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Setting Off

Preparing for the new school year

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect upon the new school year as a journey towards our personal goals.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Setting Off) and the means to display them.

  • You will also need a student to read the Bible passage, Mark 6.7-11.

  • Optional: you may wish to use the following music, in which case you will also need the means to play it. It is suggested that only the soundtrack is used:

    ‘Holiday’ by Madonna, available at: (3.55 minutes long)
    - ‘Leaving on a jet plane’ by John Denver, available at: (3.47 minutes long)


  1. Optional: you may wish to have the music suggested in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section playing as the students enter.

    Show Slide 1.

    Welcome the students and explain that you are going to give them some quiet thinking time to consider a question. Explain that when the thinking time is over, you would like the students to share their answers with those seated next to them.

    Point out that the question is going to appear on the screen and you aren’t going to give any more information or ideas.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Give the students about a minute to think about their answer. If they ask questions such as ‘Where is the journey to?’ or ‘How long would I be going for?’, refuse to answer.

    Ask the students to share their answers with those close by.

  3. Ask the students whether there was any variation in the sorts of things they thought that they would want to pack. Were there any similarities?

    Listen to contributions from a couple of students.

    Explain that the question was deliberately vague. What we choose to pack for a journey is very much related to where we are heading and why we are going there.

  4. Show Slide 3.

    Point out that if youd shown this image, the students might have been under the impression that the journey was some type of holiday. Perhaps the journey would have involved travelling on a plane to some far-off destination such as this beautiful beach.

    Show Slide 4.

    In this case, a swimming costume might be a good thing to pack!

  5. Show Slide 5.

    This image suggests that a city break might have been our imagined destination, in which case a guide book to the local area could be useful.

  6. Show Slide 6.

    However, if this image had been shown, we might have thought that the journey would involve walking and camping.

    Show Slide 7.

    Perhaps we might have been heading somewhere like this. In that case, we would probably have wanted to pack different things compared to our packing for a beach holiday. Maybe our list would have included blister plasters, a warm sleeping bag and plenty of snacks.

  7. Show Slide 8.

    On the other hand, for some of us, the idea of a journey might have had spiritual or religious connotations. Journeys to holy places to help us connect more deeply with our faith and our beliefs are an important part of any religion.

    This slide shows people who have journeyed to the Catholic place of pilgrimage of Lourdes in France and people who have undertaken the journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims.

    All of these pilgrims will have packed different things in their luggage compared to what they would have packed for camping or going to the beach. A copy of a Holy Book may well have been on the list of things that these people would have wanted to take to make the most of their trip.

  8. In other words, what we choose to take on a given journey will very much depend on where we are heading and what we hope to get out of the journey and our time at the destination.

Time for reflection

Lets think about the idea of this new academic year as a journey. There will be a destination in mind for each of us. It is important to consider what we hope to achieve this year, what our goals are. However, it is also important to consider the journey to achieve our goals.

Show Slide 9.

Some of us might simply want to get to the start of the summer holidays in 2020! For others, our journey will involve the sitting and the passing of important exams. For all of us, though, our journey will hopefully involve growing in our learning and the development of our skills and relationships.

We should consider two important questions: ‘Where are we heading this school year? and What do we want to achieve?

When we have formulated some idea about what our goals are, we are in a better position to think about what we want to ‘pack’ to help us on this journey. In other words, what do we want to put in place to support us as we set off?

Show Slide 10.

Invite the students to spend a few moments considering the question ‘What do you want to have to support you in your journey this academic year?’

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Perhaps we want to make sure that we have opportunities to carry out our work at home.
- Perhaps we want to form strong and supportive friendships that will help us and also enable us to help others to succeed.
- Perhaps we want to make a commitment to ask a teacher for help or to explain something again if we don’t understand.
- Perhaps we want to get involved in an extracurricular activity to give ourselves the chance to learn a new skill.

Our goals will be personal. They may be very different for the person seated next to us. Our journeys to our goals may be different, too – no two people are the same.

Optional: as we reflect upon these things, let us be challenged by the advice that Jesus gave to his disciples as they set off on their own journey. Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to teach others about God. As he did so, he gave them some advice about what they should pack.

Invite the student to read the Bible passage, Mark 6.7-11.

Show Slide 11.

The disciples had a goal: to speak to as many people as possible about Jesus’ teachings. Nevertheless, Jesus told them to pack light: no extra clothes, no food, no bag, no money. In other words, what they need most for this journey is ‘trust’. Trust in themselves that they will be able to find a way to complete the journey, and to know when it is time to move on. Trust in other people and above all, trust in God. Jesus is inviting his disciples to discover a greater sense of trust. It is almost as if he is asking them the very question that we have been considering: ‘What do you want to have to support you in your journey this academic year?’

- Is the idea of trust part of what we want to put in place for our journeys this year?
- Can we trust ourselves and our own abilities a bit more?
- Can we trust that we can take risks and rise to challenges in our learning?
- Can we trust in others – teachers, friends and other students?
- Can we trust in God – through prayer, asking God to support us in our lives this academic year?

Dear God,
We are aware that September marks the start of a new school year.
We are setting out on the journey ahead of us.
We ask for wisdom to see and to know what it is that we want to achieve – where it is that we are heading.
We also ask you to help us towards making choices.
We trust that you will provide for us and help us – in our learning and in our friendships and relationships.
Please help us to be good supports to others this year who are also undertaking their own journey.
Please give us strength, stamina and grace.

Publication date: September 2019   (Vol.21 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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