Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Some gifts are more than just a gift!

I know that many of our religious educators have focussed on the theme of Gifts this Christmas.

Maybe you could take time to reflect on the message in this year’s John Lewis Christmas advertisement. Enjoy this fabulous Elton John Christmas message!

I love a department store that really thinks about the Christmas message. If you haven’t spent a Christmas in Singapore, then let me tell you, it is a magical time. The lights are amazing. Have a look at the way Tangs department store in Singapore decorates for Christmas! Pretty special!!

Here is a great video about gifts for Jesus.

Thinking about gifts, their meaning and purpose, can add so much to the way we celebrate Christmas.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Scallop Shells Anyone? An End of Year Chapel Service Idea!

Many years ago, we moved house suddenly due to the First Gulf War. In fact we were part of a swift evacuation that involved leaving the country almost overnight with one suitcase – which was packed with mainly baby supplies and photographs! While living in Dubai all that time I ago, I had collected shells with my own children. Dubai was a very different place then and the beach where we used to play is now home to the Burj Al Arab! I was sad that we lost our shell collection because those shells were part of our story. Shells have long been a part of people’s lives.

For early Christians, the scallop shell was a symbol of pilgrimage. People who travelled and crossed the seas would often bring a scallop shell home as a souvenir. The scallop shell became the symbol of someone who was a pilgrim or who had journeyed with God.
The wonderful website Barnabas in Schools, which always has great resources, has a fabulous end of year school service. I know that most of you have already written your End of Year services and printed the prayers – but maybe save this idea for next year.
The Scallop Shell Service idea is about using pilgrimage imagery to reflect positively on the past year.

“The end of the school year, like other stages of transition, can be a bittersweet time of both looking back and looking ahead, with wistful goodbyes and hopes for the future. Reminiscences and regrets can blur. This idea helps you to celebrate the positive, place the negatives in some helpful context and focus attention on going forward.”

If you are a priest, you probably use a scallop shell when baptising a baby. You could show your students the shell and explain that sometimes, when someone is baptised as a Christian, the priest will pour water on their head with a scallop shell to show that this is their first step in making that long life-journey with God.

The website gives you an outline for a service and plenty of information.  You could also have a scallop shell prayer space where students reflect on their time at school by writing about their own journey on cut out scallop shells. You could create an entire ‘beach’ with the scallop shells of your students.

Remind the students that some journey are difficult but we can persevere and be joyful as we remember the good times. Mistakes are a part of our learning journey and help us to grow.

I know the plans I have for you... They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Jesus said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29, NIV)

There are plenty of articles online about the scallop shell to help you with your message. You may even know someone who has walked the The Road to Santiago.  Here you can read about St James and the scallop shell. The scallop shell is the iconic symbol of the Camino de Santiago.

I think the symbolism of the shell is something with which children will connect and it will be an image they will remember. Imagine sending off all your students on their summer holidays, knowing that some will see a shell, pause, reflect and possibly even think of their own journey with God!

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Christmas for our Littlest Folk

Sometimes you need a really short but effective video to use with students. The Christmas video from Little Bible Heroes is a great little video and only about 2 minutes long.

For another great video, you can always rely on The Beginner’s Bible for any story! It is my ‘go to’ resource!

Finish off with a lovely song, and your students have heard the message 3 times! "Oh What a Special Night!"

Sunday, 28 October 2018

What is a Christingle?

Introducing a Christingle might be a wonderful way to engage your students in a very Christmassy Chapel Service.

You could perhaps demonstrate creating a Christingle with the help of some students as you explain the meaning behind these special symbols.

Everything you need to know is on the Request website. There is a video and a great hand out to help you make the Christingle.

 The website explains very clearly the meaning behind this tradition.

“The origins of Christingle services are unknown but the word means ‘Christ Light’ and celebrates Jesus coming as the light of the World to show people the way to God.

The orange is round like the world. It means that God’s love is for everybody, everywhere.

