Is this a setup, or the real thing?
The Youth For Christ outfit in the area that I was due to work in, got in touch with the local secondary school and asked if I could do a lunchtime concert while I was in the area. Strangely enough, the date they requested happened to be April Fool’s Day. When the headmaster received the letter he assumed that he was being set up by one of the pupils. The facts he had were that my name was Flashman, I was a rock singer and an ordained clergyman! He could be forgiven for getting the wrong end of the stick! So in retaliation to what he thought was a prank, he designed some posters illustrating, using cartoon images, the ‘rocking Rev’ in an amusing and slightly compromised way, and stuck them around the school. When I arrived on the day ready to perform, you should have seen the look on the headmaster’s face. I heard later that he hurriedly sent one of the sixth formers around the school to collect the posters before I saw them!
The forgotten mission field
For many years the whole area of school missions has excited me and frustrated me at the same time. It’s excited me because of the tremendous opportunities there are in schools and colleges around the country for Christians to go in and take assemblies, lesson periods, lunchtime events and Christian Unions. It’s frustrated me because of the low profile school ministry has and the ignorance of to the many possibilities.
So many in the field of music have been screaming out for years about the danger of the Christian music ghetto and of only performing to the small world of the Christian concert circuit. Schools work has been overlooked and ignored because it doesn’t give you a very good image if you’re a musician working in a schools ministry. You get patronizing write-ups in the Christian press about the ‘good work’ being done, but you get the feeling that this area of work is really not for the professionals.
However, let’s face it: you can’t get more ‘secular’ than a comprehensive school assembly. Where else can you reach a non-Christian audience of thousands on a regular basis in live performances? Very few ‘secular’ bands get the opportunity of playing to numbers like that, yet here we have the opportunity of reaching the singles-buying public. But before we get all the record companies pushing their artists into the school circuit to make money, let’s clear a few things up! It’s not too difficult to get into a school to perform… but it’s easy to mess things up and close the door on any further entrance into the school. It’s not too difficult to get opportunities to operate in assemblies and lunchtime events… but there are rules which must be adhered to if the operation is going to be successful.
Don’t preach at the kids
It’s not the place to proselytise. School doors close and opportunities dry up when well-meaning Christians go into an educational establishment and preach at the kids. This is not the right approach and is the reason why school’s ministries are so few and far between these days.
In a specifically Christian school, there is a case for talking about Christian faith in a more open way. Generally speaking however, I would always take an educational approach in school classrooms and leave the session open for debate and questions. Work with the teachers on the subject matter and supporting their work with the curriculum, showing a real interest in throwing light on a subject from a different point of view.
During my time as a travelling musician, I would often be speaking and singing to 5000 teenagers each week, with a major concert performance at the end of the week when a more open approach can be delivered.