Expert: Three Tips to Develop Meaningful Church-School Relationships, Ministries

Diana Garland
Diana Garland
Aug. 20, 2014

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WACO, Texas (Aug. 20, 2014) – It’s less about money and more about mentoring.

With students and teachers back in the classroom, it’s the time of year when many churches and congregations engage with local schools.

Diana Garland, Ph.D., dean of Baylor University’s School of Social Work and co-senior editor of the Journal of Family and Community Ministries, says churches need to consider their approach to school ministries carefully. She offers these tips:

1. Consider service rather than simply sending money.

“It’s easy to write a check,” Garland said. “It’s a lot harder to spend an hour a week to help a kid learn to read. Both are important, but the latter is often more meaningful.”

Churches can collaborate with school officials to do a number of things – from upgrading facilities and organizing events to staffing mentoring programs and praying with teachers.

The impact of this type of service is twofold, she said. The people on the receiving end can benefit; and those who serve can grow in their faith.

“Our research shows that the most effective way to grow the faith life of Christians is to engage them in meaningful service to others,” Garland said. “We were surprised to find that service is more effective than any other single approach to faith development – including attending worship study groups and Bible study groups. Of course, that doesn't mean that worship and Bible study are unimportant – they are. But without service they are insufficient in growing a lasting faith.”

2. Don’t assume you know the needs of the school.

“We bring our sense of calling, but then it’s time for our church to sit down and say, ‘We want to help but we don’t know how. We need to be respectful and understand that we don’t have the answers and that we need to collaborate,” Garland said.

“The last thing we need to do is take up Magic Markers when they don’t allow Magic Markers. It may be that they need the cafeteria painted or help with uniforms.”

3. Think relationally.

“Relationships are the most important and profound gift we can give,” Garland said. “As important as school supplies are, they are even more effective when they come from people who know the people, know the children. There is nothing more powerful than service that builds an ongoing relationship between two people, which is why tutoring and mentoring and befriending are so valuable.”

ABOUT BAYLOR

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE BAYLOR SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK

The Baylor University School of Social Work is home to one of the leading graduate social work programs in the nation with a research agenda focused on the integration of faith and practice. Upholding its mission of preparing social workers in a Christian context for worldwide service and leadership, the School offers a baccalaureate degree (BSW), a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and three joint-degree options (MSW/Master of Business Administration, MSW/Master of Divinity and MSW/Master of Theological Studies) through a partnership with Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Visit www.baylor.edu/social_work to learn more.

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