SU Support – Your SU
There have been Scripture Union groups in Northern Ireland schools since the late 1940s. The work has grown considerably over the years so that today there are around 300 groups meeting in Primary, Post–Primary and Special schools across Northern Ireland.
Our vision is to give pupils the opportunity to meet and be transformed by Jesus through the establishment of a community that is Bible–based, discipleship–oriented and mission–focused in every school in Northern Ireland.
So, let’s begin at the beginning. What exactly is an SU group?
A school SU group is a voluntary group, which meets regularly within the school and is designed to help pupils explore the Bible and live out the Christian faith. The leaders are approved both by the school principal and by Scripture Union.
Each group is free to develop a programme which is relevant and appropriate for its own circumstances and for the children who attend. There is no set formula for meetings, although a number of possible models are described later in this guide. Whatever the style of the programme, however, SU groups all share the following core aims and values.
Scripture Union groups in schools aim to:
- Establish a community of mutual support and encouragement for Christian pupils
- Enable pupils to meet God through the Bible and grow in relationship with Him
- Equip Christian pupils to live for Jesus and share their faith with others
- Provide opportunities for all pupils to hear and respond to the Good News of Jesus
The following values are common to all Scripture Union groups in schools.
Values that infiltrate
Bible (2 Tim 3:15)
“…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
The Bible is central to the programme and pupils should be encouraged to:
- explore the teaching of the Bible using a variety of creative methods
- interact with the Bible text – hearing and responding to what God says through it
- apply Bible truth to their lives – especially in school
Prayer (1 Tim 2:1)
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people”
It is God who enables us to make disciples and as SU leaders our dependence on Him should be expressed in our commitment to:
- personal prayer and preparation
- praying together as leaders
- encouraging pupils to pray together
- inviting prayer support from others
Values that connect
Community (Come and see; John 1:46)
““Come and see,” said Philip.”
Recognising that teachers and pupils come from a variety of different backgrounds, and denominations the SU group should seek to be a community in which:
- all pupils are made welcome (within the specified age range)
- friendships are formed and deepened
- Christian values and lifestyle are modelled
- the highest possible standards of safety and care are maintained
Discipleship (Remain and Grow; John 15: 1–5;16)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last”
The ultimate aim is to equip pupils for life–long discipleship and therefore the group should:
- encourage sincere, age–appropriate responses to the Gospel
- encourage pupils to develop a close personal relationship with God
- equip pupils to live out their faith especially in school and share it with others
- provide opportunities for pupils to use and develop their gifts in serving others
Mission (Go and tell; Mark 16:15)
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”
Disciples of all ages are commissioned to share their faith with others and therefore the group should be outwardly focused, aiming to reach out to others in the school through:
- the life and witness of the staff and pupils involved
- outreach initiatives and events
A value that unites
Partnership (Psalm 133:1)
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
The SU group should not be seen in isolation but rather seek to:
- cooperate fully with members of staff and other groups within the school
- establish meaningful relationships with the local churches
- make use of the opportunities for fellowship and support available through SUNI
These values are not intended to stifle creativity by group leaders, but rather to engender a common ethos that defines the nature and purpose of Scripture Union groups in schools.
Leaders can include members of staff, parents and volunteers from the local churches.
Any adult who wishes to be involved as a leader must be approved both by the school principal and by Scripture Union. We look for leaders who:
- love Jesus and are committed to following Him
- care about helping children and young people know God more
- are involved in a local church
In Primary groups older pupils can be given roles and responsibilities. Pupils from the senior school or from a local post–primary school may also be involved. Developing leadership potential in pupils is a key component of
a discipleship–oriented approach.
In Secondary groups there are generally 3 types of leadership; Adult, Pupil or Joint Adult /Pupil leadership. Each type has strengths and weaknesses. Whenever the group is pupil–led, one adult must take overall responsibility. However, SUNI advocates shared leadership between pupils and adults. This allows the adults involved to invest in and work alongside pupils, supporting them as they gain maturity, grow in faith and develop responsibility and leadership skills. As well as developing leadership potential this approach helps give pupils ownership of the group.
SU leaders are responsible to:
A leader should regard their appointment as from the Lord, by being able to recognise the God given opportunity to influence children and young people by teaching and by example.
Scripture Union is committed to making a positive contribution to the school environment through co–operation with the principal and with other members of staff as well as sensitivity to other school activities will obviously help.
The group exists by permission of the principal who, along with other members of staff, should be informed, as appropriate, of the times and places of meetings, visiting speakers, out of school events and have access to Scripture Union literature such as camp & missions brochures.
SU groups provide the opportunity to build relationships with children and young people in schools. Children will put their trust in the leaders, so it’s important to ensure that your team is reliable, treats everyone with respect and takes all aspects of safety and care seriously.
Leaders are expected to be familiar with and comply fully with the policies of the school in relation to health and safety and in relation to child protection. Please ask the principal for a copy of the relevant guidelines if you do not already have them.
Our child protection policy can be found in the SU Leaders area of our website at www.suni.co.uk/schools/downloads. This includes a leaflet of guidelines for the leaders of SU groups in schools. Leaders should be familiar with and comply fully with these guidelines too.
Every effort should be made to keep parents informed of the nature of the group and of its activities, and to respect their wishes regarding the attendance or non–attendance of their children. There may also be some Christian parents who could be encouraged to pray for the group and to help practically.
Leaders are responsible to Scripture Union for maintaining the standards it upholds, and for safeguarding its rapport with the school authorities and with the churches.
The Local Church
Leaders are encouraged to communicate with the churches in the area in order to keep them informed of what is happening and seek their support for the group – e.g. through prayer, finance, donation of Bibles or volunteers to help with sessions.