As the next school year is fast approaching, what are some ways you and your church can engage your community through local schools? Before I was the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Campus Minister for Arkansas Tech, I served as a Missions Minister in Texas. My main goal there was to see the church involved in the community in ways they could rub shoulders with people they had never met, display the Gospel in their life, invite them into their life, and tell them about Jesus. It was a simple process. I always began everything as school started, because this is such a great time to engage your community. Here are some ideas you can use for your church to engage your community through local schools.
Find a local school and find ways to serve them
The way I did this was I reached out to the local school district and asked them which of their schools did they think would be best for us to serve. They set up a meeting with the principal of that school, and that meeting revolved around one question: “How can we best serve you?” or “What are your greatest needs that we could meet?” They pumped out the needs and I pumped out the ideas.
Serve your teachers for their in-service days
Some schools have the money to provide meals, or they have great local partners to provide meals for this week. But many schools do not have those funds and partners, which means teachers have to go eat lunch on their own dime. A simple way to do this is to tell the principal you want to provide a certain number of meals. We provided all their meals during in-service week. The easiest way is to cater each meal, if you have access to that in your area and if not, cook it. We ordered each meal (breakfast and lunch) and had one of our Life Groups/ Sunday School classes serve them. We also made sure they had coﬀee at the school for the entire day. They even let us use their refrigerators to store cold stuﬀ. You may think this is too much, but really it is not as much money as you would think. We provided nine meals for 80 teachers, and it cost us around $2,500.00. That money was one of the biggest investments into our community that we could make.
Buy your teachers, staﬀ, and faculty gifts
Our first gift of the year was a teacher care package where we bought them things they needed for their classroom. If you did not know this, I know this because my wife is a teacher, they have to supply their own classroom with supplies. Some schools do provide, but other schools do not have the funds for it. We bought highlighters, Sharpies, Expo markers, sharpened pencils, paper, construction paper, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, paper clips, binder clips, etc. We bought everything on Amazon for nearly 40 teachers for under $1,000.00.
Also, a great idea is to collect those same supplies and other supplies to give away at the beginning of January for teachers. By the end of the semester, they will have ran out of many supplies. Create a place at your church where they can come pick up those supplies and you serve them. Plus, that gets them into your building! Another great thing to buy is a simple gift like a coﬀee, cup, etc. Put a verse on it and your church logo. It needs to be something useful to show them that you care. And a good tip I always follow is to fill whatever it is with candy!
Serve them every month
On the last Friday of every month, we went to the school and took sodas, water, and diet drinks to the teachers. We also had Sonic ice. (That was probably the biggest hit!) We were able to go to every teacher and give them a drink. We also changed things up each month by sometimes serving coﬀee and donuts, giving them their favorite candy bar, bringing them Sonic drinks, etc. We also made them two gifts each semester. We corresponded these with diﬀerent holidays and made the gift specific to that.
We wrote letters to every teacher, faculty, and staﬀ at the school we adopted and served. We had a list of every name and their job. We asked members of our church to write a note of encouragement to them. One of the things we asked of our members was that whomever they wrote a card to, they would write 3-4 more encouraging notes throughout the school year. We had our staﬀ write notes to every principal and assistant principal in the area as well. That gave us a huge leg-up when it came to working with local schools.
Set up a prayer box
We set up a prayer box in the workroom of the school we served. Teachers loved this and filled out requests that we were able to pray over and then correspond back to the teachers about those requests throughout the school year.
Become a VIPS Volunteer
VIPS stands for Volunteer in Public Schools. This will allow your members to enter the schools and serve each teacher individually throughout the school year by cutting out things, making copies, etc. It is really whatever makes their life easier. It is just another way for you to serve them.
For the Gospel to go out there are two core truths we have to remember: First, we have to be in the community and be known in the community to see the Gospel make a great impact. Would your community miss you if you as a church were no longer there?
Second, we have to share the Gospel and the only way to do that eﬀectively is to share the Gospel through those we have some type of relationship with in our community. That relationship is simply one that is built through an acquaintance—meaning they know me, I know them, and we share some type of common interest. (That common interest could be that we both love our community.)
So, as we serve in our local area, our purpose is to love them, know them, and tell them about Jesus! Go serve and connect with your community to share the love of Christ to them!