Entering the back-to-school season, teachers have a great opportunity to reach out to the families in our schools and connect them to church. While some of these families may already be a part of a church body, many school families don’t have a church home of their own. During this season, churches are re-launching Sunday School and hosting back-to-school events and backpack blessings, but how can we continue to connect school families to church as the year progresses and schedules fill up?
As dedicated church workers, teachers have many tasks and responsibilities given to them each year. With a new school year beginning, teachers have a long to-do list: create welcoming classroom environments, make a great first impression, answer emails in a professional and timely manner, plan exciting and differentiated lessons that include every learner, drink enough water, and remember to take attendance, just to name a few!
Churches today are craving to have young adults and young families in church, but how can teachers help with such a daunting task when they have so much to balance? The task of connecting our school families to church isn’t left solely up to teachers, but our church body can’t do it without them! There is no perfect formula, but we can start planting the seed in the classroom.
Although other church workers are present in the building, teachers are on the forefront of the mission field. Just like in the classroom, students and families want a sense of belonging at church too. They want to feel at home and safe. Throughout the school year, teachers foster a strong relationship with each student and family. Those who feel a sense of belonging and community are more likely to stay actively involved and, if they have built relationships, to keep coming back.
Here are a few ideas that have helped foster