Scripture Union South Africa (SUSA) has an admirable track record of effective ministry with schools however, with the onset of Covid-19 they (like most Christian youth ministry organisations) have had to evaluate their traditional models of ministry and seek out new ways of walking with young people. As SUSA’s National Training Co-ordinator, Garland Sam comments:

The sense I get is that the impact of the hard lockdown, followed by the returning to school at a time when there is a rapid spread of the virus; has left our young people with a fear for their safety, a concern for their survival and a deep longing for social interaction. The other social challenges such as poverty, racial tension and the socio-economic imbalances that already exist in diverse communities, increase the physical and emotional vulnerability of our young people.

These circumstances affect their ability to recover from adversity.

Learners in our country are facing the ongoing challenges of peer pressure, family issues, low self-esteem, intercultural tensions, bullying, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, sexuality, sexual abuse, and socioeconomic imbalances. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these struggles.


Historically SUSA has adopted two main approaches to ministry in the school environment.

They’ve journeyed with Christian students and teachers at schools to maintain their Christian witness by supporting and establishing School Christian Groups, which has included the ongoing training and mentoring of the teachers and student leaders.

Secondly, through the Sakhulutsha initiative (Building our Youth), the Lifeskills education programme has helped young people develop a solid framework of personal values so that they can make good decisions and resist negative social influences.

In addition to these two main approaches, SU has supported schools through various sports coaching initiatives, by establishing homework groups and with the training of student leaders.

But the spread of Covid-19 across South Africa and the impending change to operations within the school environment, called for a rethink of these tried and trusted strategies.

Sam comments:

At the start of lockdown, (SU) intentionally took time to meet as staff, volunteers and committees to pray around adapting to the new normal of living with Covid-19. The idea (of a chaplaincy model) was birthed from a conversation between Peter Nutall (SU South Coast Fieldworker) and I around how we could support students when schools reopened to ensure we limited our movement between schools to protect both the staff worker and the school community. This grew to discussions with Alan Pitt (Operations Director) and further prayer days as a movement, followed by consultation with SU Queensland who have Chaplaincy as part of their strategy. A strategic team was formed with SU’s National Leadership who then got the ball rolling toward implementation.

So, what exactly is this chaplaincy model all about?


SU’s SINAWE (meaning ‘we are with you’) programme seeks to provide holistic support that engages not only young people in the school environment but also supports the overall goals of the school. The focus is on listening, and being a preventative, positive influence in the school environment.

Those who undergo the Sinawe training programme are tasked with the following model of care:

  • Psycho-social support: Assist learners to develop knowledge, understandings and skills that support learning, positive behaviour and constructive social relationships through social skills programs to better manage their emotional, cognitive, mental health and spiritual issues.
  • Leadership development and mentoring: Act as role models for learners, assisting them to develop positive and supportive relationships. SSWs may also implement leadership development and mentoring programs, utilising resources, and volunteers from the local community.
  • Community development: Enhance the links between the school and its community, working with school-based support staff, community-based youth organisations, Churches and other networks to support learners.
  • Extra-curricular activities: Participate in general school activities including camps, excursions, sports days or coaching team sports, adding value to everyday school life.

Although the programme is still in its early stages of implementation, it appears to be meeting a real need. Principal of Grandmore Primary School, Mrs. N. Naidoo says, “Scripture Union has positively impacted our learners. They have trained and supported our student leaders to carry out their duties effectively. We look forward to their ongoing support during this pandemic. We require counselling for our learners and community.”


Those who have a sense of calling to relational youth ministry can contact Scripture Union through their regional offices who will provide potential SSW’s with SU’s policies and procedures. Once applicants meet the SU standards, they will receive training, be resourced and will be part of the Sinawe team that is committed to continuous improvement through regular supervision and development.