“Looking at a student means seeing beyond that person as a learner and thinking of the development of the whole child. It means considering all aspects of a child’s personality ‘works in progress.’ It means showing them love and gentle guidance and acceptance. My faith calls me to be the most positive part of the day for many children.” —Whose Child Left Behind? Why?, “All Denominational Survey,” Public School Educator, Illinois Conference
Many congregations establish formal partnerships with public schools in their communities. Such congregations respect religious liberty by focusing on service and honoring the First Amendment’s protections. They provide mentoring, and tutoring. They promote literacy. They help children with music or reading or gardening or science projects. School staff and church partners get together for joint visioning. The limits are as wide as the imagination.
Justice & Witness Ministries Resources to Support School-Congregational Partnerships
- What Can Your Church Do Through Partnership to Support Children, Teachers, and Your Public Schools? This 2012 resource is packed with ideas and suggestions for your church’s collaboration with your neighborhood school.
- Experiencing Public Schools, A Process of Immersion and Discernment is a short guide to help your congregation set up, carry out, and reflect on an immersion trip to one of your community’s public schools.
- Whose Child Left Behind? Why? Report of the UCC Public Education Task Force’s work between 2001 and 2005. Ends with ideas for a church that wishes to partner with a school. Study guide is published in the 2006 Message on Public Education .
Specific Models and Resources to Help Churches with Partnerships
National Education Association Priority Schools Campaign: NEA has launched a major campaign that includes outreach and materials to guide and support congregational-school partnership activities to help transform schools that struggle and are in School Improvement Grant status. Here is how NEA describes its Priority Schools Campaign: “Ours is a transformation that unites all stakeholders—students, administratorrs, policymakers, parents, communities—in a collaborative mission to fulfill the promise of public education.” Here is a guide for community partners: What Community Members Can Do To Support Priority Schools.
The Children’s Aid Society in New York City, with its National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools (212) 569-2866), and extensive on-line resources, offers among the strongest models for full service Community Schools that may include multiple partners and services like health and dental clinics and Head Start programs. These are the lighted school houses, open from early morning into the evening and on weekends. While a congregation rarely serves as the lead partner in a Community School, if your city has a group of Community Schools, your church can explore joining the coalition under the coordination of the lead agency, which will provide extensive institutional support in terms of fund-raising and service management. Here is the story of a visit to a wonderfun Community School in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
Faith For Change provides this overview of a new Graduation Ministry Toolkit. Faith for Change staff will come to your congregation free of charge to train volunteers for your congregation’s graduation ministry.
One Church One School is a nationwide partnership initiative of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which encourages congregations in any denomination to join One Church One School. Check out the website for program information or contact Executive Director, Ms. Phedonia Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org, (773-651-00710).