A Test and An Opportunity: Yes, Churches Can Assist Their Neighborhood Schools

Okay folks – I got some great feedback from yesterday’s post and the Holy Spirit – as always – is on top of things.

Just as my post was being read yesterday, school systems around the country were already reaching out to congregations from California to North Carolina asking their neighborhood congregations if they had space that their school systems could use to 1) expand their access to socially distanced space and 2) offer internet access to students without such access at home.  I heard from dozens of pastors.

Thank you God.

This issue of schools re-opening for in-person or online classes is both a test and an opportunity for congregations.

  • THE TEST:  If your congregation already has a relationship with the nearest school to your church building, then you get an A.  If your pastor or other church leaders already know the school principal and guidance counselors by name, you are steps ahead in terms of being a missional congregation.  Excellent.  Unfortunately, the majority of our pastors cannot identify the name of the principal of the closest school to their church building, much less the name of the police chief, the fire chief, and the owner of the local coffee shop.  Kudos to all of you who already have relationships with your community leaders.
  • THE OPPORTUNITY: Churches have fellowship halls and family centers and classrooms that are unused these days because of the pandemic.  Could those spaces be used for local students?  Do you have courtyards or patios or parking lots or shady lawns that your school system could use as they socially distance?

Church: here’s what you do next if this resonates with you:

  1. Contact your local school system offices/the principal of the school closest to your church property/the school board and ask what your church can do to help them this fall with school. Maybe they can use your building or your parking lot or your lawn.  Maybe they need space with quality wireless.  Maybe they need meals or snacks served.  Maybe they need space for story time.  Maybe they need art space.
  2. If your church needs assistance before they can do what the schools need them to do (like upgrade their wireless service or do a deep cleaning) contact your denominational leaders.  There are grants out there.  (Note: If you are in Charlotte Presbytery check this out.)  This is why denominations exist: to support local congregations.
  3. If volunteers are needed, do background checks on those who sign up ASAP.  Everybody – everybody – gets a background check before they work with children.  Safety is the first priority.
  4. Be the Church out there.  This is our time to serve.  This is not our time to proselytize or convert or judge people.  This is not about “getting new members.”  This is about being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

We are blessed with an opportunity to serve our communities in ways we’ve never served before.  This is our chance – even if we’ve failed to reach out into our communities before – to reach out and make a difference.

This is why we have church buildings: to use those buildings as tools for ministry.  Don’t miss this opportunity.  Don’t fail another test.

Image shows one of my favorite churches in Charlotte, NC and their proximity to two schools within walking distance from their property.

 

3 responses to “A Test and An Opportunity: Yes, Churches Can Assist Their Neighborhood Schools

  1. Sent from my iPad

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  2. This post fills me with longing. Our tiny, 120-year-old, non ADA-compliant building is across the street from the middle school, which will be on a 2-days-in -person/3-days-virtual schedule. The only space large enough for physical distancing is in the basement–a full flight of stairs down, with the two single bathrooms upstairs. There is a kitchenette in the basement room (no dishwasher), but no air conditioning, and heat is difficult in cold times. No internet in the building. We do have a large covered pavilion with electricity and a very large expanse of grass. The only members (two couples) who might be able to help live 25 miles away (as do I). All the others are vulnerable (as am I) or working. I welcome creative ideas!

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  3. Thanks for raising the opportunity Jan (and congrats on the new gig from a fellow PCUSA-er). We’ve been collecting resources, links, and ideas about this very same subject in the Sunday School & COVID discussion forum at Rotation.org: https://www.rotation.org/topic/how-can-churches-help-parents-with-schooling-challenges. Just posted your blog link there too 🙂

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