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How to Partner with a Neighborhood School
Partnering with a local elementary school is a proven, implementable strategy to engage in meaningful relationships with members of your surrounding community. Get started by organizing a meeting with the principal, guidance counselor, church volunteers, and the members of the school’s staff. Plan your agenda before the meeting, including a time to get to know each other and opportunities to exchange stories that capture the mission of the church and the school. After establishing a rapport among the group, ask the questions below to assess the current environment of the school. These questions are designed to identify the existing assets of the school as well as current needs.
- What is one goal your school wants to accomplish this year?
- How can we help you reach it?
- What are you doing well?
- How can we help you do it better?
- Where does the staff need help or support?
- How can we enhance an existing program?
- What needs do teachers have?
- What needs do students have?
- How can we be a part of your celebrations or carnivals?
- How can we help you support parents?
- What other churches or organizations partner with you? How might we collaborate with them?
After examining the responses to the questions, develop ideas or solutions through joint visioning among the group, working together in the true spirit of collaboration by placing special emphasis on common goals and purpose.
Here are some program ideas to jumpstart the partnership process. The possibilities are as wide as your imagination.
- Fill backpacks every September for the children whose parents cannot afford required school supplies.
- Purchase school uniforms for children who need them. In January, supply additional clothing for cold weather, including socks and underwear.
- Partner with the school PTA and host back-to-school nights by providing refreshments and a set-up and clean-up crew.
- Volunteer to staff the fall book fair.
- Provide lunch for teachers during a Teacher In-Service day.
- Invite your congregation’s knitting ministry (If you don’t have one, start one!) to knit hats, scarves, and mittens for one class at a time in your partner school. Buy yarn in fun colors the children will enjoy. Set a goal to meet and announce it to your congregation. Celebrate milestones toward meeting your goal.
- During cold and flu season, collect and distribute tissue and hand sanitizer for each classroom.
- Provide volunteers to read with children.
- Provide math tutors.
- Provide volunteer support for the school’s computer lab. Can your support make it possible to keep this lab open longer, at lunch, after school, or on Saturday morning? Develop a program in which the children at the school can help your congregation’s senior citizens or the children’s grandparents learn how to use the computer.
- Collect a special offering to buy a book for each child in the school and then have a party at the end of the school year to present the books to children to help them start or add to their at-home library. Have the school librarian select books appropriate to the children’s interests and reading levels.
- Provide volunteers for special activities at your partner school— the science fair, history day, young authors, a music competition, or a carnival. Senior citizens can become the subjects of oral history or connect students to other primary sources from an earlier time.
- Be test proctors for the school’s standardized testing week.
Once your partnership program begins, be sure to share stories about it during worship and throughout your congregation’s communication channels. Celebrate the relationships that are being developed, the progress kids are making, and the joy your volunteers are experiencing. People want to know that God is working through your church to offer Christ to a hurting world. When they hear the God story, they’ll be motivated to join the mission.