ACR JournalChristian LivingEvangelism

Nurturing faith at school

Bronwyn Windsor: How long have you been teaching Scripture (Special Religious Education)?

Maree Jones: I began as a young uni student in the late 70s/early 80s in the Thirroul-Austinmer parish, so I taught

at every little primary school from Thirroul to Coledale. I also did a class at Bulli High School. I remember I walked

in with my guitar, and I sat on the table at the front. The students were used to the old minister teaching their

Scripture lesson so of course they all started being silly. I pulled them into line and started singing and they joined in, and they had a great time.

BW: Why did you start?

MJ: Well it was to give the minister a break for a few weeks so he could go on holidays. It was because I knew

the truth – God’s truth. This generation talks about ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth’. I knew I was sharing the truth about God, and this is why I’m still teaching Scripture! I eventually became a primary school teacher, so I couldn’t teach SRE then but I could support the SRE teachers in my leadership roles at schools. However when I started working as a teacher, there were actually Bible lessons in the state curriculum! But as schools became more liberal in their curriculum and I knew that local churches were struggling to get SRE teachers, I decided 15 years ago to take one day off work a week to be able to teach SRE at La Perouse primary school, which was great fun! I walked in there quite a few years older and still with a guitar!

BW: What area of Sydney do you teach in? Have you taught anywhere else apart from in Sydney?

MJ: I spent 8 years working as a literacy trainer in the Northern Territory with post-school Aboriginal adults. I could do anything literacy-related so one thing I used to do was gospel singing – the local kids used to come up to the local Lutheran church and we would have a gospel sing-along. When I came back from the Territory I taught SRE at Alexandria Park (a community school for K-12) and I also teach SRE at Coogee Public School.

BW: What changes have you seen in your time as a Scripture teacher?

MJ: Sadly, classes have got smaller because of Ethics classes being introduced in competition to SRE. That’s the big change. The ‘good moral education’ parents used to send their kids to Scripture but now they may send them to Ethics instead.

BW: What opportunities to you see to partnering with parenting in nurturing faith in young lives?

MJ: The kids in the class invite their friends to join, and even kids walking past the room want to join, because we’re having fun. We have to say ‘ask your parents’. The kids are drawn to it because the Scripture teacher is an adult who cares for them and is sharing God’s love with them.

The Scripture lesson material wants the students to understand God’s love for them in Jesus in a real way in their struggles and their plights. The lessons show real people from the Bible who experienced God’s love for them in a real situation – for example, when they were thrown into a pit, or living with a disease for a long time. A big opportunity as a co-ordinator of SRE is being able to forge a link with the Catholic Scripture teachers as well as classroom teachers, and also working with the school executive – we show that we have an interest in supporting the school as a caring environment. We can also invite parents to combined Scripture lessons. Building those relationships includes things like being well prepared, having kind discipline, being friendly with the school staff – and caring! Being able to say, ‘I’ll pray for that’. It’s a really important role.

BW: What are the challenges?

MJ: The hardest challenge is working with school staff who don’t see the value of Scripture in schools, even though the Department of Education says that Scripture in schools is a valuable part of the broad education that the department wants to give students, including the pastoral care that Scripture in schools provides.

BW: Are there are stories from your class that stand out?

MJ: At Alexandria Park, a student in the Year 5/6 class, who had been coming to Scripture for two years, said to his carer, ‘Grandma, I want to go to church’ so he and his grandma now go to their local church together. One of the kids at Coogee Public School was invited through his Scripture class to come to church for a Father’s Day service, and he was so excited to come that he made sure his parents brought him along. They saw that church was a fun place, not just an old and dowdy

place. I’m seeing kids from K-2 that I saw again in Year 3, and again in Year 5 and 6, growing in their knowledge and love of God.

BW: How can our readers support/get involved in SRE?

MJ: Definitely pray for those in your church who are involved in SRE! Get involved – start off as a helper in the Scripture classroom (someone to sit with the wrigglers!). For high schools, they like helpers to just be there, especially uni students. Two’s company in a classroom – it makes teaching the lesson easier.

You can also do the training to become an SRE Scripture teacher at

As a young teenage Christian, my church was dedicated to growing people who could share the gospel – so I learnt how to teach the truths of the Bible as a 14-year-old girl at St Andrew’s Sans Souci, and it’s stood me in good stead. So grow your Christian youth!