By Jack Lucas
Back-to-school season is upon us, offering your church a great opportunity to serve families, teachers, and administrators in your community. Much of our back-to-school outreach often centers around meeting physical needs. School supplies, free haircuts, new tennis shoes—all of those giveaways and donations are wonderful ways to help families in this busy, often expensive season.
But churches can also look beyond August and September for effective ministry to families and education leaders in their communities. In addition to your back-to-school outreach this year, consider adding one or more of these longer-term strategies:
Try to meet unique needs. One school in our community required each student to stock the office by bringing a ream of copy paper at the beginning of the school year. We asked the school what they needed most. Paper, the staff said, so our church provided enough paper for the year, so that families didn’t have to. Throughout the year, check in periodically with schools in your area to ask what unique needs your church can help meet.
Share your space. Another of our local schools had space issues in their gym. We opened our church gym so their teams could practice there, and also hosted school sports banquets in our fellowship hall. Families visited our church who first heard about us after their child met us through school sports.
Work with administrators. You may be surprised at how willing your local principal is to partner with your church. Even with the caution required to keep church and state separate, school administrators often understand churches want to help, with no other agenda in mind. Our church was blessed to build relationships with principals who sent people our way when they had a specific need. Seek out these relationships with school administrators in your community, asking how your church can help.
Don’t forget older kids. Teens in our community responded well to a back-to-school bash at the church. They came to the high-energy outreach to reconnect with their friends, and left with a calendar of events we’d planned for the year ahead. Your church can also do this around holidays, or at the end of the school year as you look ahead to summer activities. Let them know they’re welcome at your church, and that there are specific opportunities for them.
Expect a cumulative effect. The best way to sum up back-to-school outreach is that it often moves the needle little by little as your church builds relationships with teachers, administrators, and families. The impact you make will likely share a close correlation with how consistent and sacrificial your ministry is, and how prepared you are to interact with the families that do show up at church.
As you brainstorm ministry opportunities this fall and beyond, ask your leaders and volunteers these questions:
- What can we offer teachers and school administrators in the way of resources and encouragement?
- How can we position our church as a go-to resource for families in need of support?
Our church had the opportunity to minister to couples and families that we never would have had if we hadn’t provided school supplies for their children, or hosted basketball practice for their student’s team. This year, gear up for long-term ministry that really helps families.
Jack Lucas is IBSA’s director of next generation ministries.
This article is adapted from the Fall issue of Resource magazine, which is available at Resource.IBSA.org.