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God Always Has a Bigger Picture in Mind

It’s very easy to get discouraged when it seems like our current work isn’t going in the direction we were planning or hoping for. When SU groups are more difficult and there seems to be little that is actually growing, it could make sense to stop with your involvement or leadership in an area of your school. But maybe it’s important we stick around in the difficult times as well as the good times? 

Gordon McBirnie has worked for Craiglockhart Parish Church for a number of years, and during his time has witnessed many changes and challenges in the way that the church seeks to serve their local schools.

Though a lot of connections were established already, there have been different aspects that have evolved over the time that Gordon has been involved with both Firhill High School and Oxgangs Primary. With the latter, the arrival of a new Headteacher opened more doors for Chaplain members to teach RE lessons on a regular basis. This gave Craiglockhart Parish Church (and neighbouring churches) the opportunity to devise a specific RE curriculum that fit the standards and aims of the Curriculum of Excellence. Allowing them to create a programme that both enabled them to teach more regularly in schools and further meet the needs of the school itself. This is a great example of building on what has already been established over time and strengthening those existing relationships.

When asked what Gordon enjoyed most about his role in the schools, it’s clear that the experience of working with young people encourages and inspires him, “the keen-ness and maturity of children is so encouraging!” This experience clearly motivates him to do more and further change things for the young people when necessary. For example, in the last few years at Firhill High School it was decided that in addition to the SU group that was already running there would also be a Youth Alpha course started to create space for non-Christians to explore faith for themselves. This change proved to be really beneficial and has had a group of 9 or so regular students attending at points throughout the year. However, though the group has had a good response and encouraging numbers, Gordon suggested that they would probably join the two groups (SU and Youth Alpha) in the next academic year, as this seemed to be the way it was heading in terms of numbers and content. This discernment and readiness to change and adapt with the student’s interests and involvement is key to understanding that what we see right in front of us is not necessarily the whole picture: we have to be ready to move with the flow of the students we are serving.

Gordon speaks of the difficulties that can occur when the present involvement you have with a school is discouraging and doesn’t seem to be going according to your plan, but that the overall big picture is still being formed:  “…as we look back we can see how God has worked in the group and the kids”. So perhaps the important thing is to keep this perspective - that the picture we have right in from of us isn’t the whole, and we might not ever see the whole for ourselves. But being committed to serve your local community and to grow where you are planted is the most loving thing you can do for your school right now.

By Kathryn Thomson