It’s international women’s day

and an excuse for another Inspirational Christian

and, yes, I’ve picked a woman

There were soooooo many women I could have picked as being inspirational, Godly, Christ-following women. Women whose example we could all follow; writers like Emma Scrivener, missionaries like Jackie Pullinger, ordinary women whose names you wouldn’t recognise, women throughout history, women whose stories are in the Bible, so many incredible women!

Those who are strong and those who are weak, those in extraordinary times and those living ordinary lives, those who gave help to millions and those who have helped me, those who partnered with amazing men and those who went it alone, the single and the married, the struggling and the suffering, the ‘good girls’ and those with a ‘past’, those who were in cults and those who were in gangs, the scholars and the uneducated, the famous and the unknown and even the ones like me.

I could write about any of them; how they found Jesus and how they followed him and their lives and stories would be an encouragement because in each and every case Jesus has done something amazing in saving them and he has done something incredible in using them to continue his mission here on earth.

The woman I picked today is Esther John. I hadn’t heard of her until I was researching and determined to pick an Asian female Christian, mostly because that was a category I couldn’t think of a well-known name in, but her perseverance in circumstances I know many of my sisters are facing today made her a sure and certain choice.

I should also point out that during Black History Month I also featured two incredible women of God: Mandisa and Rosa Parks I recommend you can head on over and check out their fact sheets and Bible studies too.


Hang around:

There will be new stuff coming soon

and there’s plenty of good stuff already here

I’m not posting anything new this week – my parents are coming to visit, I’ve recently started a mid-week preschool playgroup that requires a lot of planning, I’ve not been super organised and I’ve got some filling in the gaps to do that’s beginning to weigh on me.
Edit: Turns out International Womans Day is the 8th not the 13th as my brain told me. Not super organised is at least organised enough to have prepped a post a week in advance although not organised enough to have checked the calendar.

Next week: the Disorganised Sunday School Blog will be celebrating International Womans Day.
Edit: Because of the aforementioned error there may or may not be anything next week. However the IWD post is up.

Sometime in the future: I’ll post the material for the playgoup and a ‘how to …’ on getting one started. I’ll also post the first of a long series of sermon accompanying worksheets for the entirety of Acts. I’ll reorganise the blog and make sure all the series are complete. I’ll make a list of youth group games for any situation. And I really, really want to write some sunday school stuff for the second half of Daniel (it’s just always at the bottom of my wish list).

Right now: Check out our pic-n-mix style plans for children’s work on John, the Ten Commandments, Parables and Philippians or have a look at our studies for youth groups; Philemon, The Armor of God, Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress.

Black History Celebrations

An American Idol

and a great role model

So no, I’m not suggesting you idolise this weeks inspirational Black Christian – she just happens to have come to fame through the American Idol TV show.

I can’t think of a better introduction for her than one of her most recent songs:

So here’s our latest Bible study looking at questions raised by the life of Mandisa.

Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday

and the beginning of lent

I live in America now where they think a pancake should be fluffy – whereas I know adding raising agents to the batter is WRONG – it should be as flat as a pancake.

However you prefer your pancake today is a good day to consider what you’ll do over lent. Similarly to advent it’s a time of preparation – Easter is coming! We can look forward and celebrate the time of God’s rescue and the historical event we can look back on and say ‘Yes – this is why I believe!’

Here are a few ideas for lent-prep:

If you’re going for all 40 days give up something that takes time and use that time to study and pray instead. Try fasting from dessert; a daily TV show; youtube; wearing makeup; computer games, shaving etc.
Another way to fast is to give up something important to you and tell God – ‘you are more important to me than this’. Most of the above list falls into this category but here are some non-time consuming options: chocolate, coffee, selfies, shopping for clothes, alcohol, meat, Facebook etc.
Or fast from food for a day, pick a day where you can be quiet and use mealtimes (or the whole day) to pray. This article is helpful if you’re a beginner like me.

Take up something new
Here are a few Lent based devotionals helping you to prepare for Easter:
#LiveLent is the Church of England’s devotional – you can sign up for text or email devotionals here. has their Lent Bible Reading Plan
There’s a prayer guide from Open Doors
An ebook of Tim Chester’s Lent devotions (if you haven’t been organised enough to get a paper version)

With your youth group or Sunday school
Make a count your blessings jar: write one thing every day through lent that was a good gift from God: put it in the jar. At Easter read and remind yourself of all the blessings then thank the Giver. As a group; have a joint jar and put in one thing each from the week.
Make a prayer calendar: On each day write the name of someone to pray for. It’s easy to fill in 40 days as a group and with teens you can co-ordinate and remind people online.
Learn a section of scripture together. Practice it when you meet and decide how much you’ll learn y next week. Isaiah 53 is Easter appropriate.

I haven’t forgotten it’s black history month – our next inspirational Christian will be here on Friday. Subscribe so you don’t miss out.

