Thirty-five ways pastors can support their school

Suggestions for enhancing the ministry of the pastor in Christian education

Stuart Tyner is director of the Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry, La Sierra University, Riverside, California.

The new pastor hadn't been in town three full days when a delegation of teachers, students, and parents showed up at his office. Boxes of books still cluttered the office floor, and pictures and framed diplomas leaned against the walls.

The church secretary rummaged through several Sabbath school rooms to find enough chairs for everyone, and within a few moments the entire delegation was seated in a circle around the pastor. An eighth-grader had been prompted to begin the session.

"We want to welcome you to our church," Amber said, "and let you know how much we anticipate your support of our school."

In the next half-hour the visitors presented their new pastor with a list of 35 ways he could demonstrate the value he placed on Christian education. It's a list all of us could benefit from. It is one we may refer to frequently, add to whenever a new idea comes to mind, and implement as far as we are able.

Unfortunately, many school communities tell stories of a lack of pastoral support. In many educational research projects we hear similar reports from superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students.

That may well not be the case with you! But read this list anyway, and reach out to put as many of these suggestions into practice as possible. Just a few simple actions on your part will demonstrate your goodwill to Adventist teachers and administrators and give tangible evidence of your support.

Support through church programs

1. Dedication ceremonies. At the beginning of every school year, hold a teacher-dedication service. Be sure the administration, faculty, staff, and board of the school are notified in advance and will be able to attend. Invite all those connected with the school to come to the front of the church or onto the platform. Give the participants flowers or other tokens of your appreciation for all their hard work. Talk of the accomplishments of the past school year, the advances made during the summer months, and the challenges that will be faced this year. Ask a student and a parent to join you in a prayer of dedication.

2. School groups. During the school year, be sure to invite school musical groups to take part in the worship services. Introduce the director, interview a couple of students, and thank the group publicly. After the performance, write a Thank-you note to the director and ask him or her to read the note to the entire group.

3. Church communications. Feature announcements and notices of school activities in your church bulletin and in your newsletter. In fact, it would be great to have a regular column in your newsletter that talks about school life. Ask different faculty members and students to contribute to the column.

4. Bulletin boards. Display pictures of school activities and outings on your church bulletin boards. Circle kids who are members of your church and note their name and year in school on the margins of the display. You might even want to leave space in the display for the students to autograph the pictures in which they appear.

5. Congratulations. Highlight the achievements of teachers and school groups. Announce awards and honors, the completion of advanced degrees, anniversaries ("ten years teaching at our school," etc.), and academic and athletic achievements.

Support through sermons

6. Sermon illustrations. Use illustrations in your sermons that come from the school world of children, not just from the adult worlds of business, parenting, etc. Know when the kids are facing tests, when dramatic occurrences (such as the injury of a classmate, the illness of a parent or teacher, or a school mission trip) are on the minds of the children, or when specific challenges are causing stress. Speak to those realities.

7. Guest speakers. From time to time, share the pulpit or the responsibility for teaching a Sabbath school class with the conference educational superintendent, the principal, or teachers from the school. How ever, reserve the sermon on your conference's "Education Day" for yourself.

8. Quotations. Occasionally during your sermons quote the principal or a teacher or even a portion of a conversation you had with a student. You could say something like this: "The other day while I was at the school talking to our principal, she said to me..."

9. The good old days. Speak often about the good things that happened to you while you were attending Adventist schools.

10. Core values. Whenever you discuss the core values of your church, be sure to include Christian education.

Support through unscheduled appearances at school

11. Good mornings. Show up at school bright and early on a school morning and just stand at the curb and welcome the kids to school. Tell the students you just wanted to see them and wish them a good day.

12. Sack lunches. Take a sack lunch to school someday and eat lunch with the kids. Ask them if it's OK for you to offer the blessing for them and then have a great time talking with the kids about what's happening.

13. Lunch is on me. Announce ahead of time that you're going to provide lunch on a particular school day this week. Take pizza, salad, cookies, and soft drinks for all the kids who are members of your church. Encourage them to bring one of their friends to lunch.

14. Tour guide. Serve as a tour guide for new families in your church. Make the school your first stop. Introduce the new family to the principal and as many teachers as you can. Enlist the assistance of your members who are students in the same grades as the children in the new family.

15. Videotape. Videotape interviews with kids at school. Use the tape to introduce your sermon, to be part of a video church directory, or just for good memories.

Support through scheduled appointments at school

16. School worships. Volunteer to provide worships at school. Try to give a worship in every classroom at least once during the school year (the smaller your school, the more worships you can give). Also ask the principal if you can give worship for the teachers from time to time.

17. Bible class. Talk with your school's Bible teacher about teaching a Bible class now and then during the year. Explore the Bible curriculum to find areas of special interest to you.

18. Baptismal class. Be sure to provide a regular baptismal class for students who are thinking about this important step in their life. Hold the class at the school and announce during a school assembly the names of the students who are going to be baptized.

19. SDAs in public school. Arrange for a time and place at the school where you can hold a small group meeting for SDA kids who attend public school. You won't need to talk about Adventist education to this group; this is a time for spiritual growth, not marketing. But just holding the meeting at the school will help to break down some of the barriers these kids may feel.

20. Visiting chaplain. Ask your principal if you can set up regular times to open an office for a visiting chaplain. Two or three hours a week, go to the office, open the door, and be prepared to do some counseling. Walk in the hallways during lunchtime and in between classes and greet the kids. Before long they'll know why you're there and come to see you with lots of questions.

More things to do at school

21. Work bee. Help organize a work detail to show up at school on a Sunday morning and accomplish whatever tasks teachers tell you need to be done. They may want you to build new bookshelves, repair desks, plant flowers, paint walls, clean blinds, or accomplish a dozen other landscaping or maintenance chores.

22. Build the library. Buy an extra copy of a great, new book you're reading and donate it to the school library. You could also encourage your church members to donate CD ROMS and videotapes, such as the excellent ones from National Geographic or the Discovery Channel.

23. Get connected. Do a little research, find the best price, and arrange the financing to get one classroom connected to the Internet.

24. Provide transportation. Occasion ally, when classes at the school are going on a field trip, volunteer to provide transportation. Use the time to get better acquainted with your students. Before you leave on the trip, do a little extra study about the place you'll be visiting so you can answer questions in the car on the way back to school. Refer to the experience in your next sermon.

25. Master calendar. Take the initiative in the middle of the summer to meet with the administrators of your school to plan a master calendar. You'll avoid lots of conflict by getting school activities on your calendar and your high days on theirs. Be sure to include such activities as band and choir trips, other music programs, special days of emphasis, alumni homecoming, graduation, and Weeks of Prayer.

Supporting students and their families

26. Working together. Study again the Valuegenesis findings about the power of the home, the church, and the school working together. Appoint a committee from your membership of students, parents, and teachers. Meet with the group and explore new ways of cooperating for the good of your children and youth.

27. Mentoring students. Organize a mentoring program for the students of your school by matching adults in your church with students interested in entering that particular field of employment. Ask the adults to invite their student to spend occasional after-school hours working with them at their place of business. The more qualified adults you can connect with students, the more the program will benefit both the students and your members.

28. Sponsor a club. Volunteer to sponsor a club (like the Ski Club) or an activity (like a choir or band trip). If someone objects that this will take you away from spending time with your members, remind them that these kids are your members.

29. Establish church scholarships. Include church scholarships in your annual budget. Invite donors to give money to this specific fund. Establish a committee to set criteria for receiving the scholarship and ask the school to help you identify potential recipients. When the award is presented, make it a major part of the church service.

30. Parenting groups. Take responsibility for starting small-group meetings for young parents in your congregation. Study biblical principles of family life, discuss the importance of family worship, teach how to discipline within a grace orientation, and explore standards and other topics so important to the development of a child's faith.

Additional personal support

31. Your children. Send your kids to the school. You'll take more responsibility for the excellence of the school program when your own children are being affected.

32. Home and School. Be active in your support of the Home and School organization. Publicize the meetings at church, attend the meetings regularly, and volunteer to be part of Home and School projects.

33. School board. Be faithful in attending school-board meetings. Many pastors demonstrate their support by assuming the responsibilities of the school-board chair.

34. Raising money. Be a leader in the development work needed by your school. Help raise specific budgets for scholarships, mission trips, equipment, improvement, etc.

35. Excellent teachers. Keep a list of excellent teachers whom you know personally. When openings occur in your school, recommend names of people who you feel fit the position and have the proper qualifications.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Stuart Tyner is director of the Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry, La Sierra University, Riverside, California.

October 1998

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