Monday, 14 September 2015

Soul Action South Africa - update

Releasing Resources

In August’s update Phil shared that God had spoken to him about how Christians – outside the charity sector – with jobs, resources, skills, etc. possess solutions to South Africa’s problems. This month we saw a glimpse of this

As a youth worker in my 20’s I recall a car journey to a leaders conference where I foolishly asked one of my peers whether theirs was the kind of church that encouraged Spiritual gifts. "If by that you mean administration, encouragement and mercy, then yes, of course!" – was their crisp reply (ref. Rom 12).

Since then I myself have recognised, received and required the Spirit’s help in what might – wrongly – be seen as, "mundane tasks" (Paige 1993:412); practical gifting that existed long before Pentecost. In Exodus 31:3-5 and 35:31-35, for example, craftsmanship is credited to the Spirit, in 1 Chronicles 28:12 the Spirit enables individuals to plan and in Zechariah 4:6 builders build in the Spirit. Whilst it is true that the above examples are, "unique to these earliest days" (Blomberg 1989:344), i.e. God tends to empower select Old Testament leaders rather than people in general, I do believe we see a glimpse of the kind of life to expect post Joel’s Godly promise:

"I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28, NIV).

What if Christians, not charity, are the answer?
A few years ago, Rach & I had the privilege of meeting Sue Barnes; the only person I’ve ever heard credit the Holy Spirit as a partner in the design of a sanitary pad. Sue and the Spirit developed a washable pad for girls who, forced to use sand, leaves and / or newspaper, were missing school because they couldn’t afford sanitary protection. Sue’s reusable pad is fully washable and lasts five years. Since we met, Sue distributed over 30,000 pads across the country and was voted Clarins Most Dynamic Woman in 2013.

Ed Silvoso (2007:147) believes that, "A new breed of marketplace missionaries is emerging: men and women who dare to believe that the same salvation that transforms the soul can also change society, beginning with their sphere of influence"

In July this year Rach and I met James, a Christian who has used his IT gift to develop a Customer Relationship Management System for charities. The 20 leaders of NPOs we invited for a demo last week were delighted to hear how for a minimal fee it enables them to:

Mass invite people to events; with acceptance, declined, attendance and many follow up features

Keep detailed records and histories of individuals

Mail merge and email to contacts using templates

Track donations; with an option to allocate them

Send SMSes to individuals and / or groups

Send newsletters to groups

Create rules / tasks

Track projects

Pray for Christians like James who are choosing to release their resources for the benefit of others.

Pray for Soul Action as we intentionally explore God’s call to work with Christians beyond the charity sector.

Reflections on Workshops

The importance of assessment
Early Childhood Development assessments carried out earlier this year identified how children in the ECD centres Soul Action works alongside weren’t able to achieve some of the cognitive milestones appropriate for their age. To address this, Rachel & Clare decided to utilise what’s developed as part of our schools-based education program and organise a workshop covering the foundational skills that need to emerge in children aged 2-5 if they are to develop reading & writing skills when they attend school at 6.

At the workshop crèche teachers were able to grow in their theoretical understanding and knowledge of activities that support children to develop key skills.

We’ve seen how taking the time to assess is crucial; since its meant we’ve been able to tailor the support we offer to this group of ladies as a result of what was discovered. Now teachers will be able to facilitate activities with their children in a way that develops awareness of word, syllables & phonemes.

Later this year the children will be re-assessed, which will help us to identify where progress has been made, and consider any further changes / tweaks.

Trust your instinct!
In August Rachel facilitated a workshop for the Grade R and 1 teachers she is working with. The workshop focused on activities the teachers could facilitate that would support children to develop an awareness of sounds. In order to cover all these skills the workshop was split in to three sections….

With just 30 mins before the workshop needed to end, I (Rachel) had only completed the first section – thinking about identifying sounds in words orally.


