A baby? I thought Christmas was about food, family and presents.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. A Christmas Experience at the local church run by crossteach . I know crossteach . They come into our school for RE lessons and they run a lunchtime club. They are friendly, but I’m not always sure about this Christianity stuff they are always going on about. I’m a bit excited that we’re going out of school for the morning and it will be something different, but church always seems so boring! We go out in the cold to walk to the church. It’s only a short walk and we get there quite quickly. When we get inside it isn’t much warmer. The adults there welcome us and show us where to sit. They seem nice, but some of them are dressed up which seems weird. It still isn’t clear what is going to happen. We sit on a cold and hard wooden bench and I hope we don’t have to sit here for the whole thing. There are lots of Christmas decorations around and the usual church things: crosses, stained glass windows, bibles and so on.

One of the crossteach workers welcomes us and tells us about things like where the toilets are. They ask us about Christmas: what are we most looking forward to? I like Christmas because we have special food, we have lots of time with family and I get presents. Then we’re told we’re going to be on a TV show!! This is a big surprise. We’re going to be part of the Jerry Keele show (which sounds suspiciously like a TV show I have heard of and some of my classmates have seen). We are told that we have to do some research for the Jerry Keele show. Can we go around and find information about Joe’s fiancée and her baby to help Joe decide whether he should stay with her or leave her? The crossteach worker says Christmas is actually all about this baby. I’m pleased we can get off the seats and I’m actually quite excited about what we have to do. Maybe church isn’t always boring.

My favourite place was meeting the Shepherd in the night. It was dark and we had to use torches which made it seem a bit spooky and as if we were exploring. The shepherd told us the baby’s name was ‘Saviour’. This was something I did not know before. I learned that Christians believe Jesus was a saviour. I didn’t like the palace. The king we met there was angry and mean and said he wanted to kill all the babies. We got to do some acting and put on silly hats. In the palace we learned that the baby is a ‘king’. We also visited Mary and heard her side of the story. I think she was telling the truth even though it was a really strange story. She told us that an angel told her the baby was the ‘Son of God’. I didn’t know Jesus had so many different names. I even learned that the meaning of the name Jesus is ‘God saves’.

After we had done our research we went back to the front of the church for the Jerry Keele show. The Jerry Keele show was loud and funny. We met Joe and he told us his fiancée is pregnant and the baby is not his. One of my friends dressed up and pretended to be Joe’s mum. This was hilarious. He looked like a granny with a grey wig, some fake glasses and an apron and he had to come on to the stage waving a rolling pin. Someone else in the class came on dressed as an angel with a message for Joe. I was expecting angels, but everything else was very unexpected. I thought the Jerry Keele show was the best bit. We had to shout at Joe to tell him whether to stay or go. I said he should stay because I believed Mary. In the end he said he was still going to marry her. The crossteach worker then explains the meaning of all the different names. This is really interesting and something I did not know before. Christians believe all these names mean the baby Jesus is someone really special and that is why they celebrate his birthday every year. I’m still looking forward to special food, time with family and getting presents, but I now know that for lots of Christians this festival is about celebrating the birth of a baby that they think is very special and who is their king and saviour.

On the way back to school the class are very excited and talking about the Christmas Experience. We all agree that maybe religion is more interesting and exciting than we used to think and church isn’t always boring after all.

This is a fictional review of our Christmas Experience by a school pupil. It is fictional, but based directly on the pupil feedback we collect.

We saw in an earlier article, surveys show young people generally have very little knowledge about the Christmas Nativity story and what is at the heart of this Christian festival. What is it exactly Christians are celebrating? This is the question we try to answer in our Christmas Experience as we teach young people in schools about the Christian festival of Christmas.

Christmas Experiences are one of the many activities we offer as a free service to schools to complement and enhance the teaching of Christianity. They are one of the most well received activities we offer. Many schools have been bringing their year 6 or year 7 pupils year after year for many years and the number of sessions we run each year has been consistently growing.

Our focus this year is ‘Engaging the Next Generation’. We teach about the Christian faith in schools so that pupils develop spiritually through understanding, engaging with and responding to the Christian faith. Our Christmas Experiences enable us to achieve these aims extremely well. We see this in the feedback we get from pupils and staff. Some of the common feedback we get from school staff includes;

  • ‘It was fun for the students.’ ‘You made the learning fun.’

  • ‘It was very engaging and interactive.’

  • ‘The students have a much better understanding of Christian beliefs about Christmas.’

  • ‘It was very well organised and the team were friendly.’

  • ‘The subject knowledge is outstanding.’

  • ‘It was done in a way that was accessible for all students.’

The majority of school staff rate the Christmas Experience as ‘Excellent’ and ‘Very Professional’. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive and school staff say they are happy to recommend us to other schools.

Another strength and benefit of our Christmas Experiences is that they bring together schools, crossteach and local churches. We work hard to fit in with school timetables, etc to make sure schools can come to the Christmas Experience with as little disruption as possible. We work in partnership with the schools to provide an outstanding educational experience for their students. The Christmas experience requires more personnel than an RE lesson or school assembly. So, we rely on local churches to recruit and provide volunteers. In many cases, the Christmas Experience is hosted by a local church. This helps to build and strengthen relationships between these two organisations at the heart of many local communities: school and church.

If you are a school teacher and would like explore the possibility of crossteach running an experience for your pupils, please do get in touch.

If you are a church worker or volunteer and would to explore the possibility of using crossteach resources to provide an excellent educational experience for pupils in a local schools, please do get in touch

Read more about our work here: www.crossteach.com

Donate to our work here: http://www.crossteach.com/support-us/

crossteach is an educational charity which has been teaching about the Christian faith in schools since 2001. We visit lots of different types of schools – primary and secondary, community and Church of England, private and state-funded, academy and maintained.

Our mission: To teach about the Christian faith in schools

Our vision: For pupils to develop spiritually through understanding, engaging with and responding to the Christian faith

Our aims:

  • To provide direct encounters with Christians speaking about their faith which are enjoyable, memorable and challenging.
  • To teach informed RE lessons that provoke critical enquiry and thoughtful reflection.
  • To lead inspiring, stimulating Collective Worship.
  • To run extracurricular activities that allow pupils to explore fundamental questions about human life, religion and belief.

Our approach:

  • Professional: engaging, trained, organised, experienced and working within national and local requirements and guidelines
  • Reputable: working in schools with integrity and transparency since 2001
  • Distinctively Christian: knowledgeable, authentic and passionate about the Christian faith
  • Collegiate: working in partnership with schools at their invitation and under their direction, and alongside local churches and other school visitors