How to Start a Partnership

To work through these questions with other church leaders interested in reaching out to local schools, check out this page for details about upcoming workshops. Any questions or comments? Please let us know!


1. Assess your church
2. Choose a school
3. Set up a meeting

Before contacting a school, assess your church:

  • Are members already externally focused or would a sermon/small group series help?
  • Who is available to serve and at what times?
  • What passions, skill sets, resources, and networks do they have?
  • Who will be the “church champion” to coordinate the partnership?
  • Invite church leaders and members to pray about this opportunity.

There are several ways to choose a school*:

  • Use our Searchable Map to find a school near you.
  • Choose a school where you already have a connection, e.g. a member is a teacher, kids in your church attend the school.
  • Note: Some districts prefer to connect community partners with specific schools. Contact us or see our Search by District page for information about partnering in your district.

In order for a partnership to be successful and sustainable, the Pastor and Principal need to champion the partnership, no matter who eventually coordinates the activities.

Having these key leaders at this initial meeting communicates the importance of this partnership to both the church and school communities (which helps increase engagement from church volunteers and school staff members) and streamlines the decision-making process from the outset.



4. Get to know the school
5. Draft a proposal
6. Regroup with the school

A church-school partnership is a bit like a dating relationship: take time to get to know each other – and then keep getting to know each other!

  • Key principle: Don’t go in with an agenda; ask questions and listen.
  • Ask the principal and staff about their goals and dreams for their school and their students. They may not have an answer right away. Leave space for them to think.
  • When ready, brainstorm ways to achieve the goals with your respective gifts and resources. (Remember that this is a partnership—your church isn’t coming in to save or fix the school.)

Now that you have a list of goals and ideas from the school, regroup with your church.

  • What opportunities would your members be passionate about and/or equipped to help with?
  • Do you need to collaborate with another church or local nonprofit?
  • Who will coordinate partnership activities? (A church coordinator and a school coordinator would be ideal. Depending on your church’s resources, the pastor could be the church coordinator. On the school side, a school’s social worker or partnership liaison would be an ideal coordinator.)

Set up a final planning meeting with the principal and appropriate staff.

  • Present your Partnership Proposal and adjust as necessary based on the school’s feedback.
  • Remember: The school leaders are the experts!
  • Confirm a start date and next steps.
  • Start volunteering!
  • Keep praying and checking in at regular intervals to see how things are going and whether anything needs to be adjusted.

You can start small, but start soon! Check out these Partnership Principles for more tips.

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