By Carolyn Tomlin
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
One thing Alabama communities have in common is local schools and throughout the state opportunities exist for Alabama Baptist churches to support students, teachers and staff members.
Regardless of the size of your congregation everyone can pray. Prayer is powerful. Here are some other ideas to get involved with schools in your community.
1. Reading mentors. According to recent data, if a child is not reading on grade level by the end of third grade this is an indicator for future dropout rates and other problems. Reading with an at-risk child for 30 minutes once a week can improve his or her reading level and confidence.
2. Adopt a school. Sunday School classes can sponsor a specific class. Volunteers might also provide snacks for holidays, field days or other events.
3. Weekend backpack program. During the week children from low-income families can eat breakfast and lunch at school. Too often Friday’s lunch may be their last meal before Monday morning breakfast. Offer to pack a backpack or sack with nonperishable food items that could be given to children in need of weekend meals. Include nutritious items that do not require cooking.
4. Support teachers. Educators shape our future. These dedicated men and women train our prospective doctors, professors, pastors and others. Being in the classroom can be stressful. Would teachers enjoy a cosmetologist to come in for manicures? What about a free catered breakfast or lunch for teachers? How about a coffee cart or selection of flavored teas in the teachers’ lounge?
5. Gift cards for new teachers. Starting off in a new classroom can place a strain on a teacher’s budget. Find out proper protocol for gift cards and include a note that your church is praying for them this school year.
6. Prayer walk. Prior to the walk, contact the principal or superintendent. Plan to meet near the school, at the football stadium or at another convenient place when school is not in session. Pray for the bus drivers who transport students. Pray for school safety. Pray classrooms will be a place where all children are treated with love and respect. Pray God will be present in your school throughout the year.
7. After-school tutoring. Open your education space for after-school tutoring. Recruit retired teachers or other responsible adults in your church to serve as tutors. Check with your school system about requirements for screening applicants who work with children. Faith-based grants are often available for materials, snacks and salaries.
Alabama’s Baptist churches possess many opportunities to pray for schools and help meet needs. Every child and student deserves a safe place to learn where he or she is respected. Set a goal for your church to connect with a local school during the upcoming school year.