Summer’s almost here! For many of us, that means vacations, trips to the beach, and fun times with friends and family.
However, for many in Houston, summer is stressful. Families relying on free or reduced price meals at school will struggle to keep their kids fed. These same kids also may not have access to books or summer enrichment experiences and will fall behind academically.
According to Early Matters:
According to the National Summer Learning Association:
- Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
- More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
In Mark 12:31, Jesus reminds us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Would you do so this summer? Read on for ideas.
Helping Without Hurting
What does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself? Imagine if you were in the following situations:
“I don’t know how I’m going to feed my kids this summer.”
“I want to read with my kids, but my night shift work schedule won’t allow it.”
“I want my kids to have opportunities, but I don’t know how to navigate this country, yet.”
“I want to let my kids go to camp, but I can’t afford to send them AND put food on the table.”
Friends, every one of us can be there for our neighbors in these situations – just as we would want someone to be there for us! (see below for ideas) And as we do so, let’s keep the following principles in mind. We want to give our neighbors a hand UP, not just a hand OUT!
Affirm the dignity of caregivers.
Every parent and grandparent wants the best for their kids. Get to know the families as you serve. Hear their stories. Acknowledge the ways they’re working to provide.
Empower kids and community members.
It can be disempowering to receive handouts. Structure your service activities so that church members, kids, parents, and community members can volunteer together.
Ensure access to programs.
Put that church bus to use, find a location that’s within walking distance, or find a time when most parents are off of work and engage the entire family!
Be flexible and faithful.
It can be a paradigm shift for the church and the community to serve together. Be patient if either side is resistant. Keep the lines of communication open, and adjust as necessary.
Are you ready to serve?