Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mission Australia 2013 Youth Survey

Australia's largest annual 'temperature check' of teenagers has been launched and released today. The Mission Australia Youth Survey contain much interesting and useful information about what is happening in the lives of young Australians.

"The survey is open to all Australians aged between 15 and 19, with thousands of teenagers from our cities, towns and rural and remote areas taking part."

Some of the highlights identified by Mission Australia are:
  • For the first time ever, young women ranked equity and discrimination as the top issue facing the country, indicating concerns about workplace discrimination, racism and inequality.
  • The top three issues of personal concern for young people continue to be coping with stress, school or study problems and body image.
  • The internet is the number one source of information for young people, with 1 in 5 young people spending at least 20 hours a week on social networking sites.
  • 1 in 5 young people indicated they were either extremely or very concerned about family conflict.
For the me I am always interested to see what young people say they value, what relationships are most important and this year how much time is spent on social networking.

What stands out for you in the Mission Australia Survey?

Check out the full survey here.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Christmas by Year 1 Girls

Watch out for the srtudent looking at her foot at 4.24.  Hilarious!

How do you live the Christmas story? 

One way to get children to both hear AND live the story is to become a part of it.  This video from  Diocesan Junior School Auckland, NZ is a great example of  how you do that.

It's clearly inspired by St Paul's Arts and Kids Christmas Story movie from a year or two ago (which can be found here).  However this version includes more of the story as well as lots of adorable performances.

It's suitable for showing in chapel or deconstructing in RAVE.

Click the image above (or this text) to find it.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Natwivity (yes, that is spelled correctly)

What if Mary and Joseph had Twitter? If you follow @natwivity on Twitter you might find out. This clever idea which started on December 1 last year and hopefully will be running again this year tracks the tweets of Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. It also includes some pictures and links with Tearfund which gives it a social justice focus as well. What exactly was on Mary and Joseph's minds throughout these momentous events? Natwivity reveals all. A great way to inject some seasoning into Twitter for  Advent and Christmas.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Challenging Advent

I like and don't like these advent videos. I like the images used, although Mary and Joseph seem pretty down in the dumps. But maybe that is the point. It is easy to cover over their story with the joy of a new baby and who that baby is and  forget that the whole experience was probably shocking, numbing and overwhelming. I am not sure I like all the voice over. Maybe it is all too direct. At any rate these videos allow us to think about the lead up to the birth of Jesus with new eyes. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Reflecting on the Nativity

Here are a couple of reflective nativity videos that might be useful for Christmas worship. They both use music and techniques that lend themselves to quiet thoughtfulness. In the first video, while I prefer not to blur the lines between Christmas and Easter, like the gentle reminder at the end  that the baby becomes the man on the cross. Another video I watched about the "true meaning" of Christmas ended up with a bloody crucifixion. This I think goes too far. While the birth of Jesus might point forward to his death it has it's own special message. God is with us. For some reason I couldn't post these videos so you will find them here and here. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Advent for the Southern Hemisphere

If you're like me, it is easy to get cranky in the Advent / Christmas period at all the Northern Hemisphere imagery in our carols, decorations, etc.  These things are all good in themselves, but I enjoy seeing Southern Hemisphere imagery whenever possible.

The connection of the four Advent candles with the stars of the Southern Cross that are in our night sky every night of the year is an idea that has a lot of potential.

