Staples has a terribly funny ad this time of year showing a happy father picking up school supplies accompanied by “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and two sad children. (I think it’s funny; my sixth grader, who changes the channel, thinks it’s terrible. You can decide for yourself.)
Even if you don’t have school-aged children, school’s beginning affects you, from traffic patterns and speed zones to fund-raising appeals. Students, their teachers and school administrators at all levels are involved in the process of opening minds, charting life directions and preparing the next generation.
You and your church can minister to the schools with these resources:
Boundaries. Schools are a flashpoint in the church-state debate. School prayer, displays, teaching evolution, teachers sharing their faith, textbooks and Bible clubs are just some of the areas of contention. Knowing what is and is not permissible not only helps you, but can also help you support appropriate school policies.
The First Amendment Center (firstamendmentcenter.org) has many topical overviews. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Web site has religion and public schools resources including the free brochure download, ”Parents Guide to Religion in Public Schools.”
Prayer. You do not have to be on school property to affect what goes on there; that’s what prayer is all about. Churches and groups can organize prayer rallies and prayer walks. Other ideas can be found at "Ten Ways to Pray in Public Schools."
Operation Intercession (operationintercession.org) is a ministry encouraging targeted prayer each day for groups. Schools can supply first names to a church; volunteers in turn can pray for students by name.
Moms in Prayer International (momsinprayer.org) is another ministry that prays for schools.
You can also encourage students to organize annual See You at the Pole prayer rallies. This year’s date is Wednesday, Sept. 23 (syatp.com).
Partnerships. There are many ways that churches can partner with schools to provide supplies, mentoring, funds and other forms of support such as teacher appreciation efforts that can be beneficial year-round.
The United Church of Christ has a PDF of additional ways you can support children and public schools. Choose the ones that work best for you.
And PTOToday.com has a column with partnership success stories (ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/662-makingschool-church-partnerships-work).
Finally, Kids Hope USA (kidshopeusa.org) is a church-based model for adults to mentor children in local school systems.
Donations. There are giving options beyond school fund-raising programs.
DonorsChoose.org is an online charity partnering with the Gates Foundation connecting you with classrooms in need. Adopt-a-Classroom (adoptaclassroom.com) and ILoveSchools.com use 100 percent of donations for underserved classrooms. You can help directly, or help a project get listed.
You can also give simply by using the Internet. GoodSearch.com allows you to donate to a charity or school when you perform an Internet search or shop online.
Speaking of shopping, General Mills sponsors the Box Tops for Education program (boxtops4education.com) that supports K-8 schools.
In the past, churches were instrumental in starting many educational efforts. Today, people of faith still have a range of creative ways to bless schools.
Ken Satterfield was formerly a media specialist and is currently Word&Way’s advertising/marketing coordinator.