Scripture Union is an international organisation now present in over 130 countries worldwide. It started in England in 1867 when Josiah Spiers started 'Special Services' for children in Islington, London. It was a completely new approach to work with children and quickly grew into the Children's Special Service Mission.
Josiah Spiers started "Special Services" for children in Islington, London. "Special Services" had an informal, friendly atmosphere, lively chorus singing and exciting talks with visual aids. This was a completely new approach to work with children. This idea grew rapidly to become the Children's Special Service Mission (or C.S.S.M.). Josiah Spiers became an itinerant children's evangelist with the C.S.S.M - a life-long calling. Tom Bishop brought key administration skills and, later, Edwin Arrowsmith introduced training.
Josiah, on summer holiday at Llandudno beach, North Wales, drew the Bible text: "GOD IS LOVE" in the sand for children to decorate. The enthusiastic response of the children started the first of many beach missions to children and families.
Annie Marston, a teenage Sunday School teacher in Keswick, North England, discovered the need to select Bible passages to encourage children to read the Bible every day. With persistence, she persuaded the C.S.S.M. to publish an annual card of daily Bible readings for children. On April 1, the Scripture Union was launched to encourage children, and later adults, to read the Bible daily. This has been called "the best thing to happen on April Fools' Day!". The idea spread very rapidly. Ten years later there were 470,000 cards printed in 28 languages in many different countries. Later the name Scripture Union (S.U.) was adopted for the whole organisation.
The first Scripture Union cards reached New Zealand and the first members in New Zealand were enrolled. For the next 50 years the work in New Zealand was led by voluntary secretaries who distributed the cards and other publications and encouraged daily Bible reading. Several C.S.S.M. evangelists visited New Zealand from England to lead missions and encourage the work.
The first evangelistic camp for school boys was held at Rustlington on the south coast of England. This was three years after Scripture Union began to work in "public" (i.e. private) schools. School groups and camping developed rapidly and were later extended to girls' camps and state schools.
In January, the first C.S.S.M. beach mission in New Zealand was held at Brown's Bay, Auckland. From September to November Dr Howard Guinness, a young Irish student missioner, was sent by the Inter-Varsity Fellowship in England (I.V.F., now Tertiary Students' Christian Fellowship or T.S.C.F. in New Zealand) to hold missions in many secondary schools throughout New Zealand. He formed "Crusader Unions" of Christian students. His "whirlwind" visit was very successful, although it lasted less than two months. Follow up was needed to establish the groups and encourage the converts.
Dr John Laird, a young Scot, working as a ship's doctor, visited Auckland where he met C.S.S.M. and I.V.F. voluntary workers. He had experience with I.V.F. in universities and with S.U. in camps and beach missions in Britain. John was invited to consider staying in New Zealand to help follow up the Howard Guinness missions. His ship, the Northumberland, went on to Napier and was in port on 3 February when an earthquake destroyed the town and killed 256 people. John Laird became famous as the ship's doctor who helped with emergency medical aid. The ship travelled on to Wellington and John decided to accept the invitation to stay in New Zealand.
John Laird remained in New Zealand until the end of the Second World War. With inspiring and wise leadership he built the S.U. work. Crusader Unions were formed in secondary schools throughout the country. Girls' schools were given equal emphasis with the appointment of Margaret McGregor as staff worker. Extensive programmes of camps for secondary school students and beach missions for children and families were developed. Among these was the Ponui Island camp, which has been the longest running camp in Scripture Union history.
Scripture Union Branches were formed in churches and elsewhere and monthly rallies were held to encourage daily Bible reading. A broadly representative council was established. An office and bookroom selling literature were opened. Even in war-time the work flourished and grew under John Laird's outstanding leadership in the goodness of God. By 1945 there were 73 Crusader groups in schools attended by over 2000 students, 16 camps and 6 beach missions each year and 14 staff members. In 1945 John Laird returned to Britain to become the joint-director and later national director of S.U. in the UK.
Colin Becroft was appointed to succeed John Laird and the work continued to grow. Children's evangelists were appointed.
Dr Vine Martin became a Crusader travelling staff worker. He worked from 1947 to 1973. "Doc", as he was known, became a legend and pioneered adventure camping.
The CSSM & Crusader Bookroom Society started to open bookshops to sell Christian literature. These later became the national chain of Scripture Union Bookshops. The three organisations C.S.S.M., Crusaders and Scripture Union, were unified under the name of Scripture Union. John Judge took charge of the office administration. He worked from 1952 to 1987.
