Serving Our Public Schools

Recently one of our staff members attended a meeting hosted by two political figures explaining possible legislation that could impact the funding formula for Indiana public schools.  The attendees were primarily public school educators who were understandably concerned about the future.  A one point a teacher rose to her feet and said,

“Teaching used to be a noble profession.  That isn’t true any more.  I could not in good conscience encourage a young person to go into education today.  It’s just not worth it.”

I wonder how many teachers feel the same way today?

A complicated issue for our state

I don’t pretend to have the magic bullet when it comes to solving the educational challenges faced by our state.  It is disconcerting that we continue to spend significantly more money per pupil with marginal results.  Our state simply does not have the fiscal ability to continue to increase our financial support for education without significantly raising taxes.  “We can’t afford it” is a phrase that seems to be lost on many people in this debate.

On the other hand, teachers report that they face greater expectations with fewer resources all the time.  In many schools, elementary teachers no longer have prep periods or speciality teachers to supplement the curriculum.  They carry loads of work home each night and weekend yet read endless reports about how poorly our schools are doing.  Working in an discouraging environment like that can be exhausting over time.

A great opportunity for the church

The apostle Paul concluded his letter to Titus by saying,

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14).

Place that verse next to the teacher’s comment mentioned above in your mind and see if a solution emerges.  What a great opportunity for the church to marshall our resources to be a blessing to the good people who are doing their best to educate our community’s children in our local schools.

Let’s put feet to Paul’s command to “engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs.”  You probably know that a new public elementary school is being constructed one-half mile south of our church and is scheduled to open this fall.  Scott Grass, the administrator of Faith Christian School, has volunteered to lead an initiative to explore as many ways as possible to lighten the load of our new educational neighbors and be a blessing to them in as many ways as possible.

Scott has already been in contact with our county’s School Superintendent and the new school’s principal to let them know of our willingness and desire to serve them.  Here’s a list of some of the ways we may be able to be a blessing to them:

  1. Offering the use of our facilities, especially our community center, for training sessions and other meetings while their building is still under construction.  I am happy to tell you that they have already taken us up on this offer and hosted their kindergarten round-up in the community center a couple of weeks ago.  The event went very well and it gave us an opportunity to communicate that even though we have a kindergarten here at Faith, we still want to serve others who may choose a different educational option for their children.  We want to position ourselves as friendly co-laborers, not antagonistic competitors.
  2. Offering to organize work teams to help with clean-up and set-up as the new building is being completed.  Anyone associated with a new building project can attest to the amount of dust and debris that has to be cleaned and removed.  Then there is the issue of unpacking equipment and moving furniture.  Imagine the look on a tired teacher’s face if a group of friends offered to help her with these tasks.
  3. Providing treats and snacks for the new staff.  Many teachers start their day very early in the morning.  Why not organize and deploy a team to place a great array of fruit, bagels, sweet rolls, juice, and coffee from time to time with a note of thanks for all that our public school teachers are doing?  A sweet word of encouragement can go a long way in being a blessing to those the Lord has placed around us.
  4. Organizing before and after care programs.  We have communicated to our new friends that we stand ready to provide whatever additional services are needed by busy parents.  We understand that many of the students come from single-parent families who are facing an array of challenges everyday.  If their work schedules require their children to be cared for before or after the normal school day, we will be happy to try to organize safe, affordable childcare modeled after the love of Christ.
  5. Using our Faith Christian students for student tutoring and mentoring programs.  Many organizations are coming to understand the power and efficacy of mentoring.  At Faith we have a great resource of young people, many of whom are heading the right direction and have something to share with others.  Why not deploy that resource for students who need tutoring or mentoring?
  6. Encouraging our senior saints to volunteer for student reading programs.  Many teachers would love it if an adult would be willing to come and help a student or group of students learn to read.  We have many dynamite senior citizens in our church who have a lifetime of love and experience to share.  This new public school will be a tremendous opportunity to bring resources and needs together.
  7. Offering to serve as “teachers’ assistants.” Some public schools have initiated programs where volunteers come in and make copies for teachers or take care of other routine tasks that allows the teacher to concentrate on his/her core responsibilities.

What do you think?

We do not know how many of these ideas might become realities at the new public school.  Over the years we have learned the importance of “walking before we run.”  So it may be years before we have developed the kind of trusting relationships necessary to have a genuine community partnership.  But you have to start somewhere.

What do you think of these ideas and how would you add to the list?

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.