By Carl Stagner
Teachers making final preparations for their classes, students dreading the end of summer, parents adjusting to new routines, and school buses on the streets again (drivers, be careful!)—it can only mean one thing: it’s that time of year again! School is back in session or will begin again soon across much of the country, signaling a community-wide shift from one season to the next. Sometimes that shift can be anything but smooth for families, just as it can be for teachers, administrators, and staff. We celebrate the Church of God congregations across the country that recognize the need and do what they can to meet the need. School supply drives, special prayer gatherings, and “back-to-school bashes” are just a few of the ways numerous congregations are coming alongside schools and families as the fall semester dawns.
In Phoenix, Arizona, Mountain Park Church completed a school supply drive for the elementary school located just around the corner. An estimated 600 pounds of paper, glue sticks, backpacks, scissors, pencils, and other staple supplies were donated by the congregation leading up to a late-July deadline. At that point, multiple large bins were delivered to the school. As part of the church’s “Radius” ministry, where they do whatever they can to bless their neighbors within a mile radius, the church has found annual blessing in donating school supplies. Greg Battle, outreach pastor, reflects, “It’s about being neighborly. We just want to help out as much as we can, and our congregation always responds well to the challenge. It was a blessing to see the school’s gratitude when I made the delivery on behalf of the church.”
A popular outreach this time of year is commonly dubbed the back-to-school bash. At Community Church of God in Clio, Michigan, the leadership found a creative way to pull off yet another important community ministry—they delegated responsibility to the younger generation! The youth are hosting the bash this year, which includes a variety of fun games for students in a grand finale event of the summer. As an outreach, admission is free—sort of; a school supply donation grants access and, at the same time, blesses students in need. Similarly, four hundred miles south of Clio, Bedford First Church of God in Bedford is also blessing local students. They just concluded their “Love Week Celebration,” which involved school supply donations (410 bags of supplies, 180 backpacks, and lots of new clothing), but also gave away donations of a different kind—haircuts. In total, some 75 haircuts were donated, giving kids a tangible boost of encouragement to grateful recipients as the first day of school loomed close.
In California, the Church of God congregation in Inglewood, known as Center of Hope LA, is really taking the “back-to-school bash” concept to a new level. Encompassing the whole first weekend of August, fun activities are scheduled late into the evening on Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday, too, including water games, worship, and moments of intentional prayer for local schools. Like an abbreviated summer camp, their back-to-school bash captures the attention of their community while shining the light of Christ.
Back-to-school events have occurred in various forms at Pendleton Community Church of God in Pendleton, Indiana, over the years. A few years ago, the church decided to try something different. They’d done a needs assessment of the community and discovered that many other churches were already providing school supplies and clothes for students and schools. “Those needs were already being met, and our small congregation recognized a great opportunity,” Ryan Kellam, lead pastor, explains. “The teachers, school employees, and adults who work in the schools are on the front lines of some of the greatest spiritual battles that students and families fight, and they don’t need more school supplies. They need prayer! They need the Holy Spirit actively working in their lives.”
So, the church has opted to hold a community prayer night instead. “Our prayer night is all about helping our teachers, school employees, and families prepare spiritually for a new schoolyear,” Ryan explains.
As highlighted in a recent CHOGnews article, our Dayton area congregations are still loving their communities in the wake of the Memorial Day tornadoes. Salem Church of God canceled their annual VBS to allocate funds instead for two community block parties, at which school supplies will be distributed, especially for families displaced by the tornadoes. Hopeland Church has done a tremendous job collecting brand-new school supplies, backpacks, and shoes. Together, Salem and Hopeland have demonstrated unity and selfless love as the hands and feet of Christ in their community.
How might your church come alongside the families and schools in your neighborhood?
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.