Houston-area schools and school districts have been very receptive to offers to help from churches. In fact, we’re working with several Houston-area school districts to equip more churches to volunteer in their schools. That being said, churches still need to respect legal boundaries and district regulations. Churches can serve as any other community partner would, but should refrain from proselytizing, initiating conversations on religion, and inviting kids to church. If you would like to start a Christian group or program on campus or would like to invite families to a church function, be up front and communicate clearly and respectfully with school and district leaders. If they decline your offer, be respectful of their wishes and consider serving in other ways. This article by Cynthia McCabe gives great insight and direction. (If your school does give you permission to start a student ministry, here are some ideas about organizations to partner with.)
Families and faculty in impoverished communities too often experience parachute charity (i.e. good works done by groups who parachute in but don’t stick around). This is damaging for everyone, producing mistrust in the community and compassion fatigue in those trying to help. Whatever community your school is in, be aware of your limitations, promise what you can deliver, and commit for the long-haul! You can start with something simple, but be sure to commit to the relationship.
As your church engages with the school, consider an approach called asset-based community development. ABCD focuses on assets versus needs and empowers schools to work alongside churches in their own development. Rather than the school depending on the church, both partners should work together to determine how available resources can be used to address the opportunities for improvement.
Does starting a partnership seem overwhelming? Maybe it’s just your small group that wants to serve, or your smaller-sized congregation isn’t ready to partner with an entire school. Check out these ideas:
As your partnership develops and more volunteers/community partners are recruited, you can expand your program.