A group of Anglicans and Roman Catholics in NZ have come up with resources for worship where the stars are symbolised as four white candles with stars in front of them or on them. This symbolism is offered instead of the green wreath with its coloured candles, which originally derived from the Northern Hemisphere in a very different season of the year. However, it is still possible to use the four coloured candles with the traditional Advent wreath in this service and to focus on them as lights that shine in the dark.  As they explain:
The new approach, referring to the stars of the Southern Cross, is prompted by a number of biblical images. The saints are called to shine like the stars of the night in the book of Daniel (Chapter 12, verse 3). It was a star that guided the Magi to the Christ child (Matthew, Chapter 2, verse 9). The coming of Christ is described by Saint John (the Gospel according to Saint John, Chapter 1, verses 4 and 5) as the coming of a light into the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome. We are called, like John, to witness to this light as Christians. Ultimately, Christ is described as the morning star in the book of Revelation (Chapter 22, verse 16). The season of Advent expresses all these hopes.
In the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere, the four central stars of the Southern Cross shine permanently above us. From ancient times, these stars offered travellers and ocean navigators who looked up to them, a sure sense of direction, the way to true south. So also as Christians, we look to the cross of Jesus and the light of His resurrection to offer us a true bearing for our lives: the Way, the Truth, the Life. In the season of Advent, in particular, we remember and anticipate the coming into the world of the light that enlightens everyone, as a baby and as the Redeemer Judge at the end of time.
Visit their blog with more resources for using the Southern Cross in this way and why not explore other means by which we can have less snow and more sunshine in our Advent?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Christian Aid Christmas Resources

Christian Aid in Britain has resources for Advent and Christmas including some suitable for use in schools. While not everything here is brilliant there are some nice prayers and different ideas that could be used in classrooms in the lead up to Christmas.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Tattooed Jesus?

 So how do you communicate the Good News about Jesus to new generations?  How do you do that when older metaphors have lost their potency or, at the very least, their relevance?

Linked here is an article at Adweek.com about a new video hosted at JesustTattoo.org.  The article contains the video itself. I've linked to the article, rather than directly to the video in order to give you an idea of what people are saying about it.

I think the video is useful with  secondary students.  What is it?  Here's the description from this article...

"In the video, Jesus changes his customers' negative tattoos into positive ones. For example, a middle-aged man with "depressed" tattooed on his wrist ... leaves with the word "confident" there instead. At day's end, when he's finally alone, an exhausted Christ removes his shirt, and we see his body covered with the negative phrases he removed from his customers. "Jesus's love is transformative," explains a spokesperson for JesusTattoo.org. "No matter what you've been marked with, faith in Him and love for others will transform us."

I'd use this video as a way of starting discussion, first of all about the issues that swirl around it, including the idea of tattoos themselves and noting that the metaphoric nature of the tattoos in the video. What metaphoric tattoos would students have?  If that's too personal, we might ask students what tattoos people their age might have...    The very nature of the theology that underpins the video is a good subject for discussion as well - substitutionary atonement, Jesus as a white person, enculturation etc.

Personally I'd probably stop the video at about 3.30 into its run time; the 'explanation' of what's going on in the story that occurs in the last two and a half minutes is not that necessary as far as I'm concerned.  If a metaphor is a good one, then you don't need to belabour it by hammering home the point.

But have a look.  You might feel differently.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Christmas Connection

This Christmas how might you go about encouraging your students to connect with Christmas worship in a local congregation. Here in Brisbane we have a Connect2Church group who generate the ideas, resources and energy to encourage people to think about how they might help people connect to church this Christmas. Check out their webpage and in particular their connect@Christmas page. The connect@Christmas page has lots of links to resources for Christmas and Advent worship. Go there now!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Back from the dead

I couldn't help but share this news article. I often gain a form of weird inspiration from the weird and wonderful headlines that appear in the mainstream media in Australia. One of the things I like about this article is that it is filed in the "lifestyle" section. Apparently being the walking dead is now a way of life. These kinds of stories have all sorts of possibilities for school worship (but mostly around Easter time - sorry I know we are supposed to be doing Christmas).

It reminds me of the story that in America a letter appeared in a national newspaper that was sent to a deceased person by the Department of Social Services. It read:

"Your food stamps will be stopped in March because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."

The good news of the Gospel is that because of Jesus there has been a change in our circumstance. We who were dead are now alive.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Nativity Factor

As promised, some more Christmas resources.

