The mission field down the street
The church's relationship with public education is tenuous at best. Church leaders have generally been critical of educational philosophy when values clarification, social issues, and a secular agenda have co-opted traditional educational goals. As a result, many believers have withdrawn their children from public schools to either attend church based institutions or participate in the growing home-school movement. Down the grid of educational hierarchy and government organizational charts, however, are those who pull-off the classroom time day-to-day, and the millions of students who must rely on the state system for their life preparation. It is the mission field down the street for many Christian congregations. They are the ones Paul wrote to the Romans about, in part, when he penned these questions---
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are
they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless
they are sent?
Romans 10: 14-15, ESV
Some of the most meaningful times I've ever experienced in 35 years of pastoral ministry occurred during our church partnership with the neighborhood public elementary school. What was involved?
1. All teacher in-service training events were sponsored by and held at our
church, meals, supplies, and nice surroundings.
2. Every teacher was adopted by a family or group in the church. The sponsor
family or group sent notes of encouragement, provided classroom supplies not
provided by the school district, and were generally encourages to the teachers
for an entire year. If teachers didn't want a partner, fine.
3. Church volunteers worked in the classrooms, participated in reading programs,
assisted in the cafeteria, and helped in ways requested by the principal, the
school nurse, or athletic coaches.
4. Every year the church received school supplies and uniforms to be distributed
to students with financial needs.
5. Every year the church raised funds to provide a major capital item not provided
by the school system. One year it was walkway covers to the portable units.
Another year it was a new sign.
In the process our volunteers let their light shine. In these secular times, especially since our partnership hours happened when school was in session, a more verbal, public witness was difficult. Somehow in the mystery of his ways, they knew we were representing him. On several occasions when Harriet and I were at Wal-Mart a student or parent would approach us and thank us for our ministry to them. Each year when I served as Principal for a Day the faculty, staff, and students were appreciative.
It's sad to say, but government has frightened us into our buildings. Our fear of losing our tax exempt status as a result of violating some federal statute has silenced us in a few of our most critical mission fields, public education among them. Even more, we should be first to line to assist the wonderful Christian people who serve in this secular world---the local administrators, principals, teachers, assistants, and coaches who attend our churches every week and go into that world every Monday.
Beyond school hours, churches can even teach Sunday School curriculum to students who voluntarily attend church sponsored Good News Clubs. This is bold Bible teaching that is totally legal and permitted in South Carolina and other states. In our two closest school districts local principals can approve sponsorship of these clubs in their schools. Please go here if you'd like information about how your church can participate in this outstanding ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship.
What a blessing to witness so much enthusiasm for summer missions. What an even greater blessing to know churches whose mission includes the mission field down the street or around the corner, their local school. Since another school years starts soon, let's covenant right now to pray---
1. For all of the students who will be in our various school systems this year.
2. As you're out and about every morning and afternoon, pray for the occupants
and drivers of school buses you encounter on the highway.
3. For all the people working in your school system or school house.
4. To ask God to show you where you could be a missionary to the mission field in
5. To tell your church leaders you want to be part of a Good News Club in your
Jesus said it. You and I should obey it---
"...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem..."
Acts 1:8, ESV