Monday, October 12, 2009

The Church's Place in Public School Education

Yesterday my book club had a lively discussion about Outliers: Stories of Success by Maxwell Gladwell, which included the question: Just how much should a public school system supply in the place of negligent parents?

On another note, I also lamented that Gladwell ignored how the spiritual aspect of a person's life might affect his/her personal story.

Both of these points led me to look up some information about a program I learned of a few years ago:

The National Church Adopt-A-School Initiative (NCAASI) began with Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, led by Pastor Tony Evans. Evans grew up in urban Baltimore and faced the inherent challenges of that environment. He says: "Government has spent trillions of dollars to reverse and elevate this spiral of social disintegration, yet the problems and pain grow worse with each passing day. I believe the reason for this is the separation of the spiritual from the social. There is a horrific disconnect between the role of the church on Sunday and the condition of hurting people on Monday. This changed in my own life and family when my father discovered the life-giving power of faith and began operating differently because of it. Our home became different from most of the other homes in my neighborhood because the connection had been made between the spiritual and the social." (The Vision of Dr. Tony Evans)

This church networks with the Dallas public school system and suburban community churches to create an extensive ministry out-reach to the urban families in Dallas. Also, it offers training to other churches/school districts/communities to replicate their success across the country. Their purpose is to come alongside the students and their families "by seeking holistic, long-term solutions of meeting needs in a way that changes how people think, which ultimately determines how they live." The philosophy is "not a hand out, but a hand up." (Kingdom Agenda)

They provide
  • Mentoring
  • Tutoring
  • Life Skills and Character Education
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Family Support Services such as food, shelter and clothing; adult education; career development; job placement assistance; and preventive medical checks.

Making school days/year longer will not make lasting changes in the lives of students. Yes, it will give teachers more time to mentor and influence young people, as one club member so eloquently stated from his own experiences. (I can not underestimate the power of one individual to reach another -- many teachers influenced my life for the better.)

But, to me, only adding more time to the day/year, only providing breakfast, only doing whatever we can think of to do because the parents are not doing it, is a "hand out, not a hand up." I do not mean, educators all need to be Christians who evangelize and proselytize their students. I do mean that the best way to change students' lives is to address the "whole" person, and the whole community needs to be involved, and that includes the church/synagogue/mosque/temple.

Visit this video link to learn more about NCAASI .

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