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UPCOMING EVENTS

Bowl Across America
for Special Touch
Various dates and locations
Beginning March 4, 2017

April is
Second Chances Month!
Learn more at
prisonfellowship.org

 

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Education has long been viewed as a key to success.  Neighborhoods are judged as more or less desirable based on the quality of their schools.  Depression-era parents sacrificed to send children to school, hoping an education would lead to a job.  Black parents during the civil rights movement of the 1960's encouraged their children to get a college education as a way to succeed in spite of discrimination. Even with escalating tuition costs, some type of post-high school training is still widely considered the best route to a good job.  Federal and state lawmakers regularly debate funding formulas and policy decisions aimed at making education accessible to every child.

How does education affect the Church, and how does it become compassionate ministry?  In some suburban communities and small towns, social life revolves around school programs and sports events, and nearly everyone in town participates with pride.  For other communities, however, the reality of school means low test scores, high drop-out percentages, violence, and a struggle to attract and retain good teachers.  Teachers, for their part, often feel overwhelmed even in the best of schools; they face evaluations based on the test scores of students with challenges beyond the teacher's control; they incorporate IEP's to meet a staggering number of individual special needs; they work much longer hours than the school day itself; and they invest their own money into professional development or advanced degrees to retain certification, often for salaries lower than comparably-educated professionals earn in the private sector.  Some communities take pride in being home to a prestigious college or beloved state university, and yet those same campuses must work to address problems of sexual violence and alcohol abuse among their students.

There are several key areas in which the local church can show their communities that they care about students and teachers--particularly those in challenging circumstances.  Resources and ideas presented here fall into four main categories:  Supporting local public schools and teachers; ministering to area college students; providing ESL classes for immigrants and refugees; and encouraging basic functional literacy for citizens of their communities.

 
Supporting the local public schools

Local public schools face a constant challenge to operate within budget, to retain quality teachers, and, increasingly, to provide support services for children from disadvantaged or dysfunctional neighborhoods or home environments.  Churches can do much to support the schools in their neighborhoods and to show appreciation and encouragement to teachers and staff, and several ministry groups have developed specific resources:

  • Youth Alive - This Assemblies of God ministry mobilizes high school students to reach their peers for Christ and empowers churches to connect with their local schools.  Initiatives include "The Seven Project" assemblies and "Our Schools Matter."  Contact the national Youth Alive office or National YA Campus Ministry Coordinator Kent Hulbert to get started.  (Click here for a recent PE News article about this ministry.) Other YA missionaries work in different areas of the country--click on the name to find out more about a ministry near you:
       - Jessica Riner (Georgia)
       - John Ginnan (New York)
       - Kyle Embry (North Texas)
       - Tom Bachman (Oregon)
       - Wes Sheley (Oregon/Southern Idaho)
       - Joe & Natalie Barnoske (Peninsular Florida)
       - Forrest Rowell (Rocky Mountain)
       - Brad Keller (Southern Missouri, Northern Missouri)
       - Kevin Zurrica (Southern New England)
  • Youth Alive and a number of other ministries are members of the Campus Alliance, a coalition committed to bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to every student.  Find resources at www.everyschool.com.
  • Rural Compassion - As a ministry of Convoy of Hope, U.S. Missionary and Compassionate Missionary Council member Steve Donaldson helps resource rural pastors and churches to partner with their local schools, distributing food, shoes, backpacks, and other supplies to needy kids in rural areas. Read one congregation's "adopt a school" experience here.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters "Lunch Buddies" - volunteer to spend time at lunch with a student who just needs a friend. 
  • National Church Adopt-A-School Initiative - Prompted by Dr. Tony Evans' response to a Dallas high school's request for help, this program provides resources and training for churches to support and partner with neighborhood schools. 


College campus/college student ministry

Some colleges and universities have a variety of campus-based ministries to conduct outreach and provide opportunities for Christian students to find fellowship.  As U.S. society becomes increasingly secularized, these ministries face increased restrictions and can benefit from strong relationships with churches in the area.  Students also benefit from the multi-generational fellowship of a local church in addition to campus ministry among their peers.  Some campuses, particularly community colleges and trade schools, do not have ministry groups, and are thus a mission field for the church to provide facilities and opportunities for discipleship and fellowship.

Resources for ministry to college students:

International students are a mission field right here in the United States: What an opportunity to impact other countries, as students who come for an education find Christ through campus ministries or interaction with Christian students who attend caring local churches, and then return home to share their faith! Several resources are available to help:

  • From the webinar archives at EthneCITY - "Loving International Students"
  •  "Say Hello" - from Global Initiative, the AG World Missions ministry to Muslims, this ministry equips women to reach out to Muslim women on college campuses and through everyday interactions.
  • Chi Alpha Internationals - this branch of the Assemblies of God campus ministry, Chi Alpha, focuses on intentionally engaging international students in caring friendships.  Many of the ideas in their downloadable Resource Manual are easily adaptable to the local church context as well as for use by existing campus ministries.


ESL

Although the question of immigration reform and immigrant status is a hotly debated political topic, most people would agree that gaining basic proficiency in English is of inestimable value in getting a job, navigating a new city, or studying for citizenship.  The United States Census Bureau reported in 2014 that, although 44% of immigrants since 2000 report speaking English at home or speaking it "very well," about 13% did not speak it at all, with the remainder falling somewhere in between and influenced by other factors such as level of education.  Churches that provide facilities, curriculum materials, or teachers to assist their new neighbors in learning English are showing the love of Christ in a practical way and creating opportunities to new friends to Him. 

Several U.S. Missionaries work directly with ESL learners, and some offer training for churches wishing to start a ministry outreach with ESL.  Contact any of these missionaries directly or call the Intercultural Ministries Department of U.S. Missions for more information:  

Other resources for teaching ESL:

  • "Window to the World" from the Jesus Film Project - 12 interactive lessons using clips from the Jesus Film in the student's "heart language" to begin teaching English.

 

Literacy

A surprising percentage of adults in the United States are functionally illiterate, lacking the reading skills necessary to stay informed, to function as a citizen, and to acquire and manage basic necessities--skills such as writing correct and legible correspondence, completing a job application, or understanding a contract for goods or services.  A smaller percentage cannot read at all.  Sometimes illiteracy is due to disability, but it is also widely attributable to circumstances, such as trauma or severe childhood illness, that have prevented success in school.  Stepping in to create a second chance for these adults can make the difference in their being able to find employment and improve their sense of self-worth, vs. turning to substance abuse or spending their lives depending on public assistance.

Statistics:

How you or your church can help:

  • Volunteer with an established tutoring organization in your community.  Reading Partners works in several states to match volunteers with low-proficiency students in an effort to bring their skills to grade level by the time they are in fourth grade, improving their opportunity for success in their remaining schooling.  Many communities also offer some variation of the "reading buddies" model--search "reading buddy" or "literacy tutor" and your location to find a group you can volunteer with. 
  • If there is not an established program in your area, why not consider investing in training and hosting one at your church?
  • Consider volunteering as a literacy tutor at a prison or jail.  An estimated 60-80% of U.S. prison inmates are functionally illiterate.  Investing in literacy makes sense as it helps prisoners access other programs; for example, participating in substance abuse or trauma support groups or job training is much more difficult if an inmate cannot read the materials.  Literacy programs help inmates get a GED, improving their chances of success upon release.  See more at "Literacy Programs for Prisoners" from Prison Fellowship.

 

 

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