Highlight Ministry for August - BACK TO SCHOOL
It’s that time of year again! Some are really excited; some not so much. Regardless of the feeling, school is ready to start. That means crisp new clothes, fashionable new shoes, current notebooks, crayons, pens and supplies. Unfortunately, not every family is able to afford new school clothes and supplies.
The Children’s Defense Fund (website) states that 16.4 million children in the United States live in poverty*. There were over one million homeless children and youth enrolled in public schools during the 2010-2011 academic year. In 23 states, the number of enrolled homeless children increased by one-third or more between 2008-2009 and 2010-2011.
When we add to this the growing increase of peer-pressure and violent acts, we realize that both school children and schools are greatly in need of our help. But with so much need, how can our churches begin to help? What are some practical ways – some ideas that can be applied to really assist our schools and the children and families that attend them?
We’ve come up with a list of ideas that might help your church become an active community partner with the schools near you.
Don’t simply assume that you know the needs of each school in your community. While some schools are in dire need of supplies, others have storerooms filled with certain supplies they don’t really need. The best way to begin is to make an appointment to meet with the leaders of your local schools. Ask questions. Discover what opportunities are available. Find out what supplies are needed most for each grade / for each student.
Determine ways to encourage the teachers and staff. Your Sunday school classes or small groups could provide a gift, flowers, lunch or breakfast, or an errand running service for teachers. Perhaps someone could offer to lead a lunch prayer or Bible study with them.
Tutors are always needed and what better tutor than someone who volunteers? Your church can help struggling students achieve a higher level of academics just by donating something you already know.
Does your school need repairs? Does your church have people gifted in construction work? Create a task force to offer to volunteer their skills and the supplies to help.
Your church could offer their help as crossing guards, backpack packers, lunch aids, recess attendants, readers, monitors, teachers’ assistants and event organizers.
After school activities and programs are always needed. Brainstorm for ways to help hard-working parents who need a safe place for their children to spend a few hours after school. What a way to sow a seed of faith into a child and provide a safe haven.
College students need our assistance too. Your congregation can help in so many ways. Stay in touch with members of your congregation who are away at college. Support the families of your church who have children in college by offering your emotional and financial support to them.
Outside of your church family, here are a few more ways to share the love of Christ to your local colleges:
- Meet with college administrators to discover ways your church might help the college and individual students.
- Begin an ‘adopt a student’ campaign with the college. Offer support and encouragement to your student. Give gifts at holidays. Invite the student for home-cooked meals. Send inspiring notes containing phone cards, music cards, grocery store cards, fast-food cards.
- Open opportunities to college students: Invite them to speak to your small group. Create opportunities for them to visit a mission-field with your church. Offer to pay for a spiritual retreat for them. Offer intern positions specifically designed for college students.
- Create a scholarship that will help pay for their books, tuition, or financial assistance.
- Generate an email list to send an encouraging devotional and information about how your church can assist students.
- Contact a campus minister and ask how he/she might need your assistance and what supplies are needed.
- Offer your church facilities to host college retreats, events, services.
- Contact the Student Life Office of your local college campus to find out how you can set up a hospitality booth to offer snacks and drinks to college freshmen and their parents.
And never underestimate the power of prayer! Daily cover your neighborhood schools and colleges. Begin a prayer group specifically assigned to interceding for each school, the students and the staff. Pray for everything from the bus drivers and the traffic to the administrators and building. Ask God to place protection around each student throughout their school day. Pray that every student would feel loved and valued and appreciated. Pray for the teachers and professors – that God would grant them safety and wisdom as they help to mold the minds of each student. Pray for the staff and leaders of the schools and colleges – that God would help them to make beneficial decisions to utilize the funds that they have been given. Pray for the buildings and campuses – that God would shield them from harm and defeat all enemies that would come against the students and staff. Pray for each family – for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts and draw each individual closer to Christ.
Does your church already partner with your local learning institutions? Have you discovered some ways to help that we haven’t yet listed? If you have any ideas as to how God’s people can be the hands and feet of Christ to our community schools and colleges, please send them to Paula and we’ll be sure to share them.