How to Partner with Public Schools

In the U.S., we have some staggering statistics about our public schools:

Kids in Public Schools:

  • 50.1 Million Kids will attend a U.S. public school this year at 99,000 schools.

Bullying:

  • 160,000 kids miss school every day out of a fear of being bullied.
  • 71% of kids in the US report that bullying is a problem.

Dropout Rate:

  • 1 out of 5 students in the US will dropout before graduation.
  • 25% of incoming freshman will not graduate.
  • 1.2 million kids every year will not graduate.
  • 2,000 schools in the U.S. graduate less than 60% of their students.

Let’s be real. Americans are not happy with public education. Bring up any of the following terms in a group of people and the conversation quickly becomes heated. People with or without kids in public school all have an opinion about Common Core, Standardized Testing, Sex Education, and Class Sizes. It seems there is no good solution, and parents are choosing education alternatives for their kids. Both public charter and homeschooling are on the rise among all families, not just those of faith. And who can blame them? This is about their kids. They’ll do whatever it takes to make sure their kids are successful.

Schools in Crisis:

This past year The Barna Group embarked on a Schools in Crisis Survey and published many of those as part of their Frames series. Here are a few of their results:

What do Americans think will improve lower-performing schools?

  • 76% – Greater family and parental involvement.
  • 70% – High-quality teachers
  • 35% – More involvement from faith communities

Who is responsible for education?

  • Primary Responsibility for education: 80% Parents
  • Most Important factor in a child’s education: 51% Parents
  • Most Important factor in raising achievement: 76% Parents

Americans think the church can help by . . .

  • Encouraging teachers
  • Helping with fund raising
  • Volunteering at local schools
  • Working with school boards
  • Helping promote reform

But the Church isn’t quite sure and often says:

  • None of our kids are in public school
  • Public schools don’t want religious groups
  • Public schools are too political
  • We don’t know how to help
  • Schools need more prayer not more help with their studies
  • Public school culture is contrary to church

This is ORANGE.

Orange Strategy

We have an equation that goes like this: 2 > 1 + 1

Two combined influences are greater than two influences.

But if we’re honest, there’s a third influence in a child’s life. School.

Every year:

  • Kids are at home for 3,000 hours.
  • Kids are at school for 1,600 hours.
  • Kids are at church for only 40 hours.

What if the church leveraged the time it had not only for the sake of the home but also for the school? On average a church could then influence a child’s life 4,600 hours. And not only the children that are coming into your ministry on Sunday, but those who have yet to enter the doors of your church.

Think about this.

  • 75% of kids in your town will never benefit from what you do inside the church because they will never GO inside your church.

If you want to reach them … you have to go to them.

That’s a ton of kids who will never come to your church. Thankfully, you can do something about this. Most schools—public schools included—want help from the faith community. Sure, they don’t want you to pray at a flag pole or protest the fact that public prayer can’t happen on the PA every morning. But there are ways that your church can get involved in your local schools.

Pathway to Public Schools:

This past year, Core Essential Values created a document to help you rethink how you can help your local schools.

SET UP A TIME TO MEET

Call the office and set a time to school staff and/or decision makers at the school. There will be many parents, maybe even the PTA, who will be excited and want to help you out, but you need buy in and approval from the people who matter.

Getting on the schedule may take time, and you may even need to start lower on the totem pole and work your way up to the principal or superintendent. Be patient. As you cast vision, people will get excited and want you to meet with the people who will ultimately give you the green light.

MEET IN THE SCHOOL

Once you figure out a time to meet, make sure you meet at the school. This is not about you and your church; this is about helping your local schools win with kids and families! Meet on their turf in their time frame with their rules. If that means you have to go after school hours, go after school hours. If you need background checks, allow them. Be willing to go the extra mile for the school.

Going to the school will ultimately show administration, that you’re willing to do what it takes to help.

BE POSITIVE

This is not a time to tell the school administration everything that’s wrong with public education. First of all, they know what’s wrong with public education. It’s their career path. Secondly, they have enough parents that come to them everyday telling them what’s wrong with their school. Your job is to be encouraging and come along side them to help kids and families.

ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP

Leave your agenda behind. Don’t go in with a definitive plan that can’t be adjusted. Schools may not want a full-on values-based program with a rocking School XP. They may just want help cutting out bulletin board letters or people to crowd-control the lunchroom. Just offer to help and see where helping taking you.

Serve with humility. Remember, you may be an “expert” in the church world, but you’re not on your turf. These school administrators and teachers are the experts. Don’t come in thinking you’re amazing and schools should be honored that you chose to serve them. Just be yourself and help where they need help. Humility will get you a long way.

Exceed expectations. Go above and beyond. Do the dirty work. Don’t just come in, do your program, and jet. Help set up and tear down. Sweep the floors. Put the chairs back in place. Let schools know that you mean business.

At the end of the day, being a church who impacts the community is what the church should be about. Do this, even if no one ever darkens the doors of your church. But stories from churches in the trenches of school ministries tell us that they get phone calls at least a few times a month from families going through issues or tragedy of some sort. They call the church because they’ve experienced the church’s no-strings-attached help at school. They know that you care and will be there for them no matter what.

Are you already partnering with public schools? I’d love to hear what you’re doing!  

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Dan Scott
Dan Scott serves as the elementary director at Ada Bible Church, which is outside of Grand Rapids, MI. He establishes the vision for programming including curriculum, volunteer care, and environment. Dan enjoys sharing ideas and encouragement from his life and ministry. He has a busy speaking and writing schedule and was recently named one of Children's Ministry Magazines' 20 leaders to watch. Dan and his wife Jenna have four kids: Liam, Ellison, Addison, and Taye.

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