Q: Why is Loving Houston just focusing on schools?
A: Schools are the centerpieces of our communities, and every need in our communities exists in our local schools:
One in five kids in Houston faces food insecurity. This means that these families don’t have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. (1) This can be addressed in the short-term by offering breakfast, nutritious after-school snacks, or backpacks of food when necessary. This can also be addressed in the long-term by educating families about inexpensive but healthy food options, working with the school to develop community gardens, or collaborating with the community to bring grocery stores into food deserts.
Houston is the most diverse city in the country, with thousands of immigrants and refugees arriving each year. By volunteering in your local school, you can help these families transition to life in the States. For example, you could partner with your school to offer ESL classes for families, tutor students in English, mentor students as they’re going through the transition, or help families translate and navigate the difficult first steps of moving to a new country.
Runaway teens are increasingly falling victim to trafficking. (2) What a difference a mentor could make before personal struggles escalate to this point in a child’s life! Experts agree that the consistent presence of a caring adult makes a significant difference in the trajectory of a child’s life. One-on-one mentoring can not only improve grades and school attendance, but also decrease dropout rates and give children hope of a different future.
By investing in our schools, we’re addressing the needs of kids and families today while also empowering them for the future. Anyone in your church can help, whether it’s in a one-on-one relationship or a behind-the-scenes role. (See more ideas here.) Our schools are asking for communities to get involved — let’s step up!
As the movement of churches serving schools accelerates and gains momentum of its own, Loving Houston will then adjust our focus based on the needs and opportunities of our city.
Q: I’ve read about churches adopting schools. How is a church-school partnership different?
A: While adoptions and partnerships look similar in practice, the underlying philosophy is different. In a partnership, the church and the school are equal contributors to the school’s success. Thus, church and school leaders work together closely to determine what assets each partner has before collaborating around opportunities for improvement. School staff and community members are not beneficiaries of charity, but are equal participants in the context of a long-term relationship that empowers them in their work with students.
For more on this asset-based collaborative approach, check out the following references:
Another neat thing about the partnership model is that both churches and schools report benefits from their involvement in the partnerships. The morale of the school is naturally expected to be lifted as a result of church involvement, but the morale of the church is often lifted also as members experience appreciation from children, parents, and staff, and see tangible transformation in attitudes, behavior, and test scores. The lives of both church and school representatives are enriched because of the opportunity to interact with individuals outside of their normal spheres of influence.
Q: I’m not interested in education or serving schools. Why should I get involved?
A: Every need in our communities exists in our local schools: poverty, hunger, homelessness, trafficking, refugees, etc. And every person in your church – from kids to retirees – can do something to help. Whether it’s mentoring, appreciating teachers, building a community garden, stuffing backpacks with food on weekends, or praying for staff and students, everyone in your church can come alongside the school with their gifts and abilities and serve. Serving together in a school partnership is discipleship in action – a chance for seasoned believers to model to younger believers what it looks like to love their neighbors, to be salt and light, and to care for widows and orphans in their distress. A school partnership is a natural hub for all of your local compassion ministry efforts.
Q: Do you only work with Christian churches?
A: Loving Houston is helping churches serve schools because we believe that God has called us as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves. Thus, the tips and inspiration we share are offered with that foundational Biblical philosophy in mind. We also believe that engaging the manpower, brain power, and material resources of the 4,000+ churches in Greater Houston could yield spectacular results for our city, but it’s a monumental task that will require all of the time and effort we currently have available. All this being said, any group is welcome to use our resources and materials to advance community transformation wherever they are.
Q: How do I choose a school?
A: There are several ways to choose a school:
Use our Searchable Map to see which schools are closest to you, along with demographic information and partnership status.
Consider prioritizing pre-K or elementary schools as well as schools with lower ratings or higher rates of poverty.
Choose a school where you already have a connection, e.g. a member is a teacher, kids in your church attend the school.
Some districts prefer to make the connections themselves between community partners and specific schools. See our Search by District page for information about partnering in your district.
Friends, EVERY school has students and staff who could be encouraged by you. Pray over this decision, and then take a leap of faith! If the school says no to your offer to help, thank them graciously and begin the process again. You never know — they could have a change of heart down the line!
Q: What about the separation of church and state?
A: Great question! Churches can serve schools just as any other community partner would – as mentors, supporting teachers, giving donations, etc. A church can NOT proselytize, invite children to church, or initiate conversations on religion. However, the possibilities for relationship-building and positive impact are priceless and innumerable. The key to effective, sustainable church-school partnerships is open dialogue and respect for and adherence to your school district’s guidelines. Fortunately, these guidelines were created with the best interests of our kids in mind and give churches great freedom to serve in a variety of profoundly impactful ways. Loving Houston interacts closely with school districts across Greater Houston to prepare churches to serve their local schools with excellence and discretion.
Cynthia McCabe of the National Education Association shares a beautiful picture of what legal church-school partnerships can look like here.
Houston ISD offers a great resource for faith-based partners here.
Q: I know of another organization, partnership, or school district doing great community transformation work. Why is it not listed on your site?
A: The organizations, partnerships, and school districts that we’ve listed are ones that we’ve personally connected with through our current networks. If you know of other groups engaging churches to serve local schools and students, please let us know. We’d love to connect with them, learn from them, and share their stories to accelerate this movement of community transformation throughout Greater Houston.