Discover the keys to effective ministry: clarity in vision, communication, and focusing on what truly matters. Simplify and engage!
Building Strong Church-School Relationships
It's the first day of school, and emotions are running high. After Mass this past weekend, I saw one of our seniors, and I asked her if she was ready. Her response was simple and profound: "It's a lot to take in." I could see that she was both excited and nervous; this is her last year of school, and what lies ahead of her is wide open.
I think we often forget how significant school is in a young person's life. It's where they spend most of their time, a place to learn, grow, and develop relationships. No matter how much I want the Church to be at the center of their lives, school dominates. However, that doesn't mean school is a competition; instead, it's an opportunity.
If the local church wants to have more influence in the lives of families, it needs to learn how to work better with schools. This isn't always easy, as different school administrations might not always be welcoming to the Church. So, if the relationship between the local church and the school isn't established, how does one go about developing it?
MAKE YOURSELF PRESENT WHEN POSSIBLE
The wonderful thing about schools is that they host numerous events each year. From sports and theater to music and open houses, most schools open their doors to the community. The question is, "Will you be there?"
As a member of the community and a representative of the parish, it's critical to attend soccer games, musicals, and art shows. If you're not comfortable going alone, find a volunteer from your ministry, a coworker from the parish, or a parent to accompany you. Make sure you research to know if any of your teens or kids are participating.
If you see them, commend them on their hard work. Ask the students questions about their activities and show them that you are engaged. And if possible, try to meet teachers, counselors, coaches, or any other adults representing the school. Simply introduce yourself and thank them for coordinating this opportunity to showcase the students.
PARTNER WITH ALREADY-INVOLVED ORGANIZATIONS
Every Monday afternoon, we have a club at the local middle school. As a volunteer with Campus Life (Youth For Christ), I meet with students to discuss life and faith. It's only an hour, but it's an opportunity to contribute to something that's already making a positive impact on the local school.
Being part of an organization like Young Life, Youth For Christ, or Fellowship of Christian Athletes can grant you access to a school that your parish might not otherwise have. You don't have to start your own ministry to bridge the gap between you and the school. To learn more about these organizations, visit their websites and explore how you can get involved; they are always in need of volunteers.
MAKE COLD CALLS AND GET TO KNOW THE ADMINISTRATION
Every year, I sit down with our parish school principal to discuss the upcoming year. Occasionally, our discussions lead to ideas that become events or initiatives, but the primary goal is to check in with each other and learn from one another.
I used to be more proactive about doing the same with some of the public schools. I would call the office and inquire about setting up an appointment with a principal or vice principal. This approach has succeeded a few times, while other times I received no response. Regardless, the times I've connected with the school administration have been rewarding. We discuss what we're witnessing in the lives of the students we all serve, gaining a broader perspective on everything happening so that we can address significant challenges affecting us all.
Whether the majority of your young people attend public, private, or Catholic schools, your presence is crucial. Your presence serves as a witness to the students, teachers, and parents. It's not about creating drama but about investing in a relationship that can profoundly impact the lives of the next generation.