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Launchpad for Faith

Launchpad for Faith

SALT readers may have attended Religious Instruction or Bible in Schools during their childhood education. For decades now, parents have been able to withdraw their children from any religious instruction in school. In our ever-changing world it’s now an ‘opt-in’ policy only, making the re-branding of Christian education paramount for twenty-first century parents and children. In 2019, the Churches Education Commission rebranded to ‘Launchpad—Christian Values Education’. Today ‘Launchpad Champions’ present Christian values in more than 400 school communities across Aotearoa, and Salvationist Kelly Jenkins from Whangārei Corps is one of them.

Kelly Jenkins, Launchpad Champion
Kelly Jenkins

For the past five years, Kelly Jenkins has carved 30 minutes every week from her busy schedule as a nurse to serve as a Launchpad Champion at her local primary school. Wife to Chris and Mum to two teenage daughters, Kelly is a lifelong Salvationist and has been a kids church leader for over 30 years. This life experience made for an easy yes for Kelly when Captain Jenny Ratana-Koia made an impassioned plea for Bible in Schools teachers from the platform one Sunday. Jenny’s own faith journey had begun through her experience of Bible in Schools, and Kelly was deeply impacted by her story.

‘I thought to myself, well it’s only half an hour a week so I could probably fit that in. Actually, I know I can fit that in! They provide all the material and resources, so what’s stopping me? Yes, I can do that! Flip, it’s only half an hour! I’m doing it!’

Telling tales

A not-for-profit organisation, Launchpad—Christian Values Education seeks to equip children with tools to navigate the ever-changing world. Its purpose is to educate children about Christian values and give them an understanding of Christian heritage. Launchpad presenters share stories from the Bible, as well as tales of inspiring historic New Zealand champions of faith like Kate Sheppard and Sir Āpirana Ngata. The approach is summarised as: ‘We are inspirational storytellers bringing hope and aroha (love) to children in Aotearoa. We encourage and support tamariki (children) to make positive life choices, grow their mana (strength) and self-worth, and achieve their potential.’

Kelly explains that the curriculum is clearly set, and there are things you cannot talk about in school. ‘Sticking to the guidelines is important because there are a lot of different cultures and beliefs and religions, and what we are trying to do is present a Christian worldview and belief system positively. You cannot talk about sin, hell or the devil obviously,’ says Kelly. ‘You have to be really respectful today because there can be a whole set of beliefs that a child might have that are different to Christian beliefs. It’s not about evangelism and you’re not there to save anyone. For me, it’s about planting seeds.’

This year Kelly’s working with new entrants children at Manaia View Primary School in Whangārei. ‘Some kids have no idea about God, or who God is,’ explains Kelly. ‘One little boy asked me, “What is God?” How do you explain God to a five-year-old?! I was able to tell him that “Christians believe there is a God who loves you”.’

Love songs

One of the facets of Launchpad that Kelly loves is teaching the children simple songs about God. ‘We sing a little song that goes God loves me, God loves me, in my Bible book it tells me that God loves me. And recently the class teacher told me that sometimes the kids will be doing something entirely unrelated but will be singing that little song away to themselves—God loves me, God loves me, in my Bible book it tells me that God loves me. If I have achieved nothing else this year with the five-year-olds, at least they have that little song about a God who loves them stuck in their heads,’ says Kelly.

Launchpad sessions are 30 minutes long and lesson content includes topics like manaakitanga: love, kindness, care and respect for others; what it means to be a good friend; being brave and doing the right thing; making good choices and helping others; self-control and forgiveness; working together and partnership; and doing your best and asking for help.

If Kelly ever gets a bit discouraged, she is reminded of another Christian friend who, like Jenny, was profoundly influenced by her Bible in Schools teacher. ‘She didn’t grow up in a Christian family or ever go to church, but she recognised that her teacher had something special—something she didn’t have. Incredible insight for a child really,’ says Kelly. ‘She said to me, “Kelly, you just don’t know what those kids are seeing in you”. So I try and approach it like that. I’m going into school representing something of God and Christian faith and the Bible, and the kids are going to associate this lady—me—as having something to do with God. So hopefully I can show them love and be a warm, positive experience that they will hopefully associate later with God or the Church.’

To learn more about Launchpad—Christian Values Education visit the Launchpad website:

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