The growing number of congregations serving children and reconnecting with their communities is a major movement in The United Methodist Church. Partnering a church family with a public school can be a rewarding experience that blesses students and brings new vitality to the faith of volunteers and the life of the church. There are now at least 52 such partnerships in our conference.
A school is a microcosm of the greater community. Parents everywhere care about their children’s education. Something powerful happens when a church and its members make a sustained, long-term commitment to a local school.
These partnerships are more important than ever, because unfortunately, in almost every small town, suburb, or city, there are children who struggle to learn for various reasons. Some are food-insecure. It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry. English is a second language for an increasing number. Some family situations lead to a lack of adequate supervision. Parents are not always around to help with homework. Some even raise a concern about safety.
Education has a direct impact on children’s quality of life and their prospects for the future. As Christians, we are called to help them live up to their God-given potential. It makes sense for schools and churches to come together, not only to teach math and history and sciences, but to help build strong character, social skills, and the ability to live in community with each other.
The church has a special mandate to serve vulnerable people. We are called to share human, material, and financial resources with those less fortunate. Partnering with a local school is a Matthew 25 opportunity. The way you treat “the least of these” is the way you treat Jesus himself. Volunteers can be mentors, after-school aids, and classroom assistants. Churches can provide schools with food and clothing, financial resources for special needs, or funds for particular programs. They can become advocates for schools, students, teachers, and administrators. And as they do, they provide a glimpse of the reign of God in a world too often broken and in need of healing.
As a result of John Wesley’s dedication to it, Methodists have always been strong advocates of education. Wesley started the Kingswood School in a town of coal miners to whom he preached in Bristol, England. As the Methodist movement spread to the United States, so did the commitment to education. By the time of the Civil War, Methodists had started 200 schools. There are now more than 700 United Methodist-related schools in dozens of countries. United Methodists are living out Wesley’s vision to create educated, principled Christian leaders who transform the church and the world.
Here are three suggestions for those who want to join the movement:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church