I had a decision to make: "…should I try and cover the next part of the workshop, remembering that there were still two areas that needed to be covered, or bring it to a close?" Although my instinct told me that the teachers had reached their capacity for the afternoon – they had participated well, practised new skills and thought how children would develop through various activities – my head told me I needed to push through. What do you think I did – followed my instinct or my head?
"Even though the teachers hadn’t really got the energy to do anymore I’m afraid I went with my head and filled the time with everything that I had planned. In hindsight – with lots of new activities already been introduced and the teachers having done enough – I should have gone with my instinct and known when to stop."

Lesson learnt - in future I should trust my instincts!

Peer Mentoring

As well as the normal content we include in our phonic workshops, this term we introduced peer mentoring to the Grade 3 teachers we are working alongside. Over the next few weeks the teachers will peer mentor each other, so we spent part of the time together considering what peer mentoring is. We began by asking the teachers to think and share what the word ‘mentoring’ meant to them.
  • way of helping each other
  • way to share ideas
  • guiding
  • observing
  • assessing
  • feedback
  • demonstration
  • evaluation
After summarising what research says about peer mentoring, the teachers identified what they’d heard that was new to them.
  • should be carried out in a safe environment
  • mutual understanding and respect is important
  • two people at the same level support each other
  • goals should be set
  • promotes teamwork
  • way to solve problems
  • can bring about positive change
  • way of developing each other

Through peer mentoring we hope staff will feel able to support their colleagues by helping them to identify what they are doing well. At the same time, the teachers will learn from one another and as a result good practice will be further developed.
Interestingly, during August and September we’ve also decided to peer mentor each other as a Soul Action team. Phil and I have paired up to mentor each other. Phil observed me facilitate the session (above). I then observed him presenting at our recent AGM / Network gathering. We are hoping that through focussed observations we will learn from each other.
Here is what Phil had to say as he reflected on the experience:
"The process began by me observing and noting down what Rach did well and how I felt the teachers were responding. Hopefully this was helpful to Rachel; I know what she observed in me was helpful to hear. The really surprising aspect of the whole process was the follow-up session a week later, where I had to reflect on what I had learnt from watching Rachel and identify how that could influence how I lead in the future. As nice as it was to hear what Rach felt I had done well, I think this latter aspect – learning from one’s peer – was the real ‘gold’ in the whole exercise. We both feel this kind of thing is something we should do more often."


Thank God for teachers’ willingness to be peer mentored

Pray that through the process they feel further supported

Praise Versus Punishment?

Research on how to manage children’s behaviour points to the fact that rewards are more effective than punishments in motivating children and young people to behave appropriately. For example:

"…rewards rather than punishments could be the way to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour because attention is likely to increase its frequency" (Institute of Education 2008).

"For children who seek attention, being given it even through punishment will be rewarding." "A better solution is to ignore poor behaviour where possible and instead reward good behaviours, because this will lead to their repetition and bring about change" (Prof. Hallam, a leading authority on behaviour) .

So why is it that so often we focus on consequences for inappropriate behaviour? What about rewarding children for their good behaviour – could that bring about change in the way disruptive children behave? Studies show that if attention centres on positive behaviour it can bring constructive change.
This year we have been training a group of 40 people who work with children or young people between the ages of 0 – 18. At previous sessions we have considered learning styles and how to prepare and plan for a session. Both of these factors help to create a context which is appropriate and stimulating for children – assisting with behaviour management.


When we gathered leaders in August we specifically considered how to manage behaviour by focusing on how to reward children with a ratio of at least 5 (positive) to 1 (negative). For more see the Elton (1989) and Steer Reports (2005). We considered tools that the leaders could use to reward children.

We look forward to hearing how these reward tools work in the different contexts the leaders are from.

  • Please pray for these ladies as they start to implement what they learnt and made - for patience, persistance and a change in the children's behaviour
  • Please pray for Clare (Soul Action's children and family coordinator) and Rachel as they creatively consider how to improve and ultimately make changes to the way the training works in 2016.


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