The Nativity Factor is a competition that has run for the last three years and offers a prize of 5000 pounds (unfortunately it is only open to people living in the UK)...but we can all benefit from what it produces! And what does it produce? Nothing other than 3 minute videos retelling the Christmas story.

The winners from previous years are below and you can find more on Youtube right here.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Christmas Story Resources

We are heading into Term 4 here in Australia so it is time to start thinking about how we might tell the Christmas story really well. That means it is time to start searching Youtube for any great videos that are around.

This  one is from St Paul's Church Auckland. It is a few years old but still very engaging. It uses children to tell the story.

This quirky but brilliant video was also made by St Paul's. It goes behind the scenes to unpack in a kid friendly way some of the theology behind the incarnation.

Enjoy the videos and check back for more Advent and Christmas resources.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Student Feedback

Soon it will be time for Australian schools to wind down and head into those golden Summer holidays, but as part of the end of year process, how often do you take the time to obtain feedback from students and staff about Chapel and Religious Education classes?  Some leaders shy away from obtaining feedback because they fear criticism or that students "won't take it seriously".  In my experience, students usually enjoy completing surveys when they believe their comments will be taken seriously and genuinely contribute to refinements and improvements in the years to follow.
Here is a genuine extract from feedback written by a Year 11 high school student at a Church-affiliated school this week...
Q: How do you feel about Chapel services at your school?
At my school, we have only one 15minute chapel service a week. For me, I enjoy being in the chapel. It is a really relaxing place where you can contemplate and reflect. Often, services are focused on events that are occurring within the school, such as the 40 hour famine, or events happening around the world, such as floods and droughts in third world countries, or the current conflict in Syria. I find that this focus makes me really understand how lucky I am to be living in Australia, with good health and access to education. I also enjoy that we often have a musical performance at the end of the service. I do not enjoy as much the services that we do each year, such as celebrations during Easter and Lent, as the services are a bit repetitive.

 Q: How do you feel about religion classes?
In religion, we explore other religions and issues in the world. Some previous topics we have looked at include minority religious groups, such as Jedi and Population Control, which was interesting. We also researched injustice around the world. The research is really interesting, but we then need to do a presentation to the class. It is often really boring to make, present, and then listen to other groups.  Our current topic is whether we are the controllers of our destiny. We watched the Adjustment Bureau, and had class discussions. It was a very interesting and thought provoking topic. I quite enjoy religion in my school, but I have friends in other schools who have over 6 hours of religion lessons a week, which they find quite challenging.

Questions like "Which Chapel services do you remember most clearly from this year, and why?" are always likely to generate useful feedback and minimise silly, off-topic responses.  How about taking some time towards the end of the year to set up a feedback box in each class, and then have the teacher lead discussion on interesting points raised by the students, to see if there are common threads and understand the responses better.

In short, don't be afraid of asking for feedback - but plan instead how you could go about gathering it in a comprehensive, time-efficient manner which produces useful stimulus for your planning for next year.  It will be a sound investment in improving what you do.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Six Word Stories

At a recent chaplains meeting someone put forward the idea of six word stories as a technique for getting students engaging with the Bible. I love this idea. It is like a non poetry form of Haiku. Check out the video above for some very interesting six word stories as well as where it all began. There are other great six word videos on youtube. I wonder how stories we know from the Bible might be turned into a six word story? How about some of these I found on-line for starters:

Five loaves, two fishes, fed everyone.

Wasteful son comes back, father celebrates.

Jesus Christ helped us by dying.

Bread is body, wine is blood.

Part a sea, set us free.

Jesus resurrected from the dead, Friday.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

It's All About Me

Challenging the me-centric culture of our day is tough, especially when kids are told so often how 'special' they are. Often worship can suffer the same disease, as we concentrate on how we feel, how positive our experience is, what we are getting out of it. 

This 90 second video aims to do something about this.

