Mounds of glue sticks, construction paper, pencils, and backpacks line store shelves, signaling the fast approaching start of a new school year. For churches, these first signs point to much more than the end of the busy summer event schedule and the start of high attendance season for Sunday School. The start of the new school year marks the start of a unique and much needed opportunity to share Christ's love with our local schools.
Popular belief might lead you to believe that school doors are padlocked and chained against anyone associated with a church. This is certainly not the case. Schools today are facing many issues and challenges such as small budgets, low test scores, and overcrowding. They need help. Due to these great needs, schools are generally very welcoming to volunteers and assistance from their communities. One school in need plus one church full of people called to serve equals one partnership full of potential.
A few simple steps can help your church become good stewards of this unique ministry opportunity that God has placed before our local churches. First and foremost, church and school partnerships begin with prayer. Pray that church members and leaders would have their eyes opened and hearts softened to the needs of their local school and that they would have a desire to act upon these needs. Pray for God to rise up a communication person for the partnership. Begin praying for God to lead you to the right school, and pray for openness among the administration. Ask God to guide and direct you as you develop a relationship with your local school. Ask God to use this partnership to meet needs and bring glory to His name.
As you continue to pray for your church and school partnership, begin looking for a communication person. The communication person is the person responsible for scheduling meetings, notifying other church members, and receiving any communication from the school. School administrators have very busy calendars, as do many of your church members.
Having one person in charge of scheduling and relaying information simplifies the process for your church and your school partner. This person is not required to be a staff person. Helpful skills for a communication person include persistence (they may have to call multiple times or make multiple visits to schedule a meeting), organization (keeping track of meeting dates and contact information), and of course communication (they need to be able to communicate clearly and positively with others). Be open to the idea that God may be calling you to fill this role.
After securing a communication person, your church can begin selecting their school partner. Some churches select the school that is closest to their church. Other churches look for schools that have the greatest needs. Perhaps you have a teacher in your congregation or maybe all of your youth attend the same high school. Schools that you already have connections with are often great starting points. You can even contact your school district's main office. Many offices have a designated community representative who can direct you to a school looking for a partnership.
Make sure you are seeking His direction while you search for your school partner. Once you have found a potential school, let your communication person schedule a meeting with the school's principal to discuss ways your church could help their campus. Try to cater to their calendar and make sure that your members or leaders go with the intent of listening. You should bring along a few ideas of how you think your church can help the school, but listen to their ideas first. They know their needs best. Take great notes and let the administration know that you will be discussing their needs with your church. A broken commitment can greatly damage your partnership with the school, so please do not commit to anything before speaking with your church.
School needs can range from simple donations of school supplies to providing a reading partner once a week. They are generally as varied as your congregation. As a church, decide what needs you can meet and what pace will work best. Communicate your decision to the school and let the partnership begin.
In many communities, there are more churches than schools. How incredible would it be to have a visible presence of Christ's love on every school campus in your city? It starts with your church. Do not miss the incredible opportunity God has given your church to reach out to your local schools.
- Continue to foster your church and school partnerships by going the extra mile. Little touches go a long way (deliver snacks to the teacher lounge, provide a hotdog supper for Parent/Teacher night, leave notes of encouragement for the staff).
- If a school declines your offer of help, it is ok. Thank them for their time and find another school.
- Comply with school rules. Make sure all volunteers joyfully follow procedures and policies that are in place (background checks, dress codes, sign-in, proselytizing, etc.). Breaking any policy could jeopardize your church's and any future church's ability to be on campus.
- Feel free to partner with other churches in your area.
- Be faithful in your work and trust Him with the results!
By Chelsie Kelley, Consultant, Family and Community Ministries, Dallas Baptist Association
As the 2013-14 school year is starting, are you looking for a place to connect with students? You can find mission opportunities to work with students by contacting a school close to your church or through Be On Mission. You can search by Category types Education, Community Outreach/Development, Inner City Ministry, Youth Ministry or College Ministry. You may also toggle between Open, Ongoing and Completed projects on the map by using the color pins above the search tool.
Be On Mission is an online global missions locator that allows users to Search, Submit, and Share about mission opportunities around the world. To learn more about Be On Mission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.