The First Christmas: Good News or Bad News for Joe?

During our interactive Christmas Experiences, students get to meet Joe. He has had some difficult news that appears to be very bad news, but may just turn out to be the best news ever.

One of the services crossteach offers to schools free of charge are Experiences: interactive sessions for pupils to learn about a specific aspect of Christianity, usually hosted by a local church. We have recently run the Christmas Experience for many schools, giving pupils the opportunity to learn about what Christmas means to Christians in an enjoyable, memorable and challenging way.

The pupils meet Joe on the Jerry Keele Show and hear how he has discovered his fiancée is pregnant and he knows he is not the father. ‘What is he going to do?’ This is the question posed by Jerry Keele to Joe and the ‘audience’. The pupils take on the role of investigators and visit different interactive zones to find our more information about the baby, ready for the follow up ‘show’ where they will help Joe make a decision. There are a few more surprises in store before the show ends though…

The pupils hear Mary’s claim that the baby is from God. A claim so outrageous even Mary finds it hard to believe. They speak to some local workers who got a message from angels about the baby. Not something that happens for every birth! Finally they meet a group of men who have travelled many miles to visit the baby. Mistakenly they stop at the king’s palace because they think that is the most likely place this new baby will be born. In each zone they discover a different name or title given to this baby. When they come back to the follow up show they get to meet Joe’s mum, who is not pleased and thinks Joe should leave Mary, and there is a surprise appearance from an angel. The angel’s message convinces Joe that what appeared like bad news is actually good news. Even for Jerry Keele, this is a show like no other. After the show we explain how Christians believe that the different names used for the baby reveal his identity and tell us about what he is going to do. Christians are convinced this is not just good news, but the best news ever and something worth celebrating.

Not only is the Christmas Experience educationally robust, helping students learn about the Christian festival of Christmas through critical enquiry and thoughtful reflection, it is delivered in an engaging way that makes it enjoyable and memorable. There is also the added bonus that the pupils get to visit a local church and meet local Christians who are passionate about what they believe. It is a great way for students to meet other people in their community and, for many, it may be the first time they have ever been inside a church. Christmas is one of the religious festivals most people celebrate in some way. Through our Christmas Experience we teach hundreds of students why it is such a significant and special festival for Christians and just why we think the baby at the centre of the story is so amazing.

At a time when some surveys suggest most young people do not really know what Christians are celebrating at Christmas, it is great that we have these opportunities to improve their knowledge and understanding.

Over 50% of young people believe 25th December is Santa’s birthday*

Many do not know who the Jesus at the centre of the Christmas story is.*

Only a minority know Jesus was born in Bethlehem** Almost the same number believe he was born in Brentwood, Essex.**

These are just some of the misunderstandings and misconceptions we are able to correct through our activities in schools, as we teach about the Christian faith to students.

crossteach operates in four parts of the country and each team ran Christmas Experiences in partnership with local churches. Not only do the churches host the Experiences, they also provide willing volunteers. Most of these play a part in one of the interactive zones, while others look after the visiting teachers or do the time keeping. It is always a joy to come together with local churches in this way, as we serve the local school and its students together.

We are also supporting a growing number of churches to run Experiences for themselves in areas where we do not have staff. It is a great way for churches to support their local schools with good educational resources as well as an opportunity to develop deeper relationships between these two organisations within the same community. Schools greatly appreciate these Experiences and the students really enjoy them.

This year we ran 68 Experiences for 25 schools. We did this in partnership with 19 churches. All together we were able to teach approximately 1720 students more about the Christians festival of Christmas and why we think the story about the birth of Jesus, around 2,000 years ago, is such good news.

These are just some of the things students said about the Christmas experience;

“So that we can know why we celebrate Christmas” Student, London.

“Because in the different activities we learnt about who Jesus was” Student, Nottingham.

“It was fun acting it out” Student, Tunbridge Wells.

“To help people understand who made Christmas.” Student, Warwickshire.

We also ask school staff for feedback, Here are some examples of what they said;

“It is an experience like no other the children have had. Brings the Bible to their level and children engage with the teaching. Thank you. It was fabulous!” Deputy Head, Nottingham.

“Clear, well organised, informative, respectful of other beliefs” Teacher, London.

“Fun and interactive way of teaching the children about the Bible.” Assistant Headteacher, Tunbridge Wells.

“I think they understand the Christmas story much more and really engaged with it. Very professional and the children loved every minute! Thank you!” Teacher, Warwickshire.

All teachers rate our Christmas experience as ‘good’ or better.

Why not get involved in crossteach Experiences?

If you live in an area where there is a crossteach team, there are many ways you could get involved;

Pray for our work and the Experiences specifically

Speak to your church leadership about being a host church for a local school

Volunteer to help at an Experience

Give financially to our work so we can carry on running Experiences for local schools.

If there is not a crossteach team in your area, you still have the opportunity to get involved;

Speak to your church leadership about running an Experience for your local school(s)

Contact crossteach to request the resources and to discuss training and support.

*Statistics from Premier Youth and Childrens Work Dec 2017 premier youth and children

**Statistics from Daily Mail Dec 2011 daily mail