Building Links with Schools
These can be hugely beneficial for both the church, school, and the community you serve, and should be a focus of every church’s Mission Action Plan. Good links can take time to establish and should be reviewed at least once a year to help them flourish. The best links between schools, communities and churches are relationships which are open and mutually supportive. The responsibility for making links with school(s) should be shared across the church community, can be coordinated by the incumbent, and should not be dependent on one person. That way a diversity of connection points can be made.
|Case Study In one school an elderly woman offered to make pompoms with children. Over time she made a pompom with every child in an infant class and got to know them well. Children would greet her when they saw her outside school and sent her cards when she was ill and unable to come in. She became part of their extended class family.|
For many members of a school community, your connection with them may be the only contact they have ever had with a church so make a point of being an encouraging presence. Corinthians 2:15 exhorts Christians to be ‘the fragrance of Christ’ and part of this is reflecting His deep love for people and the world.
A church set up a prayer tent in a local church secondary school during the exam season. The prayer stations and treats proved so popular the school invited them back every year.
A good place to start in building a relationship with schools is to get to know your context. If you know someone who works in the local school, you could talk to them first and maybe ask if they could support your introduction. Alternatively you can contact your local Headteacher and ask for their input on what they perceive to the be the greatest needs of the community currently, so you can discuss the most beneficial ways of working in partnership to support people. Some areas are also starting to host community meetings where a range of services, schools and voluntary sector organisations (including churches) come together. These are a perfect opportunity to listen and start to discern where you might focus your energy and resources.
Once you know a bit more about the local context and needs, consider what you can realistically offer, as well as considering how the school community might be able to support you as a church community.
‘As a secondary school we really value the support from our local churches. Our year group chaplain offers pastoral support to staff and students, practical support including break out spaces in church buildings for tutoring, and support in prayer through regular ecumenical prayer walks around the school site.’
If you have a local secondary school (or many schools) in your area we would recommend connecting with other churches in your mission community and deanery as well as your local Churches Together group. Experience has taught us that when many churches link into a secondary school the capacity for support is increased and the benefits for the wider community are that much greater.
The best links focus on building relationships over time and we advise that you find volunteers that can support you in this way and see what they can offer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be leading assemblies or collective worship if that is not their skill set.
There are a number of different things you might like to offer. Here are a selection:
‘Open the Book’ teams go into school to share Bible stories, often inviting participation from pupils. In sharing stories, the team build relationships with the whole school community. This goes beyond the school grounds with many volunteers sharing that they have many conversations out and about in the surrounding community with pupils and their families.
Listening to readers
Joining the Parent Teachers Friends Association or contacting them to see where you could offer support
Invite schools to use the church as a learning environment for RE or other subjects
Experience Easter or other Journey events
Local history information linked to the National Curriculum
Asking a class to help decorate the church at specific times of year
Working with our local Co-op, a church was able to offer free breakfast clubs to local school children.
Offer the church as a space for school concerts or plays
Community projects e.g. supporting older people or gardening in the churchyard
Asking the school’s eco team to help you become an eco-church.
After school activities
Family entertainment (films, quizzes etc) (during a half-term is a good place to start)
Community stay and play coffee mornings
Community courses which could be run by partners e.g. Begin Well Antenatal Courses, parenting courses, mental health, and money matters
Regular joint fundraising e.g., Teddy Zip Wires
Music using the church as a place to perform, or access to professional musicians