Dream: think strategically and with vision about our work in schools.
Develop: consider the different skills we need to grow for our work in schools.
Do: an idea related to this theme that you can take and use in your work.
I had a dream. No really, I did! I had a dream a few weeks ago in which I asked the head teacher at my boys’ school if I could prayer walk the school. Of course, I woke up before I got an answer, but my first waking thought was: "I do NOT want to do that!"
Let me fill you in on the background. In the history of Christians from my town being involved in their local schools, the junior school where my boys go is one that has never had a Christian club, rarely had Christians in to do assemblies and, as far as I’m aware, has never had any prayer group or meeting there. The picture began to change when the head teacher, who had been on long-term sick leave, left and the school was put into special measures. A new executive head and team from the local Church of England secondary school were put in place. More church links were established, but it was not easy going.
A year after my eldest joined the school, I went to the then-interim head and asked him how I could help. He was a Christian and someone I knew, so I wasn’t too surprised when he said the thing he would like to happen (but was unable to make happen himself) was to have parents praying for the school.
I went straight home and texted some of the parents I knew and invited them to join me to pray once a month in my front room. For the rest of that year, two of us prayed regularly for the whole school community. At the end of that year, I applied to be a governor, and the interim head left and was replaced by a permanent federation head teacher (we had federated with a local infant school down the road). Another year later, I took on the chair of governors role.
Then, nine months after starting the weekly meetings with the federation head (who isn’t, as far as I can tell, a person of faith), and having continued to pray for the school regularly, I had the dream. My head and heart were in full revolt. Why would I ask that? The head teacher would, at best, refuse; at worst she might laugh or look at me awkwardly, or share a ‘look’ with her PA, and then I’d have to defend myself. Oh, the horror!
Then I remembered that in a meeting the previous day I’d been asked by someone from our county governor services if I was stepping down as chair. Before I could open my mouth, the head had jumped in with an emphatic "No!", explaining that the working relationship was too good to have me leave. I realised God had gone ahead of me and the head knew I only had the best of intentions for the school. So I gulped down my "don’t be ridiculous" knee-jerk reaction and decided that, if I had the opportunity, I would ask.
Rather unsurprisingly, an opportunity arose later that day. I took a deep breath before asking, having marshalled my defending arguments. To my astonishment, the head teacher agreed without missing a beat! We held one gathering soon after and are planning more for the rest of the year.
The great thing about doing schools’ work is that there are as many different ways to develop this idea of praying for schools as there are people doing it! You might have a dramatic story like this one or maybe there’s been a group of Christians praying in or for your school since anyone can remember. Either way, here are some ways in which you can develop the idea from your own starting point.
If you’re starting from scratch like us, once you have permission, the next stage is to finalise a day and time, probably based on which room you are using in the school and when it is available. For example, 4.30pm on the third Friday of each month (except when it falls in the holidays). Then you’ll want to gather others. Do you know whether there are any Christian staff members who might like to join in? Ask your church, or other Christians from your local area if they would be interested or available. Don’t worry if not many people can come at the beginning. The main thing is to get started. There’s a full meeting guide in the ‘Do’ section if you want to follow this through.
if you’ve been praying for a while and need some inspiration, one suggestion would be to prayer walk your local area, praying for schools as you go. This could be done in an hour’s walk, or you could make it a half-day event, which you could perhaps advertise in wider circles. Plan your route and decide who you will pray for: pupils, teachers, support staff, the local authority, governors, chaplain and schools’ workers. Also decide what you will pray: "Your kingdom come", "Bless this place in your name" and then walk and pray, keeping your eyes open! Keep a record of what you pray for.
Other ways to refresh:
Get your children and youth groups involved in praying for their own schools. Have large sheets of paper and coloured pens, and gather your children or young people together for some introduction to praying for their schools. Use Bible verses like: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7).
Pair your children and young people up to pray together by writing out different things they think need prayer in their school. You could prompt them every few minutes to remember to pray for teachers and support staff as well as their friends! We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), so remind them to pray for those they find really hard: the school bully; the friend they just fell out with that week; the teacher who shouted at them for no apparent reason.
New prayer group meeting guide
You will need: the Lord’s Prayer written out; notebook; A4 paper and pens for the groups
Begin by introducing yourself, say why you were keen to get this group together, then ask everyone else to tell the group who they are. It might go something like this: “Hi! Most of you probably know me, but for those who aren’t sure I’m Joe Bloggs, the schools’ worker for Any Town Christian Schools’ Work Trust. Any Town County Junior School, where we are now, is the school I started working at two years ago and there hasn’t until now been an opportunity for a group to gather here to pray. I’m excited that today is when that changes. Perhaps you could tell us who you are?”
Ask each person there to say their name and maybe which church they are from. If you have more than 20 people you might want to save the introductions until they are in smaller groups a bit later on.
Say: “We’re going to begin with the Lord’s Prayer. You’ve got a copy in front of you. As we say this together, please circle or underline the line ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done.’ Let’s say theprayer together. What we want to see in this school is God’s kingdom come, on Earth as it is in heaven. So let’s just take a moment to think about what that might look like and how we might pray for that today.” PAUSE. “Let’s divide into groups or pairs (this will depend on how many people are in the room). I’ll give you each a sheet of paper, please write these four parts of the school day on there: before school, break time, lunchtime and after school. Now, who might we pray for in these different sections? Jot down some ideas, then pray in your groups for the things you’ve written down. Please remember that we need to keep confidentiality, so any specific situations you’re aware of and would like to pray for need to be ‘anonymised’.”
Let the groups get on with discussing and then writing things down. Remind them after ten minutes so they have enough time to actually pray. Once they have had 20 minutes to pray, ask people to tell you what they have prayed for and write it down - just headlines are fine - along with the date. Explain that it’s good to keep a record of what we pray for as it helps to be able to see what God has done.
Finish with a blessing prayer like: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all forever more. Amen.”
Thank people for coming and remind them when the next gathering is.