As the synopsis goes,
 "This parody expresses the foolishness of worshipping ourselves. An egocentric worship leader sings familiar praise and worship songs, but with a selfish twist. Your congregation will laugh and reflect on their worship towards the Lord."
Okay, so maybe they'll laugh.  But it provides a good stimulus piece to talk about the nature of 'giving God what God is worth', in other words, worship.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Youth Spirituality on Radio National

"The Spirit of Things" on Radio National recently aired a program on Youth Spirituality. It was created in response to a recent conference in Melbourne. It opens with an interesting interview with Philip Hughes. It is well worth listening to.

Teen Drinking in Australia

The result of recent research into teenage smoking and drinking in Australia reveals that smoking rates have dropped in some age categories, but that binge drinking continues to be an issue of concern.

It was interesting to see research released at the Anglican Schools Australia conference last year by Philip Hughes of the Christian Research Association that showed that drugs/alcohol and partying  were very low on the list of ways that young people deal with the challenges of life. Music, sport, nature, TV/DVD's shopping, social networking and creative activities all came ahead of partying. The fact that work, prayer and church came ahead of drugs/alcohol suggests to me that teengage binge drinking isn't about coping, it is about connecting and having fun. This is despite the fact that half have admitted to vomiting after drinking.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Word Up

From a group of Brisbane Anglicans comes a new series of engaging and thought provoking videos exploring the life and meaning of Jesus Christ … from a youth perspective.

The Word Up series explores Jesus’ life and teachings and what he means for us today, two thousand years after he lived among us. Who exactly was he? And, why is what he said and did so important? This six episode series looks at these questions, and gets us thinking.  Teacher and Student study guides are available as free downloads from the site.

In our six webisodes, we’ll be asking:
  1. Was Jesus real?
  2. What did Jesus teach us?
  3. Was Jesus really a friend of sinners?
  4. Why did Jesus die?
  5. Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
  6. Was Jesus who he said he was?
So, join us as we seek to bring you the Word Up on The Word.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Campfire Film Foundation

Looking for creative films with a message. Have a look at campfire.org.au

"Campfire provides schools access to an online library of high quality short films that help introduce difficult topics and spark discussions about meaningful issues. Curriculum themes include Aboriginal Perspectives, Media, Religion and Society."

Campfire.org.au not only provides films to schools but encourages others to also provide their films and to make some money in the process.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Jelly Bean Time

This a great little video posted by Lizzie G on her blog recently. It uses jelly beans to explore the concept of how much time we have and how we use it. This could be very useful for worship or reflection.The person who created this video has many, some of which are quite unusual and probably not suitable for worship. Check any others videos before you use them.

This is a similar, but visually less spectacular video, that explores how people use their time and asks the question: How much time do you spend with God?

I am very fond of the story about the professor putting rocks in the jar as an illustration for how we might use out time effectively. I found this video, which although it is an ad for a company, presents the story visually and in way that might be appealing for students.

This one is also kind of fun.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cooking with Devotion

Kids often say they're hungry.  Teens often say they're starving.  As a result, food is attractive and focuses their attention!

As a Chapel or class activity, why not bring along a microwave and do some cooking in real-time, to accompany a relevant message?  The site above has some good suggestions for tying food into a devotion.  Unless you are planning to feed the five thousand, it is likely that if you attempt to do this in Chapel, you will need to select just a few volunteers to assist, who can then reap the benefits of their labours.  It's often good if you ask for a couple of volunteers without explaining first what they will be doing: next time, people may be more enthusiastic!

Obviously you will need to consider safety and allergies etc, but why not seek to engage all of the students' senses, including taste?

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Hard Call

I wonder what students hear when we speak about following Jesus or the call to the Christian life? I wonder if we make it sound safe or dangerous, and which of these is the most attractive to young people?

I happened to come across the Sea Shepherd website and their call for volunteers. I would love to know how many applicants they get to their job description of: No pay, long hours, hard work, dangerous conditions and extreme weather.

