I’ve just come home from taking the assembly at our local primary school and it struck me that the American readers of our blog in particular might be interested – if not downright astonished – to hear something about it. Even UK readers – indeed, even some Northern Irish readers – might be encouraged by the liberty and opportunity that exists for sharing the gospel in a state school in Northern Ireland. Also, there aren’t a lot of good resources for Pastors who take assemblies, so perhaps something I’ve done will help spark off other ideas.
Mossley Primary School has a deeply committed and evangelical headmaster and vice principal, not to mention a majority of Christian members of staff. The school is not a Christian school, but it has the Bible on its crest, and has always given a high place to the Word of God. Parents of prospective pupils are told on open nights that while academic work is important, character is even more important, and that the character traits the school seeks to teach are the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. The headmaster will tell the parents that each child is unique and precious because he is created by God in the image of God, and that the Word of God is the guide for the ethos and values of the school.
There are three assemblies each week led by the staff, but once a month one of the three most local Pastors comes in to speak. This means that three times a year I get to speak to just under 400 7-11 year olds. I also have the privilege of going in every other week to teach a Bible overview to the oldest class in the school. We begin in Genesis and study the big picture of the Bible (‘the search for the serpent-crusher’). It’s a terrific opportunity to show the children, most of whom never go to church, what the Bible is all about and to answer their many and varied questions about God.
Assembly consists of a praise song, followed by 20 minutes for me to speak on whatever topic I choose, lead in prayer, then a final song. I always try to start with something that is going on in school that week, and to use it as a way in to present the gospel. It might be exams, which gives me a chance to talk about the exam with 10 questions that we all sit (the ten commandments, in case you’re not tuned in!), and in which we score 0/10, but which Jesus has taken for his people. It might be the school play of Beauty and the Beast: Belle sees the good inside the Beast and falls in love with him; but Jesus loves people with no good on the inside and gives his life to save them. It might be Valentine’s Day, which gave me the chance to talk about 1 John 3.16: This is how we know what love is.
Today it was the playground craze that is sweeping the UK and the USA: fidget spinners. Our school is not immune to the mania. I asked the children who had one and almost every hand went up. A couple of children have more than 20! It wasn’t hard to think about what was on the minds of my audience this week.
So I talked (with the help of a PowerPoint display) about fidget spinners for a few minutes—the different kinds, the most expensive one in the world (the Silver Fidget Spinner by Spinnertech, available to you today from Amazon for £350!) and some of the tricks that ‘fidgeteers’ are performing (I wasn’t able to demonstrate any!). But then I predicted that in a few months these toys that the children can’t put down would be forgotten and gathering dust on a shelf. I talked about the rise and fall of other playground crazes: loom bands, Pokemon, Match Atax. I talked about how it’s always been like this, sharing about crazes from my own schooldays: head boppers, lolo balls, yoyo spinners and Rubik cubes.
Then I got to the point: the Bible says human life is a bit like these crazes. Ps 103.15f: Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. Jas 4.14: What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. In just 3 generations time, no-one on earth will remember us. After all, how many of us can even know the names of our great-grandparents, never mind anything more significant, like the kind of people they were? Why should we think it will be any different with us?
That should sadden us, because God didn’t create us to exist for just a few years and then be forgotten. He has planted eternity in the human heart. And the good news is that Jesus Christ came to bring us eternal life. He died on the cross to take the punishment we deserve so we can be forgiven and live with God forever in his perfect world, where nothing ever gets old or boring or forgotten! All the local shops are sold out of fidget spinners—it’s been hard to find them. But eternal life is freely available to anyone who gives their life to Jesus Christ.
No doubt there will be lots of you who could have thought of a much better way of doing it (and I’d be keen to hear any suggestions, or resources any of you have found helpful), but that was my approach today and the children listened well. As did the staff, some of whom may not be Christians. Praise God for opportunities like this, of which thankfully there are still many in state schools in Northern Ireland. Pray that it may continue for a long time to come, and that those of us with the privilege and responsibility of speaking in schools like this will make the most of every opportunity.