On the last day of our 2013 Annual Conference in Greenville, Bishop Ward and Western NC Conference Bishop Goodpaster spoke about the tremendous needs and opportunities for churches to be in mission to public schools in their communities.
One way that was offered for churches to work together involves partnering with schools in ways that go deeper than offering supplies or food programs. Bishop Goodpaster said, “We seek to build relationships, to listen to what’s happening in the lives of children, teachers, and administrators.” Bishop Ward reminded those gathered that the Hand-in-Hand Project began 15 years ago in the NC Conference to encourage connections between churches and schools.
The bishops were joined on stage at Annual Conference by Dr. June Atkinson, Superintendent of North Carolina Public Schools and a member of First UMC in Cary. Dr. Atkinson said that the schools and teachers across this state need people to step up and partner with them for the well-being of the children. The Bishops and Dr. Atkinson discussed a new emphasis called “L3 for NC,” exploring new relationships to bridge churches and schools. L1 is learning about the needs of schools; L2 is linking churches, schools, and community partners; and L3 is leading to transform both schools and churches.
The state public education system is facing a loss of up to 4200 teacher assistants in the coming year, depending on what happens with the state budget. There may be almost 40% fewer dollars for supplies. North Carolina teachers can go to South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia or Virginia and receive better pay.
Dr. Atkinson introduced a new program called “Give 5, Read 5,” which helps children have at least five books to take home to read during the summer. Children can lose 2.5-3 months of reading progress during the summer if they do not continue reading; by third grade, this loss can be equivalent to almost a year’s worth of progress. She asked that the churches become involved with the schools in their community to make sure that each child will have five books to take home next summer.
Dr. Atkinson also stressed the importance of continuing the work of providing backpacks with supplies and food because the number of children who are eligible for free and reduced lunches is higher than it has been in the past decade.
The Heritage District sees partnering with our schools as a high priority for local missions. We are currently working with Communities In Schools of North Carolina, a nonprofit organization established in 1989, to help our churches and schools learn how they can form meaningful and productive partnerships. We have already had meetings in the NE section of the District, and plan to offer workshops throughout the entire District.
Church participation varies from community to community, but the following list offers some suggestions for ministry in our schools for you to consider:
- Prayer for the school, the staff, and the children.
- Recognize and celebrate the school staff with meals or events throughout the year.
- Congregation members volunteer one or more hour per week to mentor children by reading, being “lunch buddies” or through other avenues.
- Assure the holistic needs of the children are met. This may include clothes, shoes, dental care or other needs of the children or youth within the school.
- Initiate after school programming that serves children in need.
Is your church already partnering with local schools? If not, how could you be in the future?
Please click HERE to complete a short survey to help us see where you church is or could be ministering to the needs of the schools in your community.