School Chaplaincy – Doing Life with Gen Z by Fiona Walton
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Chaplaincy ‘does life’ with people where they are. Life that is often messy, has rough edges, conflicts, bereavements, anxieties and doesn’t fit into understandable patterns. Chaplaincy is where Christians need to be, demonstrating an understanding of, and sharing the journeys people are on. Chaplaincy is particularly valid when it comes to serving young people.
More than 95% of Generation Z (born after 1997) are not in church. They are, however, in school (and on the internet). To ‘do life’ with this generation, to serve, help or invest in them we need to be where they are - we must be in schools. School chaplaincy offers an opportunity to facilitate this.
Schools are on the frontline with our children and young people, as they face all sorts of challenges. Issues including access to pornography, cyber bullying, the selfie/social media culture that lowers self esteem and creates anxiety for many, mental health difficulties, rising knife crime statistics, cannabis use, broken or poverty-stricken families, bereavements and exam pressures. The statistics around these areas are increasingly worrying. Christians are needed as armour bearers, role models and mentors.
A school chaplain ministers to the staff and wider school community, as well as pupils. Head teachers, governors and teachers are under their own pressures, due to budget constraints, long working hours and problems with teacher retention. As the Duchess of Cambridge said , "It is clear that the positive development of our children is directly linked to those who care for them: teachers, carers and parents……it is therefore vital that we support teachers with their own wellbeing so that they can provide the best level of care for all children in their schools and communities in which they work.” More need within our schools.
Although it is not the purpose of chaplaincy services to bring about or encourage commitment to any set of beliefs, a school chaplain is the public face of God in a school, maybe the only interface with a person of faith some will have. A school chaplain is the Word as flesh and blood, journeying with God and alongside those in the neighbourhood.
Published by Network. The magazine of the Diocese of Sheffield Issue 09 Spring 2019