It is similar to the fabled Ernest Shackleton ad that ran in 1905:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

Shackleton had 5000 applicants or so the story goes.

Do we make Christianity sound too safe and nice? Have we missed Jesus call to a radical, different and dangerous way of life? What kind of life is it we want students to live? Is following Jesus more like accountancy or volunteering on the Sea Shepherd?

I guess we are fortunate that Jesus didn't say, as the Sea Shepherd ad does:

"No whiners, malcontents, mattress lovers, and wimps need apply."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Value of Volunteering

We all know that there is great value in students being involved in service and volunteering.  This is an interesting (but not new) article from the University of Adelaide about the  value of volunteering to the Australian economy. It also talks about other reasons volunteering is beneficial but it is interesting to think about how helping out isn't just a feel good activity but contributes more economically to the country than the mining industry.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Year of Modesty

This is a brief article about how a New York woman decided to have a 'year of modesty'. She looked into the practices of Muslims, Quakers and Jews in relation to dress. It is interesting to note some of her insights about how she felt about herself and how she was treated by others.

I wonder what the young people we work with would make of this kind of experiment and the conclusions she reached?

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Beatitudes - Valaam Monastery

Since it's school holidays here in Australia I thought I would post some random things that I like. They may be helpful for chaplains and others involved in ministry. I just hope you might enjoy them. An important element of ministry is being refreshed. We all run dry at times and need refilling. Obviously different things work for different people. Whenever I hear this chant of the beatitudes by the monks of the Valaam Monastery I feel a deep sense of peace. I think the sound is rich and beautiful. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Psalm 23 - One Rabbi's Understanding

As I was looking for stuff to do with Psalms for my other blog (no not that one the other one), I came across this clip of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi discussing Psalm 23.I don't  know who he is or read Hebrew but I was fascinated by some of the points that he makes about different parts of the psalm and what it really says.I was also drawn into his passion for what he is talking about. It is so easy to brush over scripture, especially passages we might know so well and to loose passion for it. It is great to be able to see with more depth and clarity. Makes me excited and  want to learn more.

I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Just Prayers

I'll hand this over to MarkPierson from World Vision NZ...
"Just Prayers: short film prayers
I have been frustrated by the lack of video resources available when I was leading congregations and small groups in prayer. I wanted short films that would at least point in the direction of some broader engagement with the world around us.

So we commissioned some, and the results are stunning. The first few are available for download at www.worldvision.org.nz/justprayers . You will be redirected to a temporary Vimeo link.

There is no charge for downloading. (click on the small black text "vimeo.com.xxxxxxx" at the bottom right hand corner of the screen when you get there and you will be taken to the download button.)

The films carry no branding but after a few seconds of black at the end the above URL appears so people can know where to find other similar films. The black allows you to stop the film before the URL appears if you are using it in a congregational setting. They range between 2 and 4 minutes in duration.

We are making these available as a resource to encourage the Church to become more engaged with injustice, locally and globally.

More will be uploaded as they become available; some very soon. If you have suggestions for new content, or comments about those already made, please let me know."

These videos are great: short and to the point.  They can supplement liturgy and won't disrupt the flow.  I especially love the Lords Prayer video and Elliot's Encircling Prayer...Have a look!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Prayer Resources on the Internet

No doubt there are a million prayer resources on the internet. I thought I would mention a few that I like or find interesting.

The other day I stumbled upon a site called The Dear God ProjectAnyone can post a prayer on the site. While it doesn't seem to be a particularly popular site and its Facebook page only has a few thousand likes I find the idea intriguing.  I also liked the way they have laid out of the prayers with a picture. Some of the prayers are particularly sad - about loneliness, divorce and other hurts.

Operation World is a well known prayer resource from an evangelical perspective.It has a focus on praying for the world. It has information about specific countries and a list of different prayer needs for that country. They also have prayer calendars and resources to help organise those who want to pray in a more systematic way.