The candle symbolises Jesus. He talked about himself as light coming into a dark place. Christians believe he brought people God’s love into the world in a new way.

The red ribbon goes all around the ‘world’. It is a symbol of Jesus’ blood – a reminder that he died for the people of the world.

The four sticks point in all directions representing the four directions: North, South, East and West. It’s another symbol that God’s love is for everyone. The fruit, nuts and sweets represent all God’s good gifts to us.”

You might find teachers might like to create something similar in their own classrooms after your Chapel Service.

You will find these instructions and a video on the website at https://request.org.uk/

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

What is your hope for tomorrow?

We can be so grateful for the abundant blessings in our lives. As Christmas approaches, perhaps we can encourage our students to think about how they can make a real difference in the lives of others.

I was hearing about one of our wonderful teachers (Milissa the Marvellous) who is designing her Christmas Units on the theme of Gratitude focussing on the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ. Such fabulous work! 

I suggested that perhaps she could use the gift catalogues from TEAR or World Vision to help her students think of ways to give to others.

I love using these catalogues to ‘shop’ for family and friends. Let the students jump online and make their Christmas shopping lists. Do your own shopping while you are there!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

What does Sand have to do with Christmas?

I have no idea how sand art works, but I love to watch this mesmerising form of creativity. This could be used as a wonderful time of stillness and silence as students simply watch the story being told through the flow and movements of sand.

There are so many sand art videos – but here are a few to watch and enjoy. Maybe they could be used during Chapel? Some are only a few minutes – while The Christmas Miracle by Joe Castillo is about 20 minutes.

Monday, 15 October 2018

The Christmas Story

If you are seeking ideas or resources this Christmas, don't forget to have a look at Max7.  Max7 is such a great website, but sometimes I need a little reminder to look there for great resources.
You will find so many fabulous videos and of course, there is the Christmas favourite. This could be a great way to introduce your students to reading the Biblical account of Christmas. Enjoy 'The Christmas Story' from Max7.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Mog's Christmas

Today's tip for all Chaplains and religious educators is a Fr Bryan Special! When you have a Chaplain with a fabulous sense of humour and a genuine heart for God, you know Chapel will be fun.
If you haven't watched Mog's Christmas, then take the time to enjoy this with your students. Lots of laughter and special lessons about love, caring and community - and a little chaos too!
Enjoy all the discussions that will be sparked after watching this Christmas ad. Let your students reflect on what they think this ad is truly about.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Angels, Hope and Change

Time for Everyday Kindness

A kind word, a helping hand, an encouraging smile or a nod of appreciation can all be acts of everyday kindness according to Karen Bedford who has written the most helpful little booklet to accompany the ‘Angels’ Cards – The Strengths of Everyday Kindness published by St Luke’s Innovative Resources.

Angels – the strengths of everyday kindness is a tool for building conversations about the strengths we see within ourselves and within others. It uses the metaphor of an angel – a bestower of blessings – as a way of noticing and acknowledging the strengths that are demonstrated by others and offered to us, or that we ourselves demonstrate and offer,” writes Karen Bedford.

The cards come with suggested teaching and learning ideas. In my experience they work wonderfully well in Circle Time and I have seen the brilliant Sue Roffey use the St Luke’s resources in her Circle Solutions seminars.

One great activity you might like to try that is explained in the booklet is called 'Inviting Angels – Goal Setting'.

Students choose a card that represents a strength or quality they would really like to develop. They then discuss why they have chosen this card or you could allow the students to work in pairs and talk to their partner about the card. Ask them to think about one step they could take towards developing this quality. Who do they know who might help them develop this quality?

These are such powerful resources and so useful in the classroom or for working with individual students. The illustrations are so delightful and rather whimsical, inviting the students to look deeply and connect with the strength.

You could use these absolutely adorable cards in connection with any lessons on angels as well. Angels are messengers of God and I love the idea that these strengths of kindness can be attached to the idea of angels delivering in to our hearts messages of grace, generosity, hope and so much more.

