Like few other groups of people, churches and their members have an acute desire to help others. So many well-known modern charities throughout the country got their start from a church movement that spurred people to action. Many homeless shelters, orphanages, and humanitarian aid organizations have these ties.
If you’re a pastor or otherwise lead in a church, you may want to inspire more do-gooding from your own congregation. There are many paths you could go down, but supporting local schools is a common one. To discover how your church can support local schools in the near future, read this exhaustive guide.
Donate Fall School Supplies
Before the school year kicks into gear, many parents go shopping for back-to-school supplies. The trouble is, some can’t get everything on their child’s list, or they don’t have the money to shop at all. That means some kids start school empty-handed; this embarrassment knocks their confidence right out of them and inhibits their learning beyond simply not having supplies.
But if your church enters the scene as kids start up, they can deliver bulk school backpacks full of pencils, paper, art supplies, calculators, and whatever else they need. To gather these, include notices of a supply drive in church bulletins and mention it during announcements. Place prominent collection bins in spots where people will surely see them.
Start a Weekly Tutoring Program
Another way your church can support local schools is by getting directly involved in kids’ learning. Many churches and schools put on after-school tutoring programs to give students individualized academic attention as well as another positive adult role model.
These can take many forms. You may help kids in low-income areas get their homework done, build a relationship with a child with autism, or help recently resettled refugee students as they acclimate to America. Each aim is worthy of your church members’ time and means more than you know to the students they contact.
Starting a program like this involves building a relationship first with teachers who attend your church. Once you talk to them about starting a tutoring program, they can serve as the liaison between you and the school. If they’re open to having volunteers, these teachers could also serve as program sponsors.
Petition for Individual Tutors
Though a full-fledged program isn’t always viable, canvasing for people with the expertise to tutor one-on-one is also important. You can give these names to schools, so they have some recourse when their students struggle.
Begin a Summer Literacy Program
In the same vein as an after-school program, your church can also tide students over during the summers by putting on a literacy program. To keep the academic “summer slide” at bay, church volunteers can invite church kids and their friends to your building for fun activities centered on or built around reading books. As long as kids have some say in what you do, this structures their days without taking away their summer freedom. While this is much more complicated with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easier to host kids when activities can take place outside.
Hold a Book Drive
While they aren’t usually on the back-to-school shopping list, every kid deserves the privilege of sitting down with a good book. Reading is one of the best opportunities for focus and deep thinking, two skills that constant screen time makes harder to develop.
Beyond flexing their thinking muscles, books promote plenty of other skills too. A wide variety of titles affords them all kinds of racial and socioeconomic perspectives while exposing them to a diverse set of experiences. By reading about these, kids gain the contexts necessary for greater empathy.
To give this gift, get your church to hold a book drive. Call for new and lightly used novels plus history and science books. Kids can’t really share things during the pandemic, so delivering a bunch allows an in-person school to pass out books without running out too soon.
Support Teachers & Students in Your Congregation
While it’s natural to reach out to schools, your church can also aid its members who work at and attend schools. Celebrate the beginning of the year to reinforce school’s importance to students. Find a fun way to recognize their academic achievements in their youth groups, especially as they struggle through what remote or altered in-person learning looks like these days. If you hear that a teen isn’t doing his schoolwork, perhaps there’s someone he trusts from church who can mentor him. There are many small and big ways to lend your voice to their issues and concerns.
Teachers who attend your services would also appreciate feeling like their church sees them and cares for them. When a new teacher stresses about starting their first year, get volunteers together to set up their classroom. Perhaps there are even other teachers who can share resources or advice with them. Thank seasoned educators for their efforts, too. When people in leadership make the effort to ask about how someone’s year is going, that makes all the difference in the world.
Advocate for Just Education Policies
This point is shifting gears a bit, but your church members can also advocate for fair education policies. Practically, this can manifest through attending local school board meetings or writing to your state and federal representatives regarding school funding concerns. Through these mediums, you can speak up for the people you contact through your ministries and want to help further. Standing in the gap like this allows poorly funded districts to receive more resources and illustrates to the community that your church cares for the community.
Offer Church Facilities
Our last option to cover is straightforward—give your facility to schools who need one. Offer your large sanctuary to school bands, orchestras, and theater groups, so they can enjoy plenty of seating and sound acoustics. This is much better than performing in their gymnasium.
When schools experience intense difficulties—perhaps there’s an issue with their heating or a building project—jump at the chance to generously offer up your facilities for a week or more. Though this may be a sacrifice, your gift will make a huge impression on everyone in the district.
Every community is different. Foster a longstanding relationship with your local schools, so you can know exactly how to serve them well. In time, they may even trust you enough to reach out with requests. Accepting these calls to community involvement is the best testimony to how your faith drives you to loving action.