Meeting the Bishop's Challenge
Bishop Huie’s Episcopal Address in June included a Call to Action for pastors and laity of all 685 churches in the Texas Annual Conference. The Bishop reminded delegates of John Wesley’s model of ministry to do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, To all the people you can, as long as ever you can. She then issued this challenge “The public schools in the State of Texas are struggling. I challenge every one of you to go back to your congregation and get your church to partner with at least one school.”
Some UM churches have included schools in their community ministry efforts for years by forging relationships with nearby schools and creating customized opportunities to meet need. Others are working through existing organizations that allow them to jump-start their efforts. Mentoring specialists such as Kids Hope or Big Brothers/Big Sisters offer churches a tried-and-true process, organized training and a complete system of mentoring students of all ages.
Here’s a sampling of ideas and information resources for more insight:
A good starting point: Local congregations can raise money for area schools (or church ministries) by simply shopping at Kroger and using the “code” for the charity of their choice. Sunset UMC, for example, raised almost $1000 for ministry and Clear Lake UMC has received over $2000 from this program in recent months. To enroll in the Kroger Neighbor to Neighbor Donation Program call 866-995-7643 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check your surroundings: Hope Community UMC Pastor Jack Womack credits his church growth to community involvement. “Last year we partnered with a nearby elementary school where we have provided 180 new backpacks for Kindergarten and first graders and where (this year) we will assist them in funding a reading program that will help to raise reading levels and skills for all of their elementary students. Using Matthew 25: 34-40, we have taken Jesus seriously in responding to those who are in need, hungry, in prison and so desperately needing the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.”
In 2013, San Jacinto Elementary will be relocating to a brand new campus located directly across from Deer Park United Methodist Church. This move will bring more than 825 K-5th grade children, and 100 faculty and staff members within feet of the DPUMC facility, offering amazing opportunities for the Ministries of DPUMC. In anticipation, Deer Park UMC officially adopted San Jacinto Elementary several years ago, and together created an Outreach plan of support including:
· “Star Polishers” a mentoring program for students on the campus, with mentors recruited from the DPUMC membership.
· Annual School Supply Drive
· Holiday Adoption of families in need, offering Thanksgiving and Christmas food boxes, first through Angel Food Ministries, then MidAmerica Food and providing Christmas presents for students identified to be in need.
· Ongoing donation of 6 complete fresh frozen food boxes for families nominated by the counselor.
· Providing teacher appreciation breakfasts twice a year.
Building on these successes, DPUMC leadership begin visioning further opportunities for Outreach to the ‘Mission Field’ of San Jacinto Elementary and is poised to launch an After-School program called GROW which can accommodate up to 50 students for homework assistance and possibly enrichment activities. DPUMC has been given a $10,000 grant from the Moody Foundation to help with start up costs and is looking for additional grants. For more information, contact Rev. Michael Peschke, email@example.com. Pastor Deborah Proctor says, “We believe we have been given one of those "God opportunities" to directly impact our community through involvement in our partnership with San Jacinto Elementary.”
Tapping into an existing partnership: Kids Hope mentoring model
Sending mentors for one hour, one day a week during the school year, Houston’s St. Luke’s UMC has partnered with KIDS HOPE for 11 years. With a second church campus at Gethsemane, they also work in two HISD elementary schools, and finished this year with 95 mentors, 95 students and about 90 prayer partners (several partner with multiple students/mentors). Pastors Tom Pace and Justin Coleman each have mentees. Read heartwarming stories of mentoring ministry here in the SLUMC publication at http://www.stlukesmethodist.org/files/ESpire060812.pdf
Other Methodist churches in the Houston area involved in KIDS HOPE programs are:
· Jones Memorial UMC
· Atascocita UMC
· First UMC Humble
· Old River Terrace UMC in Channelview
How churches can partner with “Big Hope” initiative
According to Kids Hope USA representative Tracey Bogan, Big Brothers Big Sisters and KIDS Hope USA formed the Big Hope Network in 2011 to combine the best of both organizations into one model specifically designed for the church. “Directors and mentors at each church will have training and be supported by a professionally trained match support specialist to help your volunteers,” adds Bogan.
This new church mentoring initiative is currently working with 40 Big Hope churches across the greater Houston area and North Texas – six of which are affiliated with the United Methodist Church:
· St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Arlington
· Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston
· First United Methodist Church of Mansfield
· Munger Place United Methodist Church in Dallas
· First United Methodist Church of Humble
· First United Methodist Church in Arlington
According to BBBS Vice President Michael O’Teter, the integration of Big Brothers Big Sisters staff into the traditional KIDS Hope model “has freed up church mentoring program directors to do what they do best—recruit volunteers from their congregation, provide spiritual support for the program and volunteers, engage the broader church congregation to more fully support their partner school.” Adds O’Teter, “We handle volunteer screening, child enrollment, matching and on-going match support, ensuring that the program remains safe for all involved and focused on achieving meaningful youth outcomes while respecting the church’s ownership of the mentoring program as their ministry.”
BBBS Vice President Michael O’Teter says, “We sincerely want to make ourselves available to serve the United Methodist Church congregations as they seek to respond to the Bishop’s challenge to serve their local schools and to establish effective, safe mentoring programs.”