to offer something relational and broadly Christian. We must stick close to those foundational principles, but let’s get our understanding right and offer something the school needs from us.

There will be local nuance in this, but from a general point of view, let’s try and find relational/broadly Christian activity that makes a difference.

Here are a few questions for you and your church or team to consider based on my experience of things schools need help with.

  1. How can your work help the school raise attendance?
  2. What activities or resources can you offer to promote a love for reading?
  3. In what ways can you facilitate healthy debate with students?
  4. Which calendar events can your church or project support? 
  5. How much time can you offer to mentor students who are struggling?

There is a sixth question to consider, but it’s a little controversial, so I thought we could tackle it with more explanation. I want to ask you how you might create a healthy dialogue between faiths. I’m not suggesting that you make this a massive focus. Still, other religions and schools are often more disconnected than Christians are. Of course, some people might be delighted with that, but I suggest that school leadership teams could and should be able to lean on us for connections with other faiths. 

The truth is that schools are likely to aspire to having diverse points of view expressed, especially in religious education. How might you help your school do that? Could you become the relational linchpin for all?


School sign-Circle

Look after your own

The third tool you hold in your toolkit is your youth group. Your youth group is a big deal and needs a particular focus at the start of the term.

This entire column is about how we serve schools, what questions we should ask in our planning and what resources we might employ, but at this point in the year, there’s an excellent opportunity for us to focus on the young people in our groups. Realistically, many of us won’t get into full swing with education until mid to late September, so there’s a wonderful opportunity to make the most of the extra time with the young people already saying yes to us.  

Sometimes, I feel like a broken record. Still, keeping deep, connected relationships as the number one priority is essential. In fact, why not consider that as your commission for this term?

Stay nimble.

Move at the pace of good relationships.

Change your programme to suit growth in discipleship.

Cement the depth of your impact on young people by creating opportunities for them to connect.


More than anything, focussing on your own will ensure you have a healthy community to invite more young people into. 



Get your diary in order

The fourth tool important for your September restart is your diary. Get in front of key dates and use them to your advantage.

In this post, I’ve spoken a lot about how good it is to have the space to restart and recommission your work. There aren’t many professions where you get the chance to do that. The best part of the recommission is that you get to focus on twelve months, knowing you can do it all again next year. With that in mind, this is a perfect moment to get your diary in order, and I’d like to suggest a few landmarks that you might want to consider getting in line with (see below). 

As we come to an end, let me encourage you that you don’t need to be on the cutting edge of youth ministry models, and you don’t need to hit every landmark date. More than anything, let me encourage you to prioritise good relationships and find opportunities to connect with young people. If you do that, you’ll have an excellent school year. 

If you want to talk to me about what my programme looks like or ask me a question about anything, you can email me using:


Term dates

(It goes without saying that you should check your local term dates; they might differ slightly in your region.)


Autumn half term: Monday 30th October to Friday 3rd November

Term Ends: Friday 22nd December

Term Starts: Monday 8th January 2024

Half Term: Monday 12th February to Friday 16th February

Term Ends: Friday 22nd March 

Term Starts: Monday 8th April 2024

Half Term: Monday 27th May to Friday 31st May

Term Ends: Monday 22nd July 2024

May Half Term: Monday 27th May 27 to Friday 31st May 


A selection of notable calendar events

Black History Month: October

Halloween: Tuesday 31st October

Guy Fawkes Night: Sunday 5th November

Remembrance Day: Saturday 11th November

Children in need: Friday 17th November

Advent: Sunday 3rd - Sunday 24th December

Christmas Day: Monday 25th December

Epiphany: Saturday 6th January

Holocaust Memorial: Saturday 27th January

Shrove Tuesday: Tuesday 13th February

Ash Wednesday: Wednesday 14th February

World Social Justice: Tuesday 20th February

Fairtrade Fortnight: Begins 26th February

int. Women’s Day: Friday 8th March

Mother’s Day: Sunday 10th March

Comic Relief: Friday 17th March

Palm Sunday: Sunday 24th March

Good Friday: Friday 29th March

Easter Day: Sunday 31st March

Passover: 22nd - 30th April

Ascension Day: Thursday 9th May

Pentecost: Sunday 19th May

Mental Health Month: May

Father’s Day: Sunday 16th June