As we start the new school year, here are 5 ways to help schools win. This blog post was written as a response and summary of Leslie Bosler’s breakout session at OC18.
- Look for a win-win relationship. Too often, churches pursue a relationship with local schools for their own personal gain. But schools can smell that coming from a mile away. So rather than asking how partnering with the local schools can be a win for your church, ask how partnering with the local schools can be a win for the school. And if there’s a benefit only for the school, is that enough? Rather than expecting things from the school, hope things for the school. Action Steps: A school’s win is often measured by numbers and metrics, so gain some credibility by doing research on the schools in your area and discover what their “wins” are. Look up their websites, mission statements, state requirements, etc. Place those wins in a place where you can see them every day, and start praying about how you as a church can help schools accomplish those goals. Bonus points: Devise a way to measure church impact at school.
- Practice and preparation. Churches often step into schools during a crisis situation. But what would your role look like for a “well visit” when there’s no immediate and glaring need? Are there ways you can be available as a resource for the school, even for small tasks? Action Steps: Build trust with the school by serving to meet a school’s need, no matter how small, and always follow through. Under promise and over deliver with the small things, and the school will be more open to more involvement from you and the church.
- Know the lingo. We talk about “loving on kids” in children’s ministry, but that same language sounds creepy in the public school systems. They are focused on policies and procedures (especially elementary schools), instructional time, and acronyms (IEPs, PBIS, etc.). Be careful how you speak about serving in the schools, making sure not to convey that you are there to “fix” the school. Action Steps: Speak with clarity when conversing with schools and discussing your desire for partnership and serving. Talk to teachers in your congregations, and create a glossary of words to use (and not to use) for you and your team.
- Play by the rules. Schools have policies in place for a reason, and churches aren’t exempt from those. When serving in the schools, be sure to respect their rules and desires. Don’t go into schools with the agenda to grow your church (Think of the burden on kids if you show up for their stuff expecting them to show up to your stuff). Respect the boundaries schools have in place, and ask when you’re unsure about something. In most schools, it is illegal to talk about God in the school in a formal teaching setting, but you may be allowed to wear your ministry shirt or say you work for a local church when asked about your presence in the school. Action Steps: Ask your local schools about their boundaries, clarify the rules, and adjust your ways to respect them. Don’t circumvent locked doors (physical or metaphorical). Train and equip the kids in your ministry to talk about God (and your role in the church) with their friends so you don’t have to push boundary lines. Try this: A free printable to help you follow the school rules when it comes to eating lunch with kids at school!
- Widen your circle. Spread the word about what you’re doing to your congregations and encourage others to get involved. Share the stories of what you’re doing in the school and make sure everyone knows how to join in. Action Steps: Who else can help you in this effort to support local schools? Are there other churches in your area that could partner with your church? Gain momentum by getting others involved.