Have a look at the fabulous St Luke's website and explore the resources. There is sure to be something to appeal to you!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

How is Your Walk?

Sometimes Christians talk about their faith as their ‘walk’ with Christ.
As a Chaplain or religious Educators, we may be asked about about our faith and how we face struggles and doubt. 

Perhaps you could use the movie clip, The Walk, with your older students, to introduce the ideas of courage, trust and faith.

With your younger students, perhaps try this fabulous story of Blondin.

You could so easily develop many lessons based on these clips. Perhaps you could discuss choices, beliefs and how our actions honour God. So many ideas!

I showed this clip in Chapel many years ago – and a young man wrote to me and told me he had just been to Niagara Falls and remembered the message from Chapel. We never really know how and when our messages in Chapel or class will affect our students. I suppose that is part of our own ‘faith walk’. Enjoy!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

An Attitude of Gratitude

Researchers such as the team at the Greater Good Science Centre have concluded that gratitude is linked to better health, more happiness and stronger connections to others. 

We also know that the Bible teaches us that gratitude is part of the life of a Christian.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17
So, if you wish to focus on developing an attitude of gratitude in your students, why not try using the My Thank You Bible.
There are 4 of these bibles.
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For All You’ve Made (ISBN 9788772030692)
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For Friends And Family (ISBN 9788772030708)
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For Protecting Me (ISBN 9788772030715)
My Thank You Bible Storybook  – Thank You God For loving Me (ISBN 9788772030722)

Dr Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude has explained that research carried out on years 6 and 7 students who were taught about gratitude revealed that not only did the students have positive wellbeing effects from developing an attitude of gratitude, but their academic results also improved!

Try using these Bible Storybooks in your Chapel or Religious Education lessons. You will have enough lessons for an entire year! I love the illustrations and the students will love lifting the flaps!

Friday, 20 July 2018

How to become our best, most authentic self?

I was listening to the Typology Podcast   about how to become our best, most authentic self – and I was hooked. I thought this is a great way to support the Religious Education curriculum for our students. It is so important to “begin with the end in mind”! (Thank you to Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) So how do we help every student to become their ‘best self’?

Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote a book called ‘The Happiness Prayer – Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today’.  The Happiness Prayer is a Hebrew prayer written over 2000 years ago, but according to Rabbi Evan, it is still perfect for today. “Happiness is not always pleasure. It is not always easy. It is connection.”

A review of this book on the Huffington Post by Nell Minow,  says that Rabbi Evan Moffic “begins each day with an ancient prayer, but could just as easily be called meditation or a mindfulness exercise. It is just a way to connect to essential elements for happiness: purpose, meaning, direction, and gratitude. The prayer calls on us to honour our parents, to keep learning, to comfort others, and to recognise the sources of joy in our lives…”

Rabbi Moffic says that we can get addicted to stress and victimhood. Happiness is a choice we have to make and it takes certain actions. Focussing on The Happiness Prayer is a way to realign our lives to help us find happiness.

Here is a paraphrase of the Happiness Prayer from Lisa notes
How will you find happiness in this world and peace in the world to come? By learning these wisdom practices from your ancestors:
  • Honour those who gave you life
  • Be kind
  • Keep learning
  • Invite others into your life
  • Be there when others need you
  • Celebrate good times
  • Support yourself and others during times of loss
  • Pray with intention
  • Forgive
  • Look inside and commit
It is the little things or the habits which lead to happiness, according to Rabbi Moffic. He teaches that it is the ongoing, consistent attention to these practices that will make us happier. Just as the action of the water will reshape a rock, these practices will reshape our soul. It is not the once in a lifetime really magnificent events that will change us, but rather it is the consistent attention to these practices that will transform our character.

You might like to take time to share this with your students. This could be fabulous as part of a sermon, or indeed, a lesson for Religious Education. You could easily link this to your Character Education focus as well. It is filled with teachable moments and great wisdom.