Bruce Lumsden, an Australian, succeeded Colin Becroft when he left to direct Scripture Union work in Australia. The work of Crusaders reached a peak. 6% of secondary students throughout New Zealand belonged to Crusader groups. 4% attended meetings each week. Crusaders was one of the largest voluntary, teenage organisations in New Zealand. Bruce Lumsden was a forward thinker in children's ministries, but apart from beach missions this aspect of the work did not grow because staff workers could not be found
A very important International Scripture Union Conference was held at Old Jordans, north of London. There had been notable growth in Scripture Union throughout the world. An infra-structure was created for further growth. National movements were grouped into five Regions with Regional Councils. Regional Councils would be represented at the International Council. This co-operative, non-hierarchical model was far ahead of its time and has proved its value for growing autonomous, mutually supporting national SUs. New Zealand and Australia were grouped with the East-Asian SUs to become the ANZEA Region. Later this region was divided to become two - East Asia and the Pacific. New Zealand and Australia now belong with Pacific Island countries to the Pacific Region. Scripture Union works in 130 countries throughout the world. Each country has its own council and indigenous leadership.
Lawrie Becroft, Colin's younger brother, succeeded Bruce Lumsden in directing Scripture Union in New Zealand. Eddie Bradley-Feary came from England to manage the bookshops. Under the new name of Scripture Union Bookshops a chain of nine bookshops and a wholesale department were developed throughout New Zealand. Keith Overend was appointed to as Coordinator of Children and Families ministries. Training ministries and suburban holiday programmes for children with a family emphasis were commenced. Other initiatives included the Christian Option Programme, presenting Christian points of view within the curriculum in state school classrooms, Discoverers Groups in intermediate schools, Coffee Houses as outreaches to youth at holiday resorts and the Crusader Lodge, a ski-lodge built on Mt Ruapehu in the National Park, for snow camps. This was just one way in which camps became more specialised. The name Crusaders was changed to Inter-School Christian Fellowship (I.S.C.F.) in 1972 with a new emphasis on serving rather than owning the groups in schools.
Rev John Evans succeeded Lawrie Becroft to direct the work in New Zealand. Lawrie moved to coordinate the Scripture Union work in Auckland. 1980 was celebrated as the centenary of Scripture Union in New Zealand. A travelling Road Show took a range of ministries to various churches throughout the country in weeks of celebration and training.
In January 1978 Scripture Union and the Bible College of New Zealand co-sponsored the first Congress on Children and Families on behalf of churches and Christian organisations throughout New Zealand. This combined lectures from overseas specialists with seminars and workshops. It proved to be seminal for many of the delegates.
Humphrey Babbage succeeded John Evans as National Director. Regionalisation was emphasised and developed. "Opening the Bible with People in Life Changing Ways" was adopted as a unifying slogan for all aspects of the work. In 1987, as part of the Luis Palau and Leighton Ford Missions, Scripture Union organised a celebration programme for children and families called the Rainbow Special. 44,000 people throughout New Zealand participated. Camping programmes were developed under the leadership of Stuart Salisbury. Camps working groups were established to supervise camping in regions. Mem Jo, the first Maori staff worker was appointed.
1989 - 1998
Ken Edgecombe became the new National Director. The Second Congress on Children and Families was held in 1992. The aim of covering the country with a Children and Families staff team supported by working groups was largely achieved. Scripture Union Bookshops were sold and a direct mail order service was established called Scripture Union Direct. The name of the Inter-School Christian Fellowship was changed to Scripture Union in Schools (SUIS).
1998 - 2003
Cathie Smith was appointed to succeed Ken Edgecombe as the new National Director. The name of the youth programmes was changed again from SUIS to SUYouth. A new strategic plan was developed with greater emphasis on regional staff teams working in partnership with churches. SUPAkidz clubs were begun as a new initiative in Primary Schools. SUPAkidz Clubs function as an alternative for schools that will not accept Bible in Schools. They are run with the permission of the school board, and take place in lunch time or after school. They are led by parents and volunteers from churches around the school.
2004 to 2007
Mark Brown came from Perth, Australia, to be the National Director. An intensive programme to review safety on all Scripture Union programmes is initiated with the adaptation of the Risk Management System developed by Scripture Union in Australian Lighting a Path to Safety, which is later rebranded Childsafe
2007 to present
Wayne Fraser begins as National Director.
Through outreach, ministry and resources, we work to see the lives of children and youths being changed through a relationship with Jesus Christ.