Partnership is not a “one-off.” It is a relationship that is steady, recurring, and built on previous endeavors. That’s the case for the church-school partnership between St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Mendota Heights and Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul.
Thanks to initial funding from the 2015 Love Offering (30 percent of which went to church-school partnerships) and the leadership of Rev. Amy Jo Bur, Chris Archer, Carol Egan, and Janet Clegg from the church and their collaborators at the school, children and families in the area have been impacted in many positive ways.
In year one, a grant that the church received went toward the purchase of backpacks, school supplies, books, and an appreciation lunch for school staff at year’s end. Although the grant money ran out after the first year, the church decided to continue the partnership for a second year.
In addition to continuing efforts from year one, volunteers from the church have become mentors and tutors for students. They are helping out with school events. Additionally, the Church Council decided to partner with The Sheridan Story to stuff backpacks with food to send home with students so they wouldn’t go hungry on weekends; this is significant in a community in which 60 percent of students are on free or reduced lunches. And the church has been providing warm clothing to all students who have needed it this winter.
“The volunteers from St. Paul’s UMC have been a breath of fresh air for the entire staff,” school leaders said. “So often, working in a school can feel like working on an island where others don’t understand the challenges and joys we face every day. Working with volunteers from St. Paul’s, we never feel alone. We are full of gratitude!”
Deciding to form an ongoing partnership has made church members reflect on and consider in greater depth what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“I have had many people in our congregation tell me that they are grateful we are living into the example of Jesus in our own neighborhood,” said Archer. “We don’t have to cross the sea…we just drive down the road a few blocks and live out and into the compassion truths of Matthew 25.”
St. Paul’s UMC is stepping up its game. Members can’t wait to discover additional needs and seek God’s direction toward new opportunities. They know the seed planted through the Love Offering grant will continue to blossom. It’s going from one-off to on-board. Thanks be to God!
Apply for a church-school partnership grant for your church!
Rev. Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church