The Anglican Board of Mission Australia has its own prayer resources in the form of a Prayer Diary. It is specifically a resource for prayer focussed on mission and for those who work in partnership with ABM throughout the Anglican Communion.

Finally the Church of England has a whole lot of prayer resources on their website. I particularly like their Topical Prayers section that has lots of prayer for things happening in the world right now. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

British Assemblies

Assemblies.org.uk is a useful British site intended to assist all who are required to lead assemblies/worship in schools.  Many of the resources have a Christian basis, and I particularly like the "Rapid Response" section, intended to pick up on recent world events, especially the ones which young people may have found difficult or disturbing.  Most resources are free; others need to be bought.  It's worth a browse.


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Prayer Anyone?

Earlier this year the Church of England released results of a survey they conducted regarding prayer. The media release has the headline "Four out of five believe in the power of prayer". 

The British Humanist Association took issue with the headline and posted a response.

Unfortunately I think the BHA is right in questioning this summary of the survey. The question asked is " Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?"

It is hard to see how the headline on the media release could possibly be drawn from  a response to this question. What is of interest is what people said they would pray for: "31 percent of respondents cited peace in the world, followed by an end to poverty in the world (27 percent), a family member (26 percent) and healing for another (22 percent)."

I wonder what your students would say if you asked them the same question?

The raw data from the survey can be found here.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Nooma on crazy special!

The Nooma series currently stacks up to 24 x 12 minute videos on a hugely varied array of Christian living topics.They're dynamite for getting engaged discussion going in classes or groups.

These videos feature Rob Bell talking about living as a follower of Jesus from angles of interest to high school kids and up to young adult.  The website says they "explore our world from a perspective of Jesus." They've been around for a while but have not dated.

So why bring them up now? 

For the next few days you can buy the whole series for only $20US.  The normal price is about five times that!  The page displayed shows a discount price of $45, but if you type the word "FLANNEL" into the 'coupon' box at the checkout you'll get a further $25 off to receive the whole series for only $20!  This offer lasts until the 4th of June, 2013.

You can then download the videos to your own location and use them whenever you want.  Study guide material is available for each episode free of charge.  Some episodes of the series are terrific and even those that veer towards the average are definitely useful.

Find them here for purchase and you can preview some too to see if they're up your particular alley.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Tea and Philosophy: The Vicar's Blog

Check out the following blog created by Rev Lizzie Gaitskell, Chaplain at West Moreton Anglican College.

Amnesty International Annual Report 2013

The Amnesty International Annual Report 2013 has been released today. It provides information on human rights abuses from around the world for 2012. This is a valuable resource for exploring social justice with students.

There is a video of the report on Youtube that covers a range of issues from around the world.

The report itself can be downloaded as a pdf. It is over three hundred pages long and provides a profile of the human rights abuses of 159 countries. This includes information on such issues as:

  • women's rights
  • the death penalty
  • refugee, migrants and displaced persons
  • police and military violence
  • freedom of expression and media
  • indigenous peoples rights
  • torture and other 
  • violence against women and girls
  • housing rights
  • family violence
If you are looking for an easier to digest format, there are summaries on the Amnesty website shaped around the World by Region or you can look at a report on an individual country. There is also a global update that focuses on key human rights abuses that have occurred in 2013 by month.

One other resource I noticed on the website was a latest facts and figures sheet that would be suitable way to orient students to the topic of human rights abuses.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bible Quizzes

Hi again,
I was part of a team at a great Trivia Night last Saturday... and yes, I admit we took home the trophy, though we were disappointed not to win for best table theme as well (Garden Gnomes - who could top that?)

It was a lot of fun, and it reminded me that a Quiz is often a nice way to capture kids' attention during an interactive Chapel service or RE lesson. This can be done through either the old "hands up with the answer", or better still, get the competitive juices flowing with a couple of teams up on stage - boys v girls, Yr 11 v Yr 12, etc.

Most sets of general knowledge questions found on-line require payment or subscription, but not so for many of the Bible or Christian versions (thankfully).  You could just create your own set of questions, but why not save time and use one that has (hopefully) been tried and tested with other groups? Needless to say, Rule Number One is to make sure both Question and Answer are 100% accurate and unambiguous. It's also a problem if no one can answer any of the questions, so make sure you start with easy ones and then make them progressively more difficult.

Have fun with it and do let us know if you have any more good ideas about using quizzes to engage students.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Anglican Board of Mission

The Anglican Board of Mission is the national mission agency of the Anglican Church of Australia. It works with people and communities overseas and in Australia.

"We have a holistic view of God’s mission. We work with Anglican Church partners and others to see lives empowered and transformed spiritually, materially and socially.We help the Anglican Church and the wider community realise and respond to the invitation for all to be a part of God’s hope for the world."

The ABM website has many resources worth exploring. There are videos under the resources section exploring the work of ABM in a range of places. A "Tale of Two Sheds" is particularly worth watching. There are also educational resources to be used with simply sharing week.

There is information all over the sight about what ABM does and it is of particular interest that their projects seek to address the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

The Project Book for each year can be found under resources and outlines all the specific project work that ABM is doing in any year.

This site would be useful for exploring the church's mission in today's world or how we can make a difference. There are also prayer and liturgy resources.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The State of the World

Worldmeters: here's a site with a myriad of potential uses for the chaplain or RE teacher...

The About Us section of the site expains what it is:

Worldometers is run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format to a wide audience around the world. We have no political, governmental, or corporate affiliation.

Worldometers was voted as one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association (ALA).

Worldometers was chosen as content provider at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), BBC News, and the National Media Museum (UK), and by U2, among others.

Worldometers is cited as a source in over 400 published books, in more than 150 professional journal articles, and in over 125 Wikipedia pages. The website is considered a formidable educational tool and it is shown in classrooms around the world. 

 So what can you use it for?

 Imagine a sermon on christian responses to poverty with the statistics on "Number of people who died of hunger today" updtaing continually.

Or a sermon on peace with the stats on "Military expenditure" on view, updating so depressingly rapidly.

For the RE classroom the statistics are useful for a range of purposes too.  Figures on "Amounts spent on weight loss programs" and "Obesity related diseases" contrasted with the "Number of undernourished people in the world today" are confronting, to say the least  There are also figures on Society and Media ("Number of emails sent today", "Mobile phones sold today"), the environment ("CO2 emissions",  "Desertification") and energy ("Oil pumped today", "Solar energy striking the Earth today").

So much useful stuff here - it's possible you might like to pass this on to other teachers in your school.

Friday, 19 April 2013

AD: Anno Domini


Which would you say is the most compelling on-screen presentation of Christ and the early Christian Church you've ever seen?
That could be a tough question - you might think of the Mel Gibson production, one of the many versions of the Jesus movie or you might even prefer the old Jeffrey Hunter version of Jesus of Nazareth.
When I was a Year 12 student in the late 1980s, I studied Ancient History as part of a class that could be rather demanding at times, I must admit. (Luckily, that teacher and I are still on good terms!) Because of the class dynamics, and because of the quality of audio-visual resources on the Roman Empire, even back then, we watched quite a few videos that year e.g. all of Ben-Hur, all of Quo Vadis?, all of I, Claudius and best of all, all of AD: Anno Domini.
If you haven't heard of it, Anno Domini was a 1985 four-part mini-series with a famous international cast, a soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible) and to my mind, a very high degree of faithfulness to the text of the New Testament, especially the book of Acts.
It begins with the aftermath of the crucifixion followed by the risen Christ appearing among the disciples who have been hiding in despair, leading on to Pentecost etc. Sitting in class, I found some of these scenes so moving that as I recall I may even have let a little tear slide out (making sure my mates didn't see, of course).
From there, we follow the events of Acts with plenty of side-stories of relationships among Romans and Jews and some of the minor characters of the Bible narrative.
Special mention must be made of Philip Sayer as Saul/Paul.  It's a brilliant, unforgettable performance.  At times, I have found Youtube clips of some sections of the series, e.g. Paul teaching what we now know as 1 Corinthians 13, so you may wish to use some of these clips rather than show the whole series.
I do hope you can find the time to enjoy all or part of AD: Anno Domini.  

