More than one Sunday!
By Rupert Kaye, former ACT Chief Executive
Most Christian leaders realise the strategic importance of being able to reach out to young people, adult learners and those who work with them. But many of those leaders, quite frankly, aren't sure where to start.
Likewise, many churches would like to offer help and support to Christian teachers and lecturers, classroom assistants and support staff, volunteers and school governors… but have never got around to doing anything about it.
Of course, many congregations would love to show how much they value every child and adult in their community by affirming them in their life-long educational journey (whether at school, college, university or in the workplace) and offering meaningful spiritual and practical support. However, many congregations aren't sure how to do this without sounding patronising.
You see, although many Christians - who do not themselves work in education - shake their heads despairingly and grimace empathetically whenever they hear about the stress-related illnesses suffered by teachers, headteachers, student teachers and teaching assistants, they do not fully comprehend the burden borne.
How do I know this? Because, if non-educators really understood how time-hungry, energy-sapping and potentially health-damaging term-time life can be they would not say, “I hear you're a teacher… I wonder if you'd like to run our junior church… and lead our weekly Thursday evening youth club… and organise our two week summer camp for 100 local kids… and… and… and…”
So, teachers often find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. If they succumb, whether to gentle suggestive pressure or bruising moral arm-twisting, they unwittingly validate the popular myth: that teachers get so much undeserved holiday time that they simply don't know what to do with it all!
If, on the other hand, they dare to resist by pointing out that they are already overworked and over-stressed and hardly see their own family as it is, they are labelled as just another whinging teacher who wouldn't know what a proper day's work looked like even if it hit them in the face.
So, what can a church do to support those who work in schools and colleges? And, conversely, what can those who work in schools and colleges do to make sure they are adequately supported by their own church? I believe Education Sunday may provide part, though by no means all, of the answer to these two questions.
For well over a century Education Sunday, as it has become known, has been an annual day of prayer and celebration for everyone involved in education in England and Wales. Education Sunday is recognised by all the major Christian Churches and is celebrated on the ninth Sunday before Easter.
Education Sunday (whenever it is celebrated!) provides the perfect opportunity for Christian leaders, churches and congregations to demonstrate their commitment to learning and teaching, and, more specifically, to those who learn and teach.
Even the most sensitive and encouraging Education Sunday service cannot, however, redress 51 weeks of woeful neglect. So, what should churches be doing?
First of all, churches should resist the temptation to add to the burdens of those who work in education. Rather, they should actively seek to unburden teachers. A conversation might start like this: “I hear you're a teacher… I wonder if there's anything I could do to support you this year. For example, is there anything you'd like me to pray about?”
Once the teacher has recovered from the initial shock of being offered immediate, unconditional prayer support they will be able to share enough spiritual intelligence to keep even the most conscientious intercessor busy for hours on end!
But teachers don't just need prayer to help them manage their time more wisely and cope with their often excessive workload. They will need to be covered with the full armour of God if they are to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually protected in their day-to-day work. Many teachers would welcome powerful prayer support which sought to address the nitty gritty of life at the ‘chalkface'. For example: dealing with relentlessly unruly pupils; coping with sometimes offensive and ill disciplined parents; and remaining clear headed and professional whilst trying to be an effective Christian witness.
So, if you know someone who works in education is part of your congregation do offer them a listening ear and your prayerful support and encouragement – they certainly need it!
For more information about Education Sunday go to:
For more information about the Association of Christian Teachers go to: