One of the things that I love about Sun City Church is our commitment to invest in local schools. We’re living in a day where so many of the things churches value are fought over. Our society is more polarized than ever. But one thing we can all continue to rally around is our schools. It’s easy to understand that the future of our country walks through the doors of local schools every day. And as a pastor, this makes schools one of the obvious places to focus our time and energy.
Christian leaders often times have a desire to serve schools and make a difference in the lives of young people. And what we’ve found is that the schools need a lot of help. They are commonly underfunded and understaffed. What is a challenge for them creates a big opportunity for churches. We get to step in and show the love that we are called to display in our cities. Yes, there are going to be people that get uncomfortable and squawk a bit about the separation of church and state. But at the end of the day, if churches are adding value in the lives of teachers and students without trying to push “religion” on anyone, schools are open to connection.
The elementary school we’ve focused our attention on is McDonald Elementary. I want to share with you some of the things we’ve done so far in supporting this school in hopes that ideas like this would spread to other churches and schools.
1. A Prayer Team
I think this group is our most important so I’m listing it first. One of the women in our church that has kids at McDonald leads a small group that prays for the school, students, staff and events going on there every week. They also take action and respond to needs that arise during the week – putting feet to their prayers. They make a habit of writing little notes to teachers letting them know what they’ve prayed specifically for them and that they’re not alone in this. This has really created a fertile ground in people’s hearts.
2. Mentorship & Tutoring
This is a huge need for schools. They need adults to show up and spend time with students who aren’t getting appropriate attention or positive role models at home. I think we underestimate the effect that a positive attitude and faith perspective can have in a relatively short amount of time. Whether it’s reading, going over times tables, or just having lunch with a student, positive interactions communicate that we love and care for the people within the school, not just the idea of a partnership.
3. Supply Drives
Because schools are often so poorly funded, they don’t have extra supplies to give to children in need. In the fall, we do a backpack drive for our school and fill the backpacks with school supplies so that the counselor can give them to students whose families can’t afford them. This is a relief to the school counselor and a great gift to these children. And it’s a tangible way we can show that we love them.
4. Event Support
Almost every church has some people in it who are good at putting on events. Youth pastors normally have an ability to come up with and host great games that kids love. Others can administrate and keep things organized. We’ve found that showing up with great games, costumes and energy can transform a normal event for the school into a huge success. Everyone likes the feeling of a success. Sometimes we bring our sound system to events like the end of the year “field day” and take the atmosphere to another level. The kids and teachers love it.
5. Meeting Urgent Needs
We know that our world is broken and painful. The kids at schools experience that alongside the rest of us. This year our school has had 3 different students diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a really hard road for them, their families and the school as a whole. Again, this is a sad challenge to have to face for the families and the school, but it’s an opportunity for the church to show Christ’s love in the midst of suffering. We’ve held prayer events, given gifts, reached out to families and tried to do everything we can to show we care. We regularly connect with the principal and the school counselor in order to stay in the loop with the big things that are happening in the lives of the students and staff. Often times, there are meaningful ways we can jump in and support them.
I had the privilege of sitting down with a senior pastor who’s new to our area this week. I was thrilled when he said, “your reputation in our community is that you care deeply about our schools and really get out of your four walls”. I’m so glad to be known for something like this. I’m praying this encourages you to do something similar in your city. Your schools need you and even little things can make a huge impact.