As you reflect on these ideas, challenge your students with some big questions.
v  So what is happiness? The ancient Greeks defined happiness as the joy you feel moving towards your potential. Do we agree?
v  Is happiness the same as pleasure?
v  Is there a connection between faith and happiness?
v  Do you need faith to be happy?
v  What practices lead to a life of joy and happiness?
v  What is the connection between happiness and success?
v  What is it about religion that makes spiritual people happier?

Rabbi Moffic has a fabulous way to dovetail positive psychology with spiritual truths as he explains the ancient Jewish guidelines for following God and in turn, achieving happiness. If we seek to find ‘shalom’peace, inner harmony, wholeness and ultimate wellbeing, then taking time to read The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today might be just the answer!

Monday, 9 July 2018

NAIDOC Week 2018 - Because of her, we can!

"NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."

"NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself."

The NAIDOC week site has some resources that can be used in the classroom. Find them here.

The theme for 2018 is "Because of her, we can"

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Is Jesus the Point?

If you sometimes feel that you might be missing the point in your lessons or sermons, why not listen to the thinkers at The Gospel Project.

In their series, Building a Gospel-Centered Foundation, Brian Dembowcyzk, Jeff Vanderstelt and Matt Chandler possibly give us more questions than answers in their videos.

There is so much great teaching on The Gospel Project website, but one discussion that really stood out to me was The Cure to Biblical Moralism. 

In this video, the presenters explore the way that we can ensure that we are teaching our children the Gospel, and not simply creating moralists who have not trusted in the grace of Christ.

As teachers and Chaplains, with little time to teach our students, we can be keen to get to the ‘application’ part of our lessons. When teaching the story of David for example, we might focus on the importance of bravery and courage. This is not a problem in itself. However, are we teaching this in the context of the bigger picture – the Gospel message or are we teaching students to simply look for the ‘moral’ of the story? While the ‘moral’ is relevant and important, we need to explicitly make the link to Christ. Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

If we leave the ‘application’ part of the lesson simply in terms of ‘morals’, we can burden our students. We want our students to be brave and courageous, but for some it might be a crushing weight to be brave. If they are struggling, they may feel guilt and shame and a sense of ‘not being good enough’.

Perhaps we need to link our lessons to Christ in a more grace based way? In this case, we can teach Matthew 11:28-30. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are our lessons about gospel transformation rather than behaviour modification? Do we open our students’ minds to the idea of letting God change their hearts and then the behaviour follows?
Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

Let us remember Ephesians 4:15 as we teach. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

In your classes, why not debate ideas about Religious Moralism? “Religious moralism is an emphasis on proper moral behaviour to the exclusion of genuine faith,” according to Got Questions. Ask your students to comment on this quote.
“Christian moralists tend to reduce the Bible to a manual for moral behaviour… The moralist relies on his moral actions: if he prays, goes to church, and helps his community, then he is good with God. Moralism says that, if you don’t lie, cheat, steal, or cuss too much, then you are a good person and deserving of heaven.” 

So what can you do as a teacher to avoid teaching moralism to your students? Karen Jones from The Gospel Project has these 5 tips

1.       God is the central figure of every story.
2.       Draw attention to what we learn of God’s character and ways in each story.
3.       Point to Jesus.
4.       Teach morals by rooting them in the Gospel.
5.       Weave the gospel throughout your teaching.

As a teacher or a Chaplain, you may wish to watch this before you teach your next lesson! Encourage your students to reflect on these big ideas as they make choices.Do our students think that the Bible is just a guide for moral behaviour? I wonder?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Reconciliation Week 2018 Videos

The RAP group in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland have created a number of videos sharing stories of reconciliation action. Check them out here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Creating a RAP for your school

Does your school have a RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan)? Why not? A RAP is a formal statement of your school's commitment to reconciliation. Why not start work on your school's RAP in 2018?

If you are looking for information and resources to do this look no further than Narragunnawali. They have a platform to help you develop a RAP in your school. The also have resources for professional learning and curriculum. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

How are young Australian's doing?

The Mission Australia Youth Survey Report is usually released at the end of each year. It really is a must read for anyone working with young people.

One of the questions I think we all need to pay special attention to is about issues of personal concern. The top three issues of concern for young people in 2017 are: coping with stress, school or study problems and body image.

I wonder if this has always been the case? Have we created an education system that is stressing out our students?

The full report can be downloaded here.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Reminders of Connectedness

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

We know from the research that ‘connectedness’ and a sense of ‘belonging’ are very powerful keys to wellbeing for both adults and children.

In our schools, we know how painful it can be for our students who deal with social exclusion. As teachers and Chaplains, we are often asked to support families where students are dealing with social rejection.

The Greater Good Science Centre has many articles and ideas to help us navigate these difficult social situations. Here is one of their great ideas, copied directly from their website.  
It is called, Reminders of Connectedness.

Take 10 minutes to complete the first three steps; after that, the amount of time it will take to complete the rest will vary. Try to go through this exercise at least once per month. After evaluating your classroom, office, or a room in your home, next month consider another room or environment over which you have control.

1. Take a moment to look around your home, office, or classroom. What kinds of objects, words, and images surround you?
2. Count how many of these objects, words, and images are related to social connectedness. This could include pictures of people interacting, words like “community,” “together,” or “friendship,” or even two stuffed animals facing one another on a shelf.
3. Notice whether there are any empty walls or shelves where you could add new objects related to connectedness, or places where you could replace existing objects.
4. Next time you’re out shopping, looking through your belongings, or (for parents or teachers) developing an art project for your children or students, see if you can find objects that evoke connection, even in a subtle way, and use them to fill these empty places or to replace existing objects.
5. Finally, consider how the furniture in this room is arranged. Are chairs facing toward or away from each other? Are there common spaces that are conducive to social interaction? Rearranging the layout of your home, office, or classroom can also help to promote feelings of connectedness.

So who should try this? 

"Research suggests that humans have a strong propensity for kindness and generosity, and that kindness improves the health and happiness of the giver, not only of the receiver. But we don't always act on our altruistic instincts.

Fortunately, studies have identified ways to elicit people’s deeply rooted propensities for kindness. One of the most effective is to evoke a sense of connectedness among people. Research suggests that even subtle reminders of connection, operating below the conscious level, can lead to concrete, measurable increases in altruistic behaviour. This exercise walks you through the process of considering how you can add reminders of social connection to your home, office, or classroom." 

There are so many Bible stories about ‘connectedness’.  Why not explore the story of Jesus choosing his disciples? This can then be developed in to lessons about friendship, compassion, support and caring. Enjoy connecting with your students and your school community.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Don't keep history a mystery

The theme for National Reconciliation Week this year is "Don't keep history a mystery?" Resources can be found at Reconciliation Australia. But what is National Reconciliation Week?

These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively. 
  National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

 Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Check out the website for more information.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A Passion for Proverbs

Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise. Proverbs 6:6

I am always excited and delighted when I hear that Chaplains and religious educators are discussing Proverbs with their students. 

It is a wonderful way to open discussions on wisdom, making choices, ethics and values. Proverbs encourage deep thinking and reflection and can be absolutely transformative in the lives of our students.

Martin Luther was famous for the discussions he had with friends and students and these discussions and topics are collected in the book, Table Talk. Maybe we could foster the same great style of discussion in our schools through the use of Proverbs?

Imagine if you could get your entire school thinking about Proverbs?

The discussions and debate would foster deep critical thinking and powerful learning. Try asking your students to think about the difference between being smart and being wise.

Proverbs can help us with relationships, our behaviour and more. Study a selection of Proverbs and see where the discussion leads. 

  • Bless others with compliments: Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Proverbs 16:24) 
  • Learn to control desires: A Man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
  • Hold your tongue: Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

Have a look at the videos included, but think about how appropriate they are for your students. 

And of course - it is always great to end with a song!