If there’s ever been a time when our local schools need love and ministry, it’s now!
For most children, the back-to-school season is usually a time of looking forward to the smell of new school supplies, shopping for new outfits, and seeing friends after a summer apart. But thanks to COVID-19, back-to-school is one more stressful thing in an already stressful year.
Many children haven’t been in a physical classroom for over a year. Some have had access to technology and family support to help them learn; some have not.
Teachers don’t know how well-prepared their students will be for this year’s academic work. They may know their school’s current COVID-19 safety policy, but they don’t know what the winter months will bring.
Parents are concerned about everything, especially all the “unknowns” looming ahead. Is it any wonder that everyone is stressed?
Just as Jesus’ words calmed the raging storm and his disciples’ fears, so too can our love, encouraging words, and acts of ministry help soothe the stresses and fears of back-to-school this year.
If your church already has a relationship with a local school, you’ve built a good foundation with the principal and teachers. They know and trust you. Continue praying and reaching out to ask how you can best serve them this year. Needs and policies may have changed, so love with flexibility!
If school ministry is new to you, here are some steps to get you started.
- Pray! Ask for God’s guidance as you take this step of faith. Involve the whole church in asking for wisdom and discernment.
- Learn about your local school. The school’s website will have information about demographics and academic test scores. It will provide names and contact information for the principal and vice principal and may provide the school’s volunteer policy. If you don’t know a school near your church, check your county school board’s website.
- Ask your church to pray for your initial conversation with the school principal. Then, ask God to open the door for a meeting and to provide you wisdom and favor.
- Schedule an appointment with the principal or designated school representative. Let them know why you want to meet. Avoid the most hectic weeks just before and after the start of school — you’re trying to relieve their stress, not add to it!
- Go to the meeting with an open heart and open mind. Let the principal know you are there to serve in any way you are needed. Express your appreciation for the important work they and their staff do every day and your recognition that COVID-19 has made their work harder. Share with them your desire to provide support and encouragement for teachers and students to the extent that the church is able.
- Ask, “How can we help?” and “What are your greatest needs?” Listen and take notes.
- Don’t be disappointed if you’re initially asked to just pick up trash on the playground. It takes time to build trust. As you’re faithful with the “small things,” you’re building a relationship and showing them that you care about their needs. Other opportunities will follow.
- If the principal doesn’t express a need, ask if there is something you can do to encourage their teachers such as providing supplies, small gift cards, or snacks for the teachers’ lounge.
- Don’t over-promise! Let the principal know you’ll take the list back to the church and will follow up soon to let them know which of the identified needs your church can meet.
- Meet with the church, share what you learned, and prayerfully choose which one or two of the identified needs you could most successfully meet. It’s better to start small and do a good job rather than biting off too much at first — you want to demonstrate that you’re a reliable, trustworthy partner.
- Follow up with the principal or school representative in a timely way to let them know how the church can serve. Identify the person in your church who will serve as your ministry coordinator or point-of-contact with the school. Ask the school about their volunteer policies, background checks, and who will be the point-of-contact on their end.
- Keep praying! Ask God to deepen your love for the school and to continue opening doors for ministry. Ask God to grant you the privilege of meeting spiritual needs as well as physical and academic needs. Keep your eyes open to what God is doing!
Ellen Udovich serves as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s church services and community engagement consultant. For more information about partnerships between schools and churches or other ways your church can love and serve your community, email her or call 443-250-2555.
Cover Photo: WavebreakmediaMicro