the shape of leadership

How to Support Schools During the Pandemic

Churches can make a difference in the lives of students and educators

Chris Colvin on September 25, 2020

Are you looking for a mission field? Overseas trips are very difficult right now. And large-scale evangelism crusades aren’t practical due to limits on gatherings. But what if there was a mission field in your own backyard, where hundreds of people go every single day, that would welcome your involvement? There is!

Public schools are natural places to do church outreach. If your church doesn’t do something for local schools, now is a great time to start.

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated both churches and schools. Some school districts have resumed in-person attendance with full classrooms. Others have opted to continue the virtual learning in homes that happened nearly nationwide last spring. Still others are doing some combination of in-person and at-home learning to reduce class sizes.

Whatever the case, your local school teachers are likely feeling stressed. They are concerned about keeping students — as well as themselves and their own families — safe while teaching a full course load. Teachers may also have to navigate new ways of instruction through blended structures, much like your church had to figure out how to stream services online.

Why Schools?

There is a long history in the U.S. of partnership between schools and churches. In fact, it was not uncommon for public schools to meet in churches a century ago. After landmark court cases barred directed prayer in public schools during the 1960s, many Christians claimed God had been kicked out of schools. And sadly, some churches abandoned outreach efforts to schools.

Nevertheless, most public schools aren’t as antagonistic toward religion as some may think. Though they no longer direct students in prayer, each student is free to express their religious beliefs as they see fit. Many teachers are also believers who minister to their students within the bounds of the law.

Many school administrators would welcome the support and involvement of local faith communities.

Churches and schools share some of the same goals, like shaping young minds and hearts. The families whose children attend your local schools are the same ones who can attend your church on Sunday. And many school administrators would welcome the support and involvement of local faith communities.

Extra hands and resources could go a long way toward addressing problems and meeting needs amid the pandemic.

How to Help

Large-scale events, such as giveaways and rallies, usually get all the publicity. But such things may not be feasible this school year. Instead, think about small investments that could make a big impact.

For instance, consider what you can do to improve your local school facilities. With tax revenues down and budgets tight in many areas, schools could fall into disrepair. Ask your principal what simple projects your volunteer team could tackle over a couple of weekends.

Another way to reach out is to get involved with students directly. Many schools offer reading partner programs where volunteers can work with students one-on-one. While in-person interaction may not be possible right now, perhaps your local district offers a similar program virtually.

Also think about how to reach out to the teachers and administrators. With restrictions during the pandemic, you may not be able to cater a full meal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a luncheon. You might prepare individually packed meals, along with a personalized note of encouragement. Teachers are facing a lot, and even a few kind words can make a difference.

What about hosting those same educators outside of school? Your church may have enough room outdoors to safely social distance while providing a barbecue with live music and games. Make your guests the focal point of the celebration, and they will see your good deeds as a reflection of Christ.

Finally, ask about what kind of financial needs students are facing. Some churches have stepped in to pay off school lunch bills for struggling families. Others have offered direct assistance to students in need of backpacks, supplies and new clothes.

When we partner with people in our community who are already doing good, it increases the reflection of God’s love for the city. Instead of expecting everyone to step through our doors to receive ministry, let’s take that love outside the walls of the church.

Your local schools may be the best place to start — especially during this difficult season.

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