It is the season of “back to school”. This isn’t just a time for children and parents to gather supplies and clothes in a new size. It’s a good time for each of us to listen for the Spirit beckoning our congregations to find the way back to school. The partnership between congregations and public schools is and can be a powerful bond.
- Pastors have regular coffee and conversation dates with school administrators to share news and pool their wisdom in addressing community challenges.
- Congregations host teacher appreciation events. They welcome their community’s teachers in for a delicious meal, perhaps some soul-feeding music, and offer heartfelt expressions of gratitude.
- Congregations collaborate with local community service agencies or with guidance counselors in their schools to gather school supplies for children who can’t celebrate “back to school” with a shopping trip.
- Congregations collaborate with guidance counselors to gather a tote box of new socks and undies, t-shirts, sweatpants and sweatshirts or a tote box of winter gear when the weather turns – things that can make a difference when a child is having a tough day at school.
- Congregations gather volunteers. When their local school asks for volunteers to read with students, to mentor, to share a special skill that would be valuable to learners, to lend a hand with learning, our congregations are saying, “Here we are! Send us!”
- Congregations bless backpacks on the Sunday before the start of school … and the children who will be carrying them.
- Congregations bless educators and all public school workers on the Sunday before the start of school, naming their work as holy.
- Congregations take up the mission of a backpack programs, filling and transporting pack packs of food to nourish hungry students over the weekend, when there is no school breakfast or lunch.
- A growing number of our congregations have begun ministries that offer Christian Education, meals, safe space and the companionship of wise and loving grownups on early dismissal days or in service days. What a blessing to families and communities these programs are!
The list could go on. Let’s have a “back to school” conversation. Use the reply space below to tell just a bit about the partnerships your congregation has built with your community schools. Your words may well become the seed of a new ministry that takes root in a neighbor congregation!
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister for Eastern Iowa