- Christian learning, discipleship and theological education
- The churches’ work in, and contribution to, the FE and lifelong learning sectors
- Religious education in schools
We are currently giving priority to projects which closely relate to three key themes. Click on the tabs below to read about each of these:
What is Christian Discipleship and what helps Disciples grow?
In recent years there has been a welcome recovery of the language of ‘discipleship’ to describe the faith, practice, calling and task of the Christian life. But what does ‘discipleship’ look like, and what are the marks of growth in discipleship in individuals and communities? What particular forms does Christian discipleship take in the early 21st Century? And what actually helps people to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ?
During 2014-16 St Peter’s Saltley Trust will commit time and resources to deepening the practice and development of Christian discipleship which is both rooted in the Bible and historic Christian wisdom and timely/responsive to the present. Our vision is for a church in which every individual has a developing sense of their calling and task as a follower of Jesus Christ and is equipped with the confidence, practices and sensibilities to play their unique part with others in the work of the Kingdom of God.
In so doing, a number of challenges will need to be overcome. In some quarters there is uncertainty over what ‘discipleship’ means, and/or a tendency to assume that ‘discipleship’ is only a matter for certain types of Christian (e.g., as for the ‘serious’ Christian or conversely in contrast to ‘ministry’). When uptake of lay learning or training courses is poor, there may also be a tendency to assume that there is no appetite for deepening discipleship (we believe this is mistaken). At other times, ‘discipleship’ has become narrowed into growth in private devotion and/or knowledge of Christian faith, at the expense of whole-life transformation, whilst at other times there has been a tendency to rely heavily on certain approaches to discipleship development at the expense of others. For example, a heavy concentration on small group ‘courses’ has produced much good material, but can also assume a certain type of audience, level of knowledge or facility with the printed word, besides potentially neglecting the other ways in which Christian disciples can be encouraged and equipped to grow and persevere. The recent resurgence of interest in discipleship development beyond ‘the course’ is welcome but much remains to be done to understand what actually helps people continue to grow and develop in their practice of Christian faith – particularly after an initial faith commitment has been made.
As a result, the Trust wishes to prioritise creative and innovative work in discipleship development which:
- Helps clarify what it means to be a ‘disciple of Christ’ in a sense which is both rooted in biblical/historic practice and timely/responsive to early 21st century contexts;
- Undertakes careful, practical research to understand what actually works in growing Christian disciples and encouraging a culture of lifelong discipleship development in different local contexts;
- Pioneers and evaluates different approaches to nurturing/growing disciples at all stages of the Christian life-journey – paying particular attention to that which moves beyond the conventional ‘small group course’ format, and in which individuals take shared responsibility for growing;
- Shares these findings with those responsible for pioneering/leading churches or training and equipping church leaders, in order to transform the whole Church’s approach to discipleship.
Integrating Spiritual Development into Teaching and Learning
In recent years improving teaching and learning has progressively risen up the agenda for further education colleges (excellence in teaching and learning is now a limiting grade). In large part this reflects growing concerns over a skills gap in the workforce and the challenges of competing in a global economy. However, being equipped for future life and work requires not only understanding of a particular body of knowledge or technical skills, but the ability to act with character and situational judgement, to appreciate others as uniquely gifted individuals rather than as commodities, to develop an appreciation for what constitutes life in all its fullness, and to nurture a desire to seek the common good. From the perspective of Christian theology this is underpinned by a view of every individual as made in the image of God, with their own unique gifts and capacities. We believe that learning therefore takes place most effectively where spiritual, moral, social and cultural development are fully integrated with academic and vocational learning. In short, whole people matter.
With this holistic perspective on human flourishing, there are a number of opportunities for the churches and Christian individuals to work in partnership with(in) the Further Education sector, to contribute towards the integration of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development into the curriculum. These include:
- The development of new resources and units of work to help students make connections between their subjects of study and questions of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC) and religion & belief matters.
- The development of training, guidance and resources to grow the confidence of teaching staff to integrate SMSC and academic/vocational learning.
- The growth and development of college chaplaincy teams as advisers, contributors and critical friends in the process of developing whole-person centred learning.
St Peter’s Saltley Trust would like to prioritise this area of work within its wider support for the Christian presence in/contribution to further education and lifelong learning. Whilst promising to enrich the curriculum on one hand, it also offers a new focus for work around SMSC, religion/belief and equality and diversity, which in recent years has primarily taken place within tutorial, enrichment and student support.