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Skits Guys

Looking for Skits for worship. Try the Skit Guys. You can preview their skits before buying them. They have a range of topics they cover and while it is somewhat limited there are some great ones.

They also have videos of different skits as well as stills and moving backgrounds for presentations.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A Very Special Easter: a video for your chapel or classroom

The Easter season is still with us until Pentecost so I'm arguing you can still use this Easter video for a while yet!

A Very Special Easter by Steelehouse Media features the answers that children give to a range of questions about Easter.  These cover a lot of ground, from the prosaic ("What does the Easter Bunny do?") to the more meaningful ("How do we follow Jesus?").  As the creators say at their website,
"Crayon drawings animate real-life responses from children as they talk about Easter. Their unfiltered and heartfelt responses bring humour and depth to the subject. Only a child could mix the silly and the sacred to so powerfully illustrate what makes the story of Jesus and how we celebrate it so special."

The style of animation is very watchable and will capture the attention of even the most easily distracted student. The use of humour catches attention too, though the content moves to playfully serious stuff pretty quickly.  Although the kids interviewed are younger, it could easily be used with secondary students with the right introduction.

 This video could be used in a range of ways.

  • Compiling the questions used in the video could provide you with fodder for your own interviews.  In a chapel service, showing this video could precede a sermon based around the responses given by your own students.
  • In the classroom, a discussion based around these interview questions would be interesting, followed by this video.  
  •  Or you could show the video and have a discussion after it with the aim of discussing the 'errors' therein.

You can watch the video for free here or on YouTube.  To use the video in your classroom a purchase can be made in a range of sizes from standard definition through to high.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

One Day Retreats for Teenagers

One Day Retreats for Junior High Youth by Geri Braden-Whartenby and Joan Finn Connelly is a useful and insightful book on running retreats with, what would be called in Australia, middle school students. While it is a short book it contains some fairly detailed information and practical tips on how to run these one day events. The introductory section would be particularly helpful for those who may not have run retreats before. The book also includes six full retreats.

From the start the Roman Catholic authors explain their retreat philosophy as being centred on “active learning experiences, a sound biblical foundation and meaningful prayer experiences”. This approach can be seen clearly through all the retreats in the book and it is one that resonates strongly with me.

Possibly the greatest risk with running a day long retreat for this age group is that you may lose their attention or alternatively, by trying to keep it with engaging activities, fail to get them reflecting on the theme of the day. The authors overcome both these problems beautifully. The activities used are interesting and help the teenage participants learn and reflect in a hands on way. I also liked the inclusion of the muscle relaxation exercises which also aid those retreating to pray at the conclusion of the day. The structure of the retreats is such that participants move from activity to activity with each element lasting between 5 – 30 minutes.

The six retreats in the book cover the following topics:
  • Christian community
  • Freshman survival (or what we in Australia might call first year of high school)
  • Peacemaking
  • Peer pressure
  • Self esteem
  • Sexuality 

Each retreat connects the theme, through the activities, with real aspects of teenage life. For example the Christian Community retreat includes elements that explore “puts downs” and the impact they have on people. I also liked the way many of the activities try to help teenagers explore practical ways of dealing with the issues under consideration. Retreats in this sense should not only be spiritual but help the participant return to the world more fully equipped for everyday life.

There is a good appendix with icebreakers, guided meditation tips, muscle relaxation exercises and more tips for small group leaders.

Reading One Day Retreats for Junior High Youth  made me want to go and run some.