By Amy Pridgen
It’s that time again: the beginning of a new school year.
Teachers, students, and parents are gearing up for projects, homework, PTO meetings, and sporting events.
But teachers, students, and parents aren’t the only key players needed to make the academic year successful.
As an educator with 25 years of experience across multiple grade levels and socio-economic statuses, I’ve seen countless instances where a helping hand from outside the school could make a big—and potentially eternal—difference.
Here are 12 ways your church can be a positive presence at local schools. To find out how to get started, contact the administration of your area school. They will be able to direct you to the appropriate channel to offer support.
Around this time of the year, there are sales on clothing and school supplies. These discounted items could be purchased now and dispersed at your local school as needed, or stored for later in the year when supplies are low and in high demand.
Be a Mentor
Many students need a caring adult to be a consistent presence in their lives.
Consider being paired with a student who could benefit from a little one-on-one time on a regular basis. Something so simple as eating lunch with a child on a routine basis and having genuine conversations will instill a sense of self-worth that can’t be measured.
With so much to accomplish during the instructional day, there’s just not enough time to sit and read with every student who needs support.
We know the more we read, the better readers we become. Time spent supporting a student reader during the school day is an invaluable investment in their future.
Many schools have events such as “Muffins for Mom,” “Donuts for Dad,” and Grandparents’ Day to build community and encourage family involvement.
These events require planning and support. Consider being an extra pair of hands, providing baked goods, being a greeter, or even a member of the clean-up crew for these events.
Help with Homework
Is math your bag? Are you a science or history buff? Maybe you’re a word nerd.
Put those interests and your skills to good use! Afterschool programs across the U.S. have many students who could use a homework helper.
Lead a Club
In many after-school programs, local churches are allowed to hold Bible school clubs.
Check with your local school’s administration and after-school program director to see about the possibilities. This may be a unique opportunity to share the Word with children who would otherwise never hear about God’s love for them.
Adopt a Teacher
Consider ways you could be a blessing to an educator. Teaching is a big job, and the days seem to get longer as the workload and responsibilities increase.
Provide small, meaningful gifts to your adoptive teacher on his or her birthday, Teacher Appreciation Day, and on one or two ordinary days. You can’t imagine the joy a new pen and a pack of sticky notes can bring!
Stock the Staff Room
The school staff is a hard-working crew. Keep their spirits high and their energy up by providing snacks. Granola bars, fresh fruit, popcorn, water and juice bottles make the perfect pick-me-ups just when they need it.
Providing an occasional breakfast of fresh bagels and coffee or a lunchtime pizza buffet does much more than provide a meal. It sends a message every educator needs: You make a difference, and you are appreciated for all your efforts.
Stock Classroom Libraries
Remember how important it is for kids to read?
Another way you can serve your local school is to donate to a classroom library. Teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets each year to buy things such as new or gently used books for their classroom libraries.
First-year teachers especially need a little help building their collection. You will be an encouragement to the teachers as you provide resources for their students.
Participate in a Uniform Drive
Many students attend schools with uniform policies. Check with your local school to see if there are students who may need a couple of new shirts, pants, skirts, etc.
There may be only a couple of students in need, or you may find there’s a need to organize a larger event to provide support to these students.
Spruce up the Environment
The environment in which we live and work has an impact on our state of mind and productivity. Could your local school benefit from a landscaping lift?
Ask your local school for the contact information of their Parent Teacher Organization and inquire about participating in beautification efforts. Those new bedding plants in the spring or freshly mulched shrubs in the fall could make a world of difference to the atmosphere.
Of course, the best thing we can do for our local schools is pray for all who enter the building.
Drop by your local school and pick up an event calendar for the month or the school year if available.
- Pray for the safety of children and adults on field trips.
- Pray for the success of parent conferences and for students on testing days.
- Pray for the health and safety of students and adults.
- Pray for caring relationships to develop and grow.
- Pray that the academic, social, and emotional needs of students get met.
- Pray for wisdom, patience, and an overwhelming sense of calm for the adults who serve these students.
- Most importantly, pray these precious souls who learn and work in this building would come to know Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
As the new school year begins, take the time to consider the needs that exist just down the street. Your church will find many ways to help and encourage students, teachers, and parents.
You may never know this side of heaven just how big of a difference you can make with such simple gestures.
Amy is a 25-year veteran teacher and instructional coach. Her classroom experiences in diverse populations of grades kindergarten through 8th and her coaching experiences with teachers have guided her work in the schools and highlighted the importance of building relationships to make an impact as a follower of Christ.