This is the simple, yet fundamental, question that national schools staff have been seeking to answer for over 12 months. We have had a season of listening, reflecting and discerning as to what our vision for SU groups in schools across the country is, what the core values of any SU group are and what support we provide to groups who identify themselves with our aims, beliefs and values.
In doing so our intention is that SU leaders will be clear about the nature and purpose of their groups and have the freedom to think creatively about how its core aims and values can be worked out in their particular context.
So what then is our vision for SU groups across Northern Ireland?
‘Our vision is to give pupils the opportunity to meet and be transformed by Jesus through the establishment of a community that is Bible-based, discipleship-oriented and mission-focused in every school in Northern Ireland.’
Notice the four core values reflected in this statement:
We want every SU group to be an open and welcoming community in which Christian values and lifestyle are modelled and relationships of mutual encouragement and support are fostered. We want every SU group to have a programme that enables its members to engage with the Bible. We want members also to be challenged to respond to God, grow in relationship with Him and live as disciples of Jesus. And we want every SU group to be a group that shares Jesus in the context in which God has placed them.
All of this can’t be done without the additional core values of:
We want the leaders and members of every group to be encouraged to pray both individually and corporately for their groups and for their schools and to enjoy the prayer support of others from their local communities. We want to help SU leaders discover the benefits of partnering with others – e.g. by networking with each other or making connections with their local churches.
So what happens next?
We are working to bring together an SU handbook that will be full of principled wisdom and practical guidelines to help SU leaders as they run their groups each week. We are developing a three-year teaching programme as a skeleton ‘syllabus’ that SU groups can take and use as they please.
We are also running a day conference in September for the teachers and other adults involved in running SU groups in primary, post-primary and special schools across Northern Ireland and this will be the official launch of our ‘what is an SU’ material.
We are so overwhelmed by the heart and passion of our leaders in schools. To make over 300 SU groups happen on a weekly basis all over Northern Ireland is no small task and we pray that what we have come up with and what we continue to develop will equip them for the years ahead.
Paul Cameron – Primary Schools co-ordinator
Phil Howe – Secondary Schools Worker