Black History Month

Rosa Parks

The faith of the woman who helped change America

February is Black History Month and the Disorganised Sunday School is celebrating by posting some info on excellent Black Christians; both historical and modern day. Too often the face of Christianity is ‘some white guy’ and we’re viewed by many parts of the world as a white western religion – which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s very early in church history that Peter makes this declaration:

I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

God doesn’t limit his welcome to white westerners: he welcomes all! And so should we.  Highlighting Black believers this month is to help me (a white western Christian) expand my horizons a bit. Too often I default to CS Lewis and Tim Keller (old white men) when looking for quotations and I’ve seen it in sermons too; outside of the Bible the people who get quoted are old white men.

So here’s my pledge: I’m not abandoning the old white men but I’m expanding beyond just them to women, people of colour, young people and children when I quote. I’m going to pay special attention to those I’m normally biased against (unintentionally) because I believe that you don’t have to be an old white man to have something worthwhile to say about Jesus. This month’s info sheets and youth group sessions are here to help me, and hopefully others, counter that bias in ourselves and inspire the girls and minority cultures in our youth groups by showing examples of faithful Christians they can more easily relate to.

We’re kicking off with Rosa Parks. If you just want her biography and quotes click here. If you’re looking for a youth group session you can run around this remarkable woman click here.
And if you want a good short read her book Quiet Strength is available on Amazon. It’s more reflections than biography and I certainly found it thought provoking.

A Certain Brightness

Depression and Hope

and discussion starters

According to the BBC 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-10 boys aged 14 show signs of depression. That means there’s probably someone in your youth groups who is suffering.

The good news is Jesus is Good News for all your young people. If you want to start the discussion off can I suggest my friend Philippa’s blog – A Certain Brightness – as a great place to look for the interplay of hope in times of depression. She’s very real and very excellent. Worth checking out.

Christmas crafts

For Sunday Schools

and for teens

I’ve hunted out crafts that use what most Sunday schools have on hand or can get easily:

Paper Plate Nativity
Good for anyone who can fingerpaint – if you’ve got a team or the time to cut and outline them before hand. Great for those who can be trusted with scissors; and prep free at that point!

Cardboard Roll Nativity
Printable characters you can wrap around toilet rolls or the tubes from inside your wrapping paper. Good for all those who can colour and glue under supervision.
Here’s a much craftier version – you could always steal some ideas to add to the printouts.

Nativity Story Stones
(I grew up near a beach and not the sandy kind – you may have less access to stones than I did) Good for small groups; older kids; and when you have time for creative play. A thin permanent pen sounds good for outlines but acrylic paint is fine for colours.
Did you know you can make acrylic paint by adding PVA to poster paint?!

Shadow Puppet Nativity
Great for teens. Maybe they’re too cool to get out and act but they can make these and perform to children or for the kids to perform this. You could even video it for use in a carol service.

Use your nativity crafts to retell the story or talk about the historical events. Here are some good questions to get that conversation started:

Where do we get our ideas of what these people look like from? How accurate do you think they are?
What mistakes/assumptions do you often get in a nativity set?
What’s the evidence that this actually happened? Can we believe in something with angels and a virgin birth?
How can we make our angels look like a person who has to start every conversation with ‘Do not be afraid’? What was scary about them?
When you hear this story every year what can you do to make it have an impact on your life?

Here’s a bonus nativity True or False Quiz to start break down assumptions your sunday schooler or youth may have. And I’ve written the answers for you too.

Loved and Valued

By our creator

and in our churches

Here’s an alarming article on BBC News about the pressure teenage girls are under to perform sex acts.  It’s a blunt and realistic article so be aware of that; the summary points to some of the issues raised but it’s worth reading the whole article.

Are children turning to pornography to educate themselves about sex? Are boys coercing girls to do things they later regret? A 24-year-old secondary school teacher tells the BBC she’s shocked by the stories she hears from her teenage pupils.

Girls go along with sex acts, says teacher

I have yet to put together a youth group session on these issues for this site, but it won’t be far away. What I’ve thought of so far are some things that churches and youth groups can do to counteract this sad trend.

We need to talk about sex
I get why we don’t: our world seems to be obsessed by sex and we have way more important things to talk about. However, that doesn’t grow an atmosphere where a young person under pressure can come to their youth leader or a trusted person in their church and tell them that they’ve been pressured into sex acts; that they need help getting out of a relationship that they think is heading that way; that they’re addicted to porn or they’ve performed acts that they know are wrong.

Be aware of the most vulnerable
The teacher in this article has correctly diagnosed a source of the problem: girls think being asked to perform sex acts is “a validation of their appearance and attractiveness”. All teenagers are at risk of this. But some of those with SEN tend to be more trusting, find it harder to recognise abuse for what it is and gravitate to what they see as normal for other kids their age. It is a sad truth that those who don’t fit in society’s narrow boundaries of conventional beauty are in danger too; that means ethnic minorities, those without hourglass figures, those who don’t have the latest trends, those with acne etc. They don’t see people like them on TV or in magazines so they think they’re not beautiful and are more susceptible to the idea that if someone wants to have sex with you that means you’re beautiful.