Whilst wishing to prioritise work around teaching and learning, the Trust is also aware of the need for more general strategic development of the churches’ capacity to offer chaplaincy and faith-related advice and support to colleges and their staff and students, and would also give serious consideration to the right project in that area.
Improving the Teaching of Christianity, Developing new Support Structures for RE.
Religious education is widely valued by pupils and the general public, and there has been long-term growth in numbers of students taking RE at GCSE and A-Level. However, recent reports by Ofsted and the RE Council (amongst others) have also highlighted multiple challenges for the subject: persistent weaknesses in core knowledge and standards of teaching and learning; a lack of trained subject specialists; the marginalisation of RS from the list of ‘core subjects’ at secondary level; the rise of academies and free schools (which are not obliged to teach the local agreed syllabus for the subject); and the weakening of local authority support structures for the subject.
Whilst the challenges faced by the subject are significant, they also offer a number of exciting possibilities for the re-imagining and redevelopment of school religious education and its supporting structures. These include the introduction of new content and approaches to the RE syllabus, the possibility of a renewed relationship between academic research and classroom practice, a revised GCSE Religious Studies, and a re-imagined supporting infrastructure for the subject. The recommendations from recent reports continue to be digested, and so the Trust will hold open a number of areas for priority working:
Improving the teaching of Christianity in schools. Particular tasks here include: i) the development of teachers’ and pupils’ understanding of core concepts in Christianity and their relevance to Christian practice; ii) developing understanding of the diversity and impact of Christianity within the world – in social, cultural, political and other terms; iii) developing teacher understanding of what constitutes increasing depth/progress in understanding Christianity across the different stages of schooling, and how to plan for this; iv) the application of enquiry-based methods (heavily emphasised in the recent Ofsted and REC reports) to the teaching of Christianity.
Reimagining the local and regional support structures for religious education. One tantalising recommendation of the 2013 REC Review is the creation of new regional RE centres pooling the resources and expertise of local authority SACREs and RE Advisers (where these exist), academies and free schools, support organisations and centres for RE teacher training. With its explicitly regional brief, St Peter’s Saltley Trust would be well-placed to partner with others in the development of any centre established for the West Midlands region. As a result one early objective will be to ascertain how seriously the possibility of reimagining regional support structures for RE is being taken.
Developing excellent RE in academies and free schools. With academies and free schools now a major feature of the educational landscape, but not obliged to teach to the local agreed syllabus for RE, there is a particular need to support these new types of educational providers in developing innovative and rigorous religious education and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
What we support:
- The work must be locally-based within the area of benefit and be concerned with one of the three spheres of interest within which the Trust has chosen to work
- The work must be a partnership venture between the Trust and local project organisers, jointly coordinated and developed
- The work must be imaginative, innovative, experimental and creative and as far as possible of value to a wider audience
- The work must focus on the interconnection of religion and education.
- The Trust exists to enhance Christian religious education and learning, but within this, projects with an interfaith and/or multi-faith focus may be considered
- The work must take the form of a discrete project, with clear aims and objectives, time limits and resource requirements
- The work must widen and advance work in education and religion, giving special benefits beyond the norm to schools, colleges, churches and other organisations
It is not necessary to be a registered charity to apply for funding; however, preference will usually be given to non-profit-making groups
- Grants to cover the cost of fees and maintenance for personal study and research*
- Core costs (e.g., for ongoing staff salaries. We only fund salary costs for specific pieces of project work to be undertaken)
- Grants for capital projects (e.g., building repairs and maintenance)
- Subsidies for work which churches, schools, colleges and other organisations should be doing anyway – Trust funding is not available simply to ‘prop up’ existing activity
*If you are seeking bursaries to cover cost of fees and/or maintenance whilst studying, you may be able to apply to one of the other Trusts which are members of the Association of Church College Trusts. you can check their criteria on the Association’s website.
- Degree of fit with priority areas identified by the Trust
- Extent to which project is felt to be creative, innovative, exploratory or experimental
- Degree of meaningful partnership with St Peter’s Saltley Trust
- Evidence of meaningful connection with/potential benefit to the needs identified within the West Midlands region
- Potential for the project to grow the vision, understanding, gifts and capacities of people at grass-roots level (not concentrating power and expertise into the hands of a privileged few ‘experts’)
- Extent to which learning from the project may be captured and shared for the benefit of others
- Potential for sustainability (if relevant to the aims of the project)
- Scope for work developed within the region to become a model for work done elsewhere