During the first day of the Youth Ministry Conclave, sponsored by Texas Baptists, I went to a seminar led by Thomas Wallis, superintendent of the Palestine Independent School District. He talked about the relationship between churches and public schools, which is something I’ve been fascinated by off and on for some time now.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all heard that “they” are pulling God out of public schools. The most commonly noted item is the removal of prayer from schools. Critics say civic groups and some school leaders are against Christianity.
But at the same time, there are a number of churches across the state that are finding ways to impact public schools around them. They’re impacting students and faculty members alike.
The key, Wallis said, is church leaders must be proactive in building relationships with administrators. Schedule an appointment with a principal or superintendent. Start by understanding how you can help. Also understand what they do not want you to do. They don’t want people interfering with how they run the school. Respect that.
There’s a story out there — that may be apocryphal so I’m not mentioning the church name — that this is exactly how a church started a significant ministry to a nearby school.
A deacon met with the principal and asked how he could help the school. Wanting to get rid of him, the principal told the deacon that the toilets need to be cleaned. To the administrator’s surprise, the deacon accepted the task, cleaning every toilet in the building.
The next day, he did the next thing the principal asked.
And then the next.
And the next.
Eventually the relationship grew because the principal saw how much the man wanted to help. That led to mentorship opportunities for church members and students. It led to tutoring programs. It led to the church renovating the teachers’ lounge.
It led to the transformation of the school and opportunities for church members to witness in word and deed on that campus.
Wallis said this kind of thing can happen in many places across the state if church leaders will step up their efforts to partner with schools.
Is your church working with a nearby school? Why or why not? If you are, how did it start?