by Bev Robertson/ September 12, 2017
In 2015, the Barna Group revealed a Schools in Crisis Survey and published its findings as a part of its “Frames” series. Here are a few of the survey results from the noted publication:
What do American parents think will improve public schools?
From what we have learned from the Barna Group, how then does the local church effectively support and help the local school? We often think about showering teachers with cookie baskets, school supplies, or other tangible items. Realistically, these might make a small dent in their overall outlook for the school year.
During a roundtable discussion with school administration and teachers in Mustang, Oklahoma, I presented the following statistics to give them a greater understanding of time for an elementary student within a given year:
The amount of hours kids spend in school is 40 times greater than the hours spent in church during each school year. Also, 75 percent of the kids in your town or community will never benefit from what you do inside your church, because they don’t attend your church.
To effectively impact the children of your community and their schools, you must go to them. Before you show up at the school with a crew of volunteers to help or serve, here are six steps to make your efforts more impactful:
1. Meet with those in authority.
Call the school office and set up a time to meet with administrators, staff and/or the decision makers for the school. You may be introduced to PTA members, as often volunteerism falls under the PTA umbrella. You may need to start with PTA and work your way up to a meeting with a principal or superintendent. The value of this process is to create a trust factor. The school may experience those who are “gung-ho” for a particular event or for a one-time service, but schools are looking for partners in education who will stick with the school for the entire school year. Patiently approach the idea of partnering and begin recruiting help from your church volunteers once you have the green light to move forward.
2. Meet at the school.
When you request an appointment, meet at the school. This is not about your ministry, your church, or your perspective of school/church relationships. The purpose of partnering with a local school is to meet the needs of the school, reflecting the servanthood of Christ. This is an open door to let others see Christ in you; but in all reality, serving a school may not reap one salvation, one conversion, or even one new church attender. On the other hand, the possibilities are there for you to represent your church and the vision of your church to the local school. Meet the school administrators on their turf. Often meeting at a church brings unspoken expectations to the table. At the school, the act of service is seen as just that: a willingness to help for the betterment of the children and school.
3. Be positive.
A foot in the door of a school should not result in a platform for exposing the problems within the education system. Most administrators and teachers already know what is wrong with public education. They work and operate in an environment and system that is flawed, underfunded, understaffed, and underequipped. Your mission should be to be a source of encouragement, help, resources, revenue, compassion, and servitude.
4. Ask how you can help.
Do not come to the table with an agenda. Don’t go into a meeting with a plan that cannot be adjusted to the school’s needs. Your vision or ideas may not be what is needed to get the immediate or long-term project accomplished. Just offer to help and come alongside an already operating school system.
5. Serve with humility, and go above and beyond expectations.
Be willing to do the dirty work—setup, teardown, scrubbing floors, digging up weeds, etc. Let the school know you and your church volunteers mean business. Give your all. Give your best. Go above and beyond what is expected. Respect and honor all staff, other volunteers, aids, janitors, or anyone that is associated with the school.
6. Be there at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, be the church that impacts the community for the good of the community school. Expect nothing in return. Jesus, the One whom we represent, expected nothing in return for the miracles He performed, for the acts of service He gave, or for the great sacrifice He made. There were no strings attached. There was no recognition needed. Recognition will come in the joy of a job well done for the children, for the teachers, and for the community. God will recognize you and bless the work of your hands.
Willingness to serve will most likely impact your own church volunteers, more than anyone else. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the miracle wasn’t for the little boy who shared his lunch. That little boy had everything he needed. The miracle wasn’t for the 5,000, for if they were really hungry, they would have left the scene to get food. The miracle was for the 12 disciples, who would carry on the servanthood and gospel message of The Master.
As you carry on the servanthood of Christ in your community and through the local school, remember there will be those who are watching you and will pattern themselves after your example. This is the great reward, to lead through example, and in turn see others follow in ministry. God bless you as you reach out to the school in your community!