Thanks to Lyndy Zabel, Global Connections and Missional Initiatives Coordinator for the MN Annual Conference of the UMC for sharing this Great Idea.

Zabel’s post references Jake McGlothin’s 2017 book, The Mission-Minded Guide to Church and School Partnerships (Abingdon) which lays out the numerous and varied needs schools and their students and families experience throughout the diverse settings in which our schools are located. These diverse needs and experiences mean that congregations can support the work of schools in diverse ways, including:

  • basic needs such as clothing and/or hygiene
  • material needs of school supplies
  • school needs like landscape or hallway beautification
  • financial needs
  • space needs such as rooms for programming
  • relational needs such as mentoring, tutoring, child-care, meals, staff appreciation, etc.

Zabel highlights some essential guiding principles to help congregations get started, the most basic of which is establishing and nurturing relationships; a long-term commitment is essential to the worth and grace of the offering.

Zabel also focuses on the safety and needs of the children and the importance of following the school’s lead on background checks and appropriate training.

Our neighborhood high school is flanked by two large congregations, both of which are more or less in a direct line to where students walk for public bus transportation. Could these congregations find people to support after-school tutoring? Cold-weather drop-in on the way to or from school? Safe space for PSEO students waiting for after-school programming? The needs are many!!

Another approach is to develop relationships with particular students around their interests: music, dance, arts, technologies/media, leadership etc. Create opportunities for students to learn – and share – in these specific areas. For instance, with no pretext of conversion or proselyting, I went to our public high school’s dance class and asked students to participate in a particularly involved liturgical dance. The service was a celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church, so many students were supportive – six excellent dancers signed-up on the spot; only one had any affiliation with Christianity or a church. In the course of working through the multiple parts of the service in which they would dance, we had deep discussions about the Psalm for the day, learned about the Gospel lesson, discussed both Baptism and Communion, and broke down several barriers of understanding and interest. Teenagers danced in this inter-city worship service that was so much richer for their presence, and in the process, discovered nuances and theologies they didn’t know Christians held.

Every community and therefore every school and congregation present their own challenges and needs, and their own strengths and gifts, so each relationship between a school and congregation will be unique. But developing these relationships, says Zabel, will be transformative and a ‘win’ for all involved.

Read Lyndy Zabel’s full post here.

Additional ways to engage youth in the community can be found in these Great Ideas: