Share Your Story

We would love to hear your stories from serving your local school. Please send your story to us through our contact form.

Tell us about how the project started, what has developed, how it is resourced and your insight into the keys to success.



Is Serve Your Local School making an impact?

Serve Your Local School (SYLS) is a website which exists to:

  • Help churches to see the opportunities available to participate in the life of a school
  • Share good practice and stories of successful initiatives amongst churches
  • Provide information about resources and new initiatives

We at SYLS set ourselves the task of finding out if Scottish churches had been making use of SYLS, and if so how had they found it. A huge bit of research was undertaken to find some answers. 332 online surveys and 25 in-depth phone interviews later we had some answers to our wonderings!

So what did the online surveys show?

45% of respondents had heard of SYLS initiative before the survey and half of those had visited the website. An overwhelming majority of people who had visited it really liked what it had to offer.

People were honest in their feedback, which is exactly what we needed! SYLS needs updating, have more materials and be more widely promoted.

There’s probably no surprises in discovering that of those participating in their local school are invariably doing so in their local primary school by a ratio of 3:2. This ratio is also relevant to the amount of church leaders providing chaplaincy in primary to secondary schools.

This ratio is overcome though when finding out where in Scotland people are active in serving their school. Whether it be city, town, village or rural, people in the church are equally active! Happy days!

Almost 3/4 of respondents found the biggest barrier to their church serving their school is a “lack of people and everyone is busy”. Time. No shock there.

About 3/4 of respondents were from a Church of Scotland and 39% of these said their church employs a Children’s, Youth or Families Worker. In other church groups over half of respondents said their church has a Children’s, Youth or Families Worker. It just goes to show, that the church’s presence in local schools is tangible when there is a paid worker with a remit for them.

So what did the phone interviews show?

Every person interviewed had an inspiring story to share with other churches, and it was incredible that such a variety of wonderful activities are going on across Scotland - activities that are held in schools, playgrounds, churches, halls and out in the community. In some ways this is no surprise, but you can never get enough of this good stuff!

The activities ranged from church services together with pupils to running an after school club. But in all the activities and stories, God’s people and his church are showing the love of Jesus to the children and young people in their community!

What next?

We’ll keep you posted for the next stage along the SYLS journey and hopefully you will be part of it!!


Avonbridge: church and school go green!

Avonbridge United Reformed Church wished to develop a working partnership with the local primary school. This was worked out in a number of areas: elders have been involved in cookery classes for the children; some pupils helped create a raised garden at the front of the church building. The children also designed and painted a wonderful ‘mural’ style painting depicting the life of Jesus in four panels with words summing up what the story of Jesus means to them.

Throughout this time, we learned a number of lessons as a church. Firstly, it pays to do your research. You need to plan carefully, being clear what it is you wish to achieve. This requires the church congregation being fully on-board with the vision. Secondly, you need a clear agreement between the church and the school regarding expectations, for example in terms of physical labour or fund raising.

As no-one in our church had any children at the school, we found it best to work through contacts with the Parents Association, backed up with the chaplaincy work carried out by the minister. It is vital to meet with the Head Teacher early on to gain approval for the project. It is best to have some kind of proposal written down that can be presented, which would include what the finished project might look like, what the educational benefits to the pupils would be, how much involvement is expected from pupils and teachers, and a time-line.

Never stop listening. Make sure that communication is open and frequent, with all involved in the project; wider church members; school contacts and also the wider school community. Be flexible and willing to change the original idea in the light of suggestions. As we got to know the teachers we found them to be a great source of ideas on improvements to the scheme, and alternative approaches. But once the plan has been agreed by all stick to it!

We were greatly helped by Community Support at Tesco’s Supermarket. They provided some sponsorship (including prizes for the pest pupil participation). Don’t be afraid of asking around among the local businesses for some help. The school also applied for financial help from the local authority and won a prize in a competition for community involvement. Make sure of how much finance is available and don’t limit yourself to church funds alone. Indeed, such was the enthusiasm of those backing the Avonbridge project that the church had to find only a small proportion of the funds necessary. So never be afraid to ask!

If the project involves some hard physical work, try and get pupils involved who are “at risk”. And remember that there might be scope for the involvement of ‘Community Service Orders’ from the courts: a group of young offenders did sterling work in clearing away weeds and rubble.

Some may doubt the project at first, some may even object. However if you can articulate the idea, show people what you wish to achieve, get the backing of school and community, and get the ball rolling, you will be surprised at how things turn out in the end. We found it a most rewarding experience, including friendships made with school staff, parents and children. 

Clive McGrory

Avondbridge United Reformed Church    


Christians and Education – learning from an American perspective.

When Nicole Baker Fulgham founder and president of The American Expectations Project, a non-profit organisation that seeks to close the academic achievement gap in public schools, met one of her fellow faith-based public school advocates for coffee, he recounted a conversation he had with a friend who is a long-time elementary school principal in the Bronx.

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Easterhouse Baptist Church

In the late 1990’s the church minister would deliver school assemblies. A children’s worker was appointed to the church staff team and wondered what else the church could be doing to support the school. She spoke to the Head Teacher, offering to do some classroom work. This offer was taken up, and she became a regular face in the school. She then grew links with another local primary through contact with a school secretary.

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A Head Teacher's View

The Head Teacher had a link with a chaplain who took assemblies. A new minister started at the local church, and offered to help at the school. Schools are often at the heart of a community, and since a church can be another key place in the community it is helpful when the church is part of the bigger picture.

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Troon Churches

Some volunteers decided to meet as a ‘Pray for Schools’ group to pray for their local primary schools. People attended from different churches and a real sense of community developed.

The group wrote to local Head Teachers asking “What can we pray for?” Not all responded, but some did. Teachers started to get in touch to ask for prayer for particular situations or children (but without naming which child!), and the group heard back about prayers that had been answered.

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Blantyre Baptist Church

Around 25 years ago, the Baptist minister approached the Church of Scotland chaplain about taking an assembly, which was subsequently agreed with the Head Teacher. The assembly was a success and he was invited to come back and take other assemblies. He also became involved as a parent helper, and in an after school computer club. Through being a consistent presence in the school, the minister was able to build up trust and relationships, and was invited to take on the formal role of chaplain after the previous chaplain moved on.

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Larbert Youth Trust

In 2006, a local Church of Scotland minister had the idea of having a dedicated youth worker based in the local secondary school. As he shared the idea with other ministers in the area, more people caught the vision, and eight of the churches agreed to form a partnership and work together. They approached SU Scotland and discovered that their proposal would be an ideal fit with the Associate Worker Scheme. SU Scotland provides training, payroll admin, line management and a network of workers as their part of the partnership with the local churches. The local secondary school was supportive of the initiative, and offered the churches a desk for the worker in the school; and in 2010, the first worker was appointed. Other churches have since become aware of the project, and are supporting in different ways. The worker is the chair of the school’s chaplaincy team, which has representatives of all eight churches on it.

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Initially the school chaplain was allowed in for some fairly traditional chaplaincy; the occasional assembly, and end of term services around Christmas and Easter. Some volunteers ran SU groups in the primary school. The church’s youth worker got involved where he could, helping in assemblies and SU groups, and starting a secondary SU group. Over eighteen months he became known to the staff and because of the trust that was established, he was able to develop many activities.

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