ARLINGTON – With needs of students at all levels, schools welcome the help of concerned churches – if congregations take the proper approach, said Thomas Wallis, Palestine Independent School District superintendent.
At a recent Palestine Head Start assembly recognizing the efforts of roughly 250 3 and 4-year-olds, Wallis said the meeting leader asked the children’s fathers to raise their hand. Four people did so. The remaining people were either guardians, mentors, volunteers or ministers.
Working to support children who otherwise would have none is one way Christians can help schools, Wallis said during Youth Ministry Conclave, a Texas Baptists-sponsored event for youth workers and leaders. Young people are looking for help. They also are looking for something to belong to, as evidenced in the fact that roughly 772,500 of them belong to gangs nationwide.
Church can provide that help and that positive place to belong, Wallis said. Ministers regularly attend sporting events to support their students, but they also need to go to academic competitions, choir concerts and other extracurricular activities for their students. If ministers are seen regularly around students, school administrators will know the minister truly cares about students.
Youth ministers can also train their students to be looking for students who eat by themselves or seem to lack friends, Wallis encouraged. Urge students to befriend these young people as Christ would.
“I challenge you to go to your schools, your administrators to make your gang – God’s gang – the cool group,” Wallis said.
In order to have this kind of impact, congregations and believers must be proactive, Wallis said. They need to meet the administrators of their local schools and discuss ways they can help and understand the boundaries of what administrators desire.
While students have freedom of religious expression, the exercise of it cannot interfere with school activities, Wallis noted. A circle of students praying in the hallway that prevents other students from getting by will not be tolerated. Youth ministers who show up with free pizzas at lunch and disrupt the school’s schedule or order will be asked to leave a campus.
But if students and ministers will work within legal guidelines, they can have an impact on their campuses, Wallis said. And that aid will be appreciated. When administrators see church leaders as helpful on their campuses, they are more likely to turn to them in the case of a crisis such as a student death.
“We need help,” Wallis said.