The pressure is on boys too
The article focuses on girls being pressured by boys to perform sex acts. But we can’t ignore the damage the world has done to the picture of masculinity. Boys may feel pressure to ask/demand sex acts as a way of validating their own masculinity, attractiveness, as a way of keeping up with their friends. This is the model of male-ness sold by American Pie, The Inbetweeners, The Big Bang theory where even the ‘uncool’ protagonists have girlfriends and copious amounts of sex.

So what can we as a church offer to counteract this message. Better sex-ed than they get in school? A watchful eye over our youth? More to do on a Friday night than have sex? Models of healthy relationships? A listening ear? Absolutely yes, to all those things but at the heart of the gospel is not only salvation for our souls but for our attitudes to sex.

Everyone is made in the image of God
Genesis 1:27 puts it like this:

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

That means that each individual has worth and value as someone-like-God regardless of their appearance or popularity or how attractive they are perceived to be. They deserve to be loved and valued by others simply because of their humanity and they are very, very much loved and valued by God because he made them to be like him. That means we don’t need to look for validation in the mirror or a romantic partner or how good at sex we are. We are valuable to God. We also need to treat others as individuals whom God holds as valuable.

Everyone sins
Whatever you’ve done whether it is sexual, been forced on you, been a desire you had, been consensual doesn’t make you worse than other people. Sexual sin is no worse than any of the myriad of other sins that people in your church are struggling with. We’re all broken so sexual sin also shows up in all of us. Just think of the list of Biblical heroes who have fallen in this area: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Rahab, David and Esther is in no sense in a healthy monogamous marriage – even before we get to the issue of consent. Sex, no more and no less than any other area is a broken aspect of our world, meaning we’re free to ask for help, confess our sexual sins and that no-one should sit in judgement over us.

There is forgiveness for everyone
Having said that we’re no worse than any one else when it comes to sexual sin, that is abundantly and wonderfully untrue when it comes to Jesus! The one who died to rescue you, did so out of great love, valuing you more than his own life, and set you free from the power and guilt of all your sin, including your sexual sins. This total forgiveness is available for the girl who did something she knew she shouldn’t because she wanted a boys love more than God’s love. This complete forgiveness is available for the boy who spends every night on a porn site. This absolute forgiveness is available for the youth leader who struggles with the masturbation in their own past. This unrestricted forgiveness is available for the ‘lad’ who asks his underage girlfriend for sex even though neither of them want it, and even when they both do.

Our mission to share this good news is so important especially with young people in today’s sad and broken world, not just in words and teaching, but in loving them and valuing them the way our Father does.

How to think about…

Planning All Age Services

and including children and young people

I’ve added a couple of pages of suggestions for how to include children and youth in a church service – any church service really but particularly the kind where Sunday School isn’t on and the kids are staying in. It’s my usual pic ‘n’ mix style so if you’re struggling to get yours serving practically there’s a subheading for that, or if you know that little ones aren’t following the reading let alone the sermon there are ideas for both of those as well: I hope you can find what you need!

Because this is a Sunday School blog my ideas are focused on youth and children, but it also could serve as a good checklist to check you’re celebrating diversity, in race, gender, age, ability and background  and creating role models for serving the church while walking with the Lord.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Check out our other pages on inclusion, under the ‘how to…’ menu including this one on hearing impairment and one on helping dyslexics.

Exciting opportunites

For your youth

and their understanding of the gospel

Not my snappiest title ever – but it’s true (if you live in England) because REBOOT is back in London.

We took a joint youth group trip down last year and loved it – despite 3 hours of train travel! They gave us doughnuts, water, sweets, anchor pendants (as a reminder of faith), questions, answers, fun, some worship songs we hadn’t heard before, an opportunity to chat …
Our group was a mixture of Christians and regular church-going teenagers and it worked well for all of them, speaking into issues that are big in our culture, in their lives and showed us how a relationship with Jesus affects every aspect of living.

I’ll let the Zacharias Trust introduce this year in their own words:

We wanted to let you know about this year’s event on 23rd September 2017 at the Emmanuel Centre, London. Tickets are going fast and it promises to be another great opportunity to ask your big questions about God.  As before, no question is off limits; you can ask anything at all!
The speaking team will be there and you will be able to ask your questions from your phones, just like at last year’s REBOOT. The more difficult the questions the better.

They mean it about no question being off limits: One of last year’s questions was “Can Christians play Pokémon Go?” as well as the ones on topics you’d expect like homosexuality, gender, creation, sex, and other beliefs.

Here’s a quick video from last year. There’s a very brief shot of our youth in there.

If you’re interested (and you should be) you can read more on the rebootglobal website or book tickets.

I loved it. If you can, you should go.