Caring for a Public SchoolMay 20, 2016
Living on mission to students
Working with students in public schools isn’t rocket science, but there is a learning curve. God has taught our missional community so much as we’ve served our local high school over the last three years. While the start was anything but easy, one meeting with the head football coach has now lead to four seasons of caring for players together. It’s been amazing to see the work that God has done both in us and through us in this time. While the stories that could be told are numerous, this blog is an honest attempt to capture some of our learnings with the hope that this will be helpful to others who are seeking to care for students in public schools.
We spent a lot of time asking the Holy Spirit to show us what was next for us in Tacoma. The Spirit had gone before us opening doors and opportunities long before we even stepped onto the Lincoln High School campus.
Set up a meeting with the principal/vice principal/teacher/coach and ask them what the needs are. Humbly approach the school as if you don’t know anything. They know the ins and outs of their school. They know the staff and what the needs are. If you have a connection to a specific teacher or coach you could start there, but the administration of each school should know the pulse of their students and staff. In humility ask what they need.
If the school reaches out and asks for help, jump at the chance. When the principal at Lincoln asks me to let our neighborhood/Soma know of a need, I throw it out there and wait for people to respond. This helps build trust with the school. You have a meeting, you show up on time. You go out of your way to follow through.
When working with an urban school, follow through is key. The staff and students are used to organizations and groups coming in and promising one thing but rarely following through or it’s a one time deal for the group/organization. Urban schools need consistency from the same groups of people. It’s key to build trust and relationships. Show your face and share your heart.
Die to yourself
You may be asked to do things that you didn’t sign up for and have no desire to do. I never in a million years thought I would be helping to hand out cleats, girdles, mouth guards, and collecting dirty jerseys/socks/pants to be washed. It’s not a glamorous job, but I’m in it for the kids and to support the coaches.
The verse God gave us when we first started to care for the football team was Matthew 10:39, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” This has been so true for us as we care for the students at Lincoln. What amazing joy that we have received by giving up our lives for Jesus’ name. Watching students ask questions about knowing Jesus and seeing them grow and change as Spirit transforms their hearts. That is true joy. I love that God calls us to be part of his mission to love others for His glory.
Have a strong team to serve alongside you
For us it has been our missional community. The first year of helping with the team was crazy. It was so awkward just showing up and not knowing how things were going to go. We did a lot of standing around and trying to talk to the students. We had many introverts in our group and they felt terribly awkward as did those who were more extroverted. We just had to be ok with it. We asked Jesus to give us strength to keep going.
I remember one time I approached one of our junior guys and asked him if he lived in the neighborhood because I had seen him walking one day. He said, “I used to,” and walked away. He was a kid who was tatted up and looked like he was 25. We have very different stories. Over the next year, I got to know him a bit more. He went on to play college ball. Now when he visits Lincoln, I can stand and have a full conversation with this young man. He knows that our group is for him. We have been consistent and dedicated and he knows this. He has seen it. Now he trusts us to share more about his life when I see him.
The students at Lincoln wanted us to put in some time before they let us into their lives. Going into our 4th football season this year, we now have a lot of respect from the coaches, staff, administrators and most importantly the students. Our consistency (even though it was super awkward and terrible at times to even show up) and dedication has been key in caring for the Lincoln community.
Use Your Gifts
Our MC is full of amazing and talented people. We have those that can help tutor students in math, science, prep for the SAT and ACT, cook meals, bake, write encouraging notes to students, organize, take care of administrative tasks, give financially, and the list goes on. Assess what gifts your group can bring. Even having a vehicle is a blessing that God can use. We have four men in our MC that pick up football players Monday – Thursday for 5:45am workouts. Having a car is a blessing that God can use for His glory. Relationships are built during those early morning car rides.
Our first season with the football team we got out a white board and wrote a huge list of all the gifts/blessings we have that we could use to serve the football team and school. The list was crazy long. We then shared it with the principal and vice principals. When two of the football players were struggling with their SAT/ACT scores, the VP reached out to me and asked if had anyone willing to tutor them. One of the men in our MC volunteered to help. In the process, he helped these young men up their scores so that they could go to WSU and Eastern on full ride football scholarships. He also built relationships with these young men and when they come to Lincoln’s football games he can have a conversation with them and see how college is going and speak life into them.
Jesus is the Savior, not you
This is a hard one. There are so many needs at Lincoln High School that my head starts to spin. It is so good to remind one another that we can’t do it all. Listen and obey is what we are called to do. When we hear the Spirit ask us to do something or care for a specific person, then our response should be obedience. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the needs or not even know how to care for students or coaches, but we must stop and remember that Jesus has taken care of it all. He knows exactly what we need and knows the needs of others as well. There is freedom in that. I have freedom to say yes to the things God has called me to and no to the things he has not.
I love that Jesus doesn’t need us to serve. He calls us to join Him in what He is doing because of His great love for us and others. He invites us to experience Him in these moments. How can you care for your local public school? The opportunities to love others because of Jesus’ great love for his people are endless. Pray for eyes to see and doors to open.