After finishing his ministry training, Keith McPherson began his first job as an assistant minister in a church in Tamworth in 2006. In the first two weeks of his job, he was thrown into coordinating SRE for two primary schools. He remembers, “I had never done anything like SRE before. And I basically took all the classes where I couldn’t find teachers to take them.”
Keith’s bishop at the time, Peter Brain, required clergy to be involved in SRE teaching. Peter himself was heavily involved in teaching SRE classes, and wanted to instil that in his fellow ministers.
This passed on the high value of SRE to Keith. He reflects, “this is a great privilege that we have, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.”
When he moved on to be the minister in charge in Walcha, he continued to coordinate and teach SRE, advocating for its importance.
Delighting in teaching SRE
In 2014 Keith moved to Coffs Harbour, where he now works as an assistant minister at Harbourside Presbyterian Church. One of the first things Keith did was get involved with local SRE, which is organised through Coffs Coast Schools Ministry (CCSM). He shares, “I rang up the coordinator [CCSM] and said, can I get involved?” Before long, Keith was made the chairman of the CCSM, and continues in that role today.
For Keith, even after teaching SRE for over 10 years, it still brings a lot of joy. He shares, “I love seeing the lights come on for kids.”
Keith remembers one lesson when he was taking a class of infants kids, and one of the children said, “Gee, you swear a lot.”
Since Keith used to be an engineer on worksites, his first thought was of horror, that a swear word had slipped out without him even realising! He remembers, “So I asked, what do you mean? And he said, you’re always saying: Jesus. And I thought, it was so sad that this child has only ever heard the name of Jesus as a swear word.”
For Keith, the opportunity to teach these kids who Jesus really is, is a tremendous blessing. “We need to make sure they understand the very basics of who God is, that Jesus loves us, and he calls us to a relationship.”
Reflecting on another joyful SRE experience, Keith shares “I had this kid who…[had] a real desire to know [God] on his heart.” After every SRE lesson, the child would go home and write a song about what he had learnt that day. Then the next week he’d come back and want to sing it. While Keith reflects that some of the songs were pretty terrible, they always captured the big idea of the lesson – an encouraging and heart warming outcome.
Navigating the pandemic
When returning to schools to teach SRE after the lockdown of 2020, kids were excited. Keith remembers them running up to their SRE teachers in the playground with big smiles and trying to hug their legs (which the teachers caringly deflected in line with their safe ministry training!) Keith says that “the kids really love Scripture, and they’re really keen to hear about God”.
Keith praises God that many school principals continue to be keen to have him and his teachers in their schools teaching SRE. But as an SRE team they are facing challenges with getting the continuity through COVID-19 to teach about Jesus, as well as having enough teachers for all the classes.
Stepping out of the comfort zone
For many people, the thought of going into a school to teach a class might bring a lot of apprehension. Keith says he is so appreciative he was initially pushed into doing SRE. Even though it was outside his comfort zone, it has been a rewarding and joyful experience.
He also shares, “It’s nowhere near as bad or as difficult as you build it up in your mind. The joys and the blessings of sharing Jesus with children whose parents have entrusted us with this job far, far outweigh the effort that’s involved.”
SRE gives us the opportunity to tell thousands of kids about Jesus. For many of them, it is the only time they will be taught about the Christian faith by someone who believes. That is not an opportunity to waste.
Starting as an SRE teacher doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can be involved as a helper for another teacher, receive training in how to teach and be supported by other SRE teachers. Want to find out more? Chat to your church minister or email the PY SRE Director Roslyn Deal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about SRE here.