Connecting with Schools
Whether you're part of a congregation of 50 or 500 you can reach out to children and families as a new academic year begins. Schools have a micro-social system that resembles your community. The best way to find out what's going on in your community is to volunteer. What can you do? Anything the school needs: playground attendants, help with teacher move-in day, offer to paint, clean up the playground, playground extreme makeover, mentoring, hotline volunteer or homework help. There are numerous ways to get involved! Churches in Yellowstone are finding a variety of ways to connect with their local schools. Visit your own local school, talk with the principal and/or teachers to learn how your church can partner with them. Here are some churches that have taken the leap in a number of ways:
Miles City UMC: Lunch On Us – Every Wed. people of the church prepare and serve a free lunch to high school kids, and anyone else that shows up. The church is near the school. The meal is served at the church. Church: (406) 874-3502
Christ UMC (Great Falls): The congregation has begun a partnership with Lincoln Elementary School. They began by meeting with the principal. They volunteer in classrooms, and are beginning a twice a year clothes-swap at the school, which will be held during parent-teacher conferences. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (406) 454-3851 www.christumcgf.org
Cody UMC: The people of Cody UMC have started a relationship with Eastside Elementary School, three blocks away from the church. Several Cody UMC people, "Friends of Eastside", are reading with the children in the school every week. They also host a back-to-school breakfast in the fall for Eastside staff, teachers, administrators, and support staff. www.codyumc.com
Here are a some ideas from United Methodist churches across the connection:
- A "How to Establish a Partnership with a Local School" from the Great Plains.
- Adopt a school. Four congregations in the North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference do this. Their ministries range from praying for students and faculty and tutoring to providing after-school programs, art classes, Christmas gifts for children, prizes for good grades, school supplies and teacher-appreciation events.
- Assemble School Kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Imagine the joy on a child's face when he or she receives a colorful cloth bag containing new crayons, an eraser, paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, ruler and scissors. These are easy and inexpensive to assemble.
- Collect school supplies. Congregations in the Northern Illinois Conference participate in ChildServ's annual backpack-to-school drive, which benefits 600 at-risk children. In Stephensville, Texas, women from First and Oakdale United Methodist churches and First Presbyterian Church start gathering school supplies even before the current academic year ends.
- Encourage bookworms. Along with hosting a "Summer Café" during vacation and distributing backpacks to students, Cherry Point United Methodist Church, Havelock, N.C., tries to instill a love for reading. "Books are donated from the community," said Kim Smith, who heads the mission and ministry team, "and because we have adults who bring students and who come to eat themselves, we have expanded the lending library to include books for adult readers. They come in, eat, visit and pick out books to read."
- Fill the gap for children who may be hungry on weekends. The United Methodist Women of Ann Street United Methodist Church, Beaufort, N.C., purchase $100 worth of food for the Backpack Ministry of Loaves and Fishes every month during the school year, supporting more than 30 children. In Mitchell, S.D., Weekend Snackpack, recently relocated to Dakota Wesleyan University, provides food for 310 children. Each child receives a bag containing a fruit, a grain, an entree and two other food items. South Ensley United Methodist Church, Sand Lake, Mich., started a program called "Mac Baskets," named for the Macnoughton Elementary School. "We agreed to start a ministry where the kids who were identified by the school staff would get lunches placed in their backpacks," said the Rev. Darryl L. Miller. "This is done when no other kids are around so no one else knows. Many area churches devote their time as well as food items and funds to the project."
- Offer opportunities for children to catch up and keep up with their studies over the summer. In Aulander, N.C., All God's Children United Methodist Church, a multi-racial congregation in one of the poorer economic areas in the North Carolina Conference, has a six-week program for children to counter summer learning loss.
- Provide after-school programs. First UMC, Jackson, Tenn., coordinates a tutoring/mentoring ministry called WINGS. Teaming up with Arlington Elementary School, WINGS works with second- through fourth-graders. "More than just tutoring programming, said Ann Woodall, "WINGS is an opportunity to be a Christian and spiritual mentor while encouraging academic success.
- Reach out to schoolteachers. Match faculty with prayer partners from the congregation, provide snacks in the teachers' lounge, remember staff with small gifts, birthday cards and thank you notes throughout the year, serve breakfast to teachers and volunteer in the classroom. The Rev. Connie Marie Stutts of Beech Grove UMC, New Bern, N.C., said, "One of the teachers told me that whenever she is having a bad day, she just picks up one of her cards and remembers that she is loved and appreciated and being prayed for."
- Say "Way to go!" Ross United Methodist Church, Dyersburg, Tenn., hosted a dinner in honor of the Dyersburg High School women's track team.