by Randy Harp
If your church ceased to exist, who in your community would miss it? A church can make a difference in many areas of a community, but one of the most impacting could be serving a local school. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, most states provide less support per student now than before the recent recession, and local governments have also cut funding for their schools. If you are a parent with children in school and have attended any parent organization meetings recently, you know parental involvement in schools has also drastically gone down compared to the past. These are just two of several reasons why many schools welcome a church partnership.
The key is to start small. You need to establish a relationship with the school. Churches that seemingly have a wonderful partnership with a school typically started by just letting the school know of their desire to serve. Start with the school principal. Call and schedule an appointment, don’t just show up. After you introduce yourself … listen. Rather than coming in with ideas, simply ask how you can help. While pastoring in Michigan I made a commitment to introduce myself to every principal in my town. Two days after meeting the principal of the largest high school, tragedy struck with a student committing suicide. Because I had just volunteered to serve in any capacity needed, the principal called and asked for help. The next week I was given a room on campus and was allowed to offer grief counseling to hundreds of students. That opportunity would not have happened if I had not simply introduced myself to the principal.
A second key to getting started is finding an “insider” at the school with whom you already have a relationship, ideally a member of your church. This might be a teacher or other school employee, or it might be a parent with children at the school. They will help give you credibility.
There is no way to provide an exhaustive list of ways to help schools in your community, nor is there a way to know all their needs. However, here are a few ideas to help get you started. It is important to note these ideas are not limited to ways churches can be involved. Many are options for individuals to help. I know of one pastor who challenged every member of his church to donate $10 and volunteer ten hours each year.
- Volunteer to read in the classroom
- Office support such as making copies, etc.
- Event help
- After-school tutoring
- Booster clubs
- Parent teacher organizations
- Show up to school board meetings as an encouragement
- Provide treats for the teachers’ lounge
- Provide pre-game meals for the sports teams
- Provide meal bags to take home over the weekend (Title I schools)
- Substitute teach on your day off
- Help coach a sports team
- Offer to be a sports team chaplain
- Offer free music classes from your worship pastor
- Provide free fingerprinting services and security packs at a school event
- Help with fall carnivals or Christmas parties
- Offer the church facility as a venue for teacher and administration training (with a lunch included)
- Offer the church facility as a “safe haven” in case of emergency
Calendar of Ideas
- Take the challenge to serve a local school on a monthly basis.
- September – 5th Quarter Activity (after football game)
- October – Coat and sock drive
- November – Tell the teachers “thanks” by providing lunch
- December – Christmas gifts for selected families
- January – School supplies for new semester
- February – Provide treats in the teacher’s lounge
- March – Spring break clean-up outdoors
- April – After-school tutoring for upcoming standardized testing
- May – Teacher appreciation month
- June – Graduation support
- July – School property repair, maintenance, or cleanup
- August – Back-to-school supplies