We want to give a big thank you to the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices March “Vestry Papers” newsletter, focused on Inspiring Advocacy, for running a great feature on All Our Children. Below, read an excerpt from our article about things we’ve observed about church-school partnerships so far, and CLICK HERE to read the whole piece.
What we’ve observed:
Local church-school partnerships are as different as the congregations and neighborhoods that form them.
Each partnership emerges in the local context and from a grassroots community that seeks to respond to a missional opportunity in their neighborhood out of their hearts’ desire to care for children. Most partnerships emerged outside diocesan structures and very far outside denominational structures.
There is no one right way to do this.
So we do not need to be experts. This should give us hope!
Building a relationship is hard.
We need to be both patient and persistent. We accept that turnover in school leaders and teachers happens regularly. We show up over and over, and we don’t go away, nor do we arrive with pre-packaged solutions or quick fixes to the school’s challenges.
The system is the problem, but you can’t start there.
Schools are subject to enormous external pressure and regulation from the state, local leaders, and federal requirements. Partners focus on school-level issues, learn from those closest to the issue (students, parents, and teachers), and build coalitions with other community organizations and faith communities, so their understanding is based on diverse perspectives.
Partnerships grow toward complexity and impact over time.
Emerging partnerships focus on building trust by being consistently reliable. They often begin by responding to immediate student needs (food, supplies, tutoring) and supporting teachers (with appreciation lunches, at science fairs, and service days).
They focus on growing their volunteer corps in commitment, size, and awareness of issues. Sometimes they learn and pray together away from the school.
More mature partnerships have layers of complexity and depth. They employ local youth in the after-school programs; lobby for changes in rapid transit so parents can get to the good jobs; and collaborate in statewide campaigns to fund the renovation of outdated urban school buildings.
Try This: How is your neighborhood calling you right now? Are you interested in working with under resourced urban schools in your area? What could your congregation do to help every child reach their full potential by supporting their right to quality public education?