There is no greater place in your community to impact more people for God than at your local schools. For every child that attends a school, there is a family. For every teacher, staff and administrator, there is a family. Many area businesses provide goods and services for the schools. There are very few people in your community that are not connected in some way to a school campus. When a church ministers to a school, it ministers to an entire community.
Now, I know you may have heard someone say, “God’s not allowed in schools, so our church can’t minister there.” God is God. He can go anywhere and do anything He wants. In fact, the Bible says God is omnipresent, so that means He is already at school! And many school administrators are open to the faith-based community because they see the value of collaboration. There is a common goal we share: helping students to thrive.
So, the question is, “How will we work with God in our local schools? ”
Here are five steps and three principles you and your church can use to begin ministering to a school and make God real at the campus:
- Pray for the campus. Ask students and staff for prayer requests. Pray for each student and staff member by name (use a yearbook). Do prayer walks on your campus. Build a Prayer Zone around your school.
- Ask for the school’s needs. Ask teachers, administrators and students that are members of your church what they need for their classrooms or areas of responsibility and provide. Word will spread quickly that you are ready and willing to serve and others will request assistance. This will help build trust to open the door for step #3.
- Set up a meeting with the administration to ask them what needs they have as a school. Meet with the guidance counselors to learn about needs the students have.
- Meet one need. Once you have met one need, begin meeting others. NOTE: You will not be able to meet every need, but you may be able recruit other churches and other businesses who can meet needs your church is unable to.
- Start asking “What do you wish for?” Teachers and administrators have a long list of needs…the things they must have in order to educate students. What really gets interesting and creative is when you ask them what they wish they could do for their students. Most teachers and administrators have a “wish list” of things they have always wanted to do for their students but do not have the time, money or energy. Meeting a needs is a blessing, but meeting a wish is something much more powerful! Get involved! Join the parent/teacher organization, the band/athletic boosters, chaperone school dances, proctor standardized tests, mentor and assist students serving in campus ministries at the school…get involved wherever you see an opportunity.
- Expect nothing in return. One of the first things you will encounter is that the school will suspect you of having ulterior motives and wonder if they can trust you and your church. Most of the time these concerns are legitimate, because they have been burned and mislead in the past by people claiming to have the school’s best interests at heart, when in reality, they had other plans. The school, although desperate for help, will not share their major needs and wishes with you until they know they can trust you. For example, when you provide notebooks for students, don’t slip in a gospel tract or flyer for your youth ministry. When they ask you to volunteer at the school, don’t show up with your Christian t-shirts on.
- Ask God to open doors. If you approach every opportunity to serve as an opportunity to “preach,” your ministry at the school will not last long. While school officials are concerned about any ulterior motives you may have, they also understand that there is a greater purpose involved in your service. When serving students or adults at the school, simply meet their need…don’t force any spiritual discussion or direction. Trust that God will use your service to work in the hearts of those you are serving and that He will provide opportunities outside of your service to minister to them spiritually. (By the way, Jesus was a master at meeting physical needs first, them addressing spiritual needs.) So when you are chaperoning a dance, be polite and respectful of the students. If you catch two of them making out, politely ask them to stop but don’t give them a lecture on “True Love Waits.” Then, when you run into the students in the hallway of school the next week, or in Walmart the next day, they may approach you and ask you why you are always at their school—or why you didn’t lower the boom on them like they expected. That’s when God opens the door for ministry to the soul.
- Earn and keep trust. Be overly protective of any favor that you gain with the school administration. All it takes is for one person to cross a line or cause someone to complain, and the administration may limit or cut off your ability to serve. This would include blatant “proselytizing,” disruption of class time, or causing a burden to be placed on someone at the school. For example, if you serve the football team bottled water for practice and the school custodian has to put in extra work to pick up all the empty water bottles scattered across the practice field, that person may complain to the administration. Remember that your goal is to relieve stress on the school, not to create it…to be a blessing, not a burden.
The opportunity to minister to schools is wide open! We must simply do so in a way that honors and respects the school and its rules, while at the same time honors God with our servants hearts.
Here is a list of things our church has done to serve the high school that sits across the street from our church. Please leave a comment and share any ministry ideas you have for schools.
- The band & ROTC use our gym for band camp and drill team practice.
- Provide the guidance staff male and female toiletry kits. Serve at the prom each year as bathroom attendants and parking lot attendants and provide hair and make-up artists to fix “wardrobe malfunctions.”
- Provide breakfast for students and parents at orientation.
- Provide water, cookies and chips to staff during teacher work days.
- Provide coffee to assist the PTA serving breakfast to teachers and staff.
- Serve in crisis response, coordinating teens at the hospital and helping with communication between students, the hospital, parents and the schools. Coordinate with the guidance staff to connect local youth pastors to be available for counseling students after the death of a student. Provide umbrellas for teachers on bus duty.
- The school’s preschool program used our nursery for two years when their school had mold problems.
- Youth group participates in prayer events for the campus throughout the year.
- Provide volunteers for field days and proctors for standardized tests.
- Administration has used the sanctuary for teacher training when school was undergoing renovations.
The schools need our help and want our help. So, what are you waiting for?
This article originally appeared here.