‘Going for Growth’ in Anglican Schools

It’s often said that school Chaplains spread the seed of the Gospel and don’t often get to see how that seed grows and bears fruit. Last week I had the unusual opportunity of meeting up again with a whole host of past Spiritual Leaders of my school when our new Chapel was dedicated. It was wonderful to see that so many had chosen to come back and worship with us. More wonderful were the stories they had to tell of their own faith journeys and continued leadership and service in God’s church. This kind of feedback is rare in our line of work, but so important particularly in the light of my own Anglican Diocese’s agenda for growth – in faith, in numbers and in generosity.

This growth agenda has led me to consider my own ministry activities in an Anglican School located in a leafy suburb close to the centre of Brisbane. We are in the second strategic planning cycle since I began as the Chaplain in 2009. In our current strategic plan, Mission features strongly as a strategic element we wish to pursue and strengthen. We had to devise measures of success in this area just as we did for innovations and improvements in teaching and learning. The key questions which confronted us were:

  • How do we measure growth and improvement in mission and ministry?
  • What are the measurable characteristics of an Anglican school growing in faith, numbers and generosity?

When discussing this with fellow Chaplains, some were of the opinion that we cannot, and nor should we try, to measure the work of ministry in schools, as the ‘seed sowing’ which forms much of the work of Chaplains and RE teachers has no measurable outcome during the time that the child is at school. While I agree with that, I believe that there are many things which make up the mission and ministry of Anglicans schools which can and should be measured for growth and effectiveness.  My reasons for this are twofold.

Firstly, like other highly educated professionals, Chaplains have a responsibility to be at the top of their game, and to seek to improve professionally. This can only be done effectively if there is some way to gauge where the Chaplain and his/her ministry would benefit from improvement, extra training or concerted effort. Secondly, most Chaplains will tell you that they simply cannot complete all the tasks and activities which they would like to do, and therefore must be selective in which ministry activities they pursue. It is therefore imperative to have a way to discern where the Chaplains time is best spent, and which activities take up a great deal of time with no real impact or growth.

Now it’s crunch time for me – do I have to wait until my past students walk back through my door before I know how effective my ministry is? I don’t think so. I intend to implement ways to measure growth in ways that don’t require a blanket invitation to past students to come tell me their story.

 Key questions for measuring growth include:

  • Are there more opportunities for students to engage with the Gospel? What are they?
  • What ministry activities take place and how many people are involved?
  • Do students increase their level of faith and service through ministry as they grow?
  • How are staff nurtured in the faith? Are there more opportunities for worship and prayer?
  • Is the Christian culture visibly evident around the school? How?

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but even in these few ideas I can measure the ways in which the Christian faith is lived and expressed in my community. With a growth mindset and practical aspects to measure, I pray that I won’t have to build another Chapel to know that my ministry is effective.

 What ways do you measure growth in your school and ministry?

Sarah Leisemann Written by:

Sarah began her career as a Physics and Maths teacher before serving as a Youth Minister in the Anglican Church, where she worked in a Brisbane parish and for Anglican Youth Ministries. Responding to God's ongoing call, Sarah began training for the Priesthood at the same time as she returned to Anglican schooling as both Physics teacher and Assistant Chaplain at All Saints Anglican School. After ordination, Sarah continued to serve at All Saints until 2006. She returned to ministry after a period of maternity leave at the Anglican Church Grammar School and is currently the Chaplain and Director of Mission at Cannon Hill Anglican College. Sarah has a particular passion for high quality Christian Leadership, engaging Religious Education and the continuing Christian formation of all members of Anglican School communities. She is married to Scott and is proud mum to twins Georgia and Hannah, 8.

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