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Speaking of education... 

Why I belong to the Baptist Education Group - and why churches can engage with their local schools. By Martin Sweet
 

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Someone once asked me why I was an active representative of the Baptist Education Group, and why I am on the Free Church Education Committee (FCEC). What motivated me? What good do these groups do?
 
I could have replied that I am currently involved in education as CEO of Spinnaker Trust. Before that I was a ‘Christian schools-worker’, and teacher. Even longer ago I was a student and pupil. In other words, my life has been one long experience of education.

But I didn't.

I could have said I still the get the chance, several times a week, to walk through the school doors and engage with a massive section of our local population. I speak with school staff, pupils and their parents.

But my answer was not that either.
 
Instead, I replied by asking: "Have you wondered how many teachers, parents, school visitors and church-based ‘school-workers‘ there are in Baptist churches alone?"

For we have a huge constituency – far more than may other outfits who, it would appear, punch above their weight. I suspect that there could be more Baptists than signed up members of the British Humanist Association. Why do they get invited onto national committees and radio broadcasts? Why have other groups got a voice in education?

Or more to the point, why do we appear to stay so silent when in reality we do so much?
 
Surely everyone with a desire to see God at work in among the generation of children growing up around us will have a concern for the arena of education. But engagement with this arena is both varied and complex, and it needs to have a local impact while assimilating national issues. This means that most people in our congregations, including those in church leadership, probably feel a bit disconnected from the opportunities and scope the arena presents.
 
Some will debate whether we have the right to engage with education in the public sphere, but perhaps we should consider instead whether we have the heart. Shouldn't their local schools be on each Baptist church’s mission radar?

The Baptist Education Group has therefore grown out of a specific need to utilise the networks that already exist in the important ‘space’ between education and church. It's a space easily filled with media driven incursions or ill-formed judgement on the part of Christians.
 
Ignorance of what schools are like is the first barrier to engagement. Plenty of church folk are discovering fresh opportunities, such as with Open the Book or the many local schools-work organisations that are flourishing in many area.

And the opportunities stretch far beyond ‘assemblies’ and the occasional church visit that a school may undertake. Many church members act as school governors or on local SACREs. So where can a church start to impact this ignorance?
 
There is good Baptist representation on the Free Church Education Committee (FCEC), which meets under the auspices of the Free Churches’ Group. Its aim is to serve the general education interests of all the Free Churches. This group has a long history of engagement with education and, in meeting three times a year, its primary purpose is to strengthen an active and appropriate involvement in education within our local communities. The group seeks therefore seeks to encourage and support regular involvement of Free Churches in education by:

  • reflecting on the many current concerns in any field of education and to advise or suggest an appropriate response.

  • coordinating an appropriate response from Free Church denominations through cooperation and networking.

  • raising awareness to ensure that member denominations, such as Baptists, and their congregations and families, are informed and empowered.

  • promoting good, Christian values within education for all pupils.

  • maintaining a Free Church voice within education. 



So the aim of the Baptist Education Group is to seek to bridge the gap between the FCEC and Baptist community in such a way that parents, church leaders and workers, being informed and aware of what happens within the world of education, can offer appropriate support and resources to their local school.

 

If we are seeking a voice in education, both nationally and locally, then we all know that actions speak louder than words. And appropriate, valued action will be heard above the noise that society currently makes.



 

 

Picture: Unsplash



Martin Sweet writes on behalf of the Baptist Education Group (BEG). The vision of the Baptist Education Group is to encourage every Baptist church to strategically engage in supporting its local school.

Martin is director of Spinnaker Trust, an organisation with over 25 years’ experience, based in SE London, regularly supporting over 100 primary schools in London and the Southeast with RE, assemblies and much more.

 

The Baptist Education Group would like to hear from people who are interested/involved in education and would like to be networked. Contact admin@spinnaker.org.uk


Related:
Time for a coffee with a head teacher
Mind the Gap - The gap between non-churched children and the church seems to be getting wider - but are we really noticing? And how can we go about bridging it?

 

Baptist Times, 22/12/2016
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