A new school year means many new opportunities to connect with families, build relationships, and even invest in your community. What long-standing relationships does your ministry have with organizations in your community? Have you partnered with an organization and made a long term commitment to invest in and support the work they are doing in your community?
Those who are not part of your church family are watching to see the ways you are involved in your community and the way you live out your faith. When a church participates in community events and gives back without the sole purpose of “inviting” people to attend their church but simply to bless the community they are part of, this speaks volumes about the heart behind the ministry.
A great way to give back to your community is to choose an elementary/middle/high school to “adopt” and develop an ongoing relationship with the administration, teachers, and families. This doesn’t look like buying school supplies one time and expecting them to be thankful. It looks like getting to know the needs of not only the school as a whole but also the families and teachers at the school. It means spending consistent time at the school and being willing to do and provide what they need not just what is convenient for you to give.
Some meaningful, but truly helpful, ways to build a relationship with your local elementary/middle/high school:
- Host a Clean-Up Day: Find out the maintenance and most immediate facility needs from the principal, and organize a group to come on a Saturday armed with all the supplies needed to fix, paint, mow, weed, plant, clean, and tackle those tasks.
- Provide school supplies: Take the school supply list that the school gives out over the summer and invite your church members to donate as many of those specific supplies as possible. Some children come in the first week of school with their supply list filled, but many do not. When this happens, the school provides what they can, but often teachers end up buying supplies for those children. This will bless the families and the teachers. But don’t just buy random supplies. Go by the list the school provides.
- Provide coffee and supplies for the teachers: Most schools offer coffee in the teacher workroom, but the teachers usually take turns paying for the coffee, filters, sugar, and creamer. What a blessing it would be to have your church commit to keeping them supplied for the year with coffee. Teachers need coffee!
- Organize volunteers to help with carline: Morning and afternoon carline is a very important time of the day. Safety is the priority, but this is also the first and last interaction each child has with the school. Teachers run carline, except for the occasional parent volunteer. These teachers are already tired and overworked, but they want to make sure their students feel loved and seen. It means so much and is such an encouragement when other people are willing to help with this time of the day. It also gives your volunteers and staff the opportunity to briefly meet family members. It builds relationships.
- Host a duty-free lunch for the teachers: Most teachers are with their students during lunch. They do not get to go somewhere quiet for a few minutes to eat. So it is a tremendous gift to provide a catered lunch for the teachers and volunteers to help with lunch duty so the teachers can take a few minutes to eat uninterrupted.
- Find out staff birthdays and give them a gift: Giving them a gift card or small present will be a tremendous surprise for the school staff and an encouragement. It doesn’t take much to let them know they are seen and appreciated. It is another investment in relationships.
- Find out a significant need and meet it: Find out from the principal and guidance counselor what is a significant need students have. Maybe it is a good pair of tennis shoes, sturdy book bags, winter coats, or food on the weekends. Let your congregation come together to meet that need. I have seen churches organize bags of food for children to take home on the weekends and others that bought tennis shoes for every child who needed a pair. What an impactful way to let the parents, children, and staff know that you truly care about their kiddos!
- Offer to provide a celebration: Many schools have certain events that are planned to celebrate the goals the students have met. These celebrations aren’t always considered to be part of the budget and can require some stretching to make them take place. What a blessing it would be if your church offered to provide a pizza party or ice cream party for whatever event they had in mind.
- Pray through the school: Many churches do this at the beginning of the school year, but it is needed at any time. Form a prayer team to go through each room and pray over each desk. Have a list of all of the teachers and staff, and pray over each of them. Leave them each a handwritten note of encouragement and let them know you prayed for them, their students, and over their classroom. The greatest and most powerful gift your church can give is prayer.
These are just a few ideas, but the most important element is that the goal of all of this service and giving is to build relationships. Do not expect staff or families to start coming to your church. If they do, what a gift! But more importantly, they should see people of faith involved in their lives and willing to serve them and meet real needs.
Isn’t that what Jesus would do?