It is hard to unravel all the implications of COVID-19, divisive politics and racial divisions in the U.S., and the impact on public schools will be something educators will be navigating for years to come.

Teachers like me have been too busy on the front lines of public education to reflect on these issues in any meaningful way.

However, I began to think more about how people can help teachers after my pastor shared with me recently that he would like to see our church continue, and even expand, the ways in which our church partners with public schools.

I am proud to work in a public school. I am equally proud to be a member of a church that stands for the importance of investing energy, time and money in our school district.

I believe that there are at least four ways in which churches could expand their influence in public schools and their local mission and ministry footprint. But let me first acknowledge several of my presuppositions.

First, public education has become a political football, and the truth is often lost because of the politics of the day. Second, public education is essential to make sure that we have an educated workforce. Third, every child deserves a high quality instruction.

With that said, here are four avenues for local houses of faith to engage their community schools.

1. Stand in the gap to minister to educators.

Teachers have not been immune to burn out, covid-fatigue or work shortages during “the great resignation.” Local churches have given our school food, notes of encouragement, supplies and pledges of support. These efforts have had a huge impact on our campus.

2. Minister to parents with school-age kids.

It has been a century since parents had to decide whether or not to send their child to school during a pandemic. Parents have also been plagued with guilt over not being able to give enough educational support and assistance to their children.

Houses of faith could hold seminars on what it means to raise a child in difficult times. Parents would likely welcome others to walk alongside them as they navigate uncharted waters.

3. Partner with Title 1 schools in significant ways.

At Cypress Springs High School in the Houston area, we held a Christmas store where students could “buy” gifts for family members with “Panther bucks” – tickets students earn for good behavior, academic success and so forth.

Bear Creek Baptist Church supported this project and others like graduate gift baskets. They also supported our Fellowship of Christian Athletes in significant ways and increased the help teachers were able to give students.

  1. Support students and teachers directly.

I have friends at my church that support my students. One of them is named Carrie who brings snacks for my students every week. I cannot say thanks enough to Carrie and other friends who support my students in various ways.

I have also received many significant financial gifts from individuals for my students, which are used to purchase school uniforms, snacks, supplies and gift cards for students. Every donation goes directly to a student in some way or another, depending on where the donations are directed.

I have advantages other teachers don’t always have – family, friends and a church that believes in me and my students and in what we are doing.

What do donors receive in return? I keep them up to date on my Facebook page with stories about my kids. Of course, I protect my students’ privacy by not releasing names, but their stories are real and often inspiring.

It is my way of showing that it is not time to abandon public schools. As a matter of fact, there has never been a better time for houses of faith and people of good faith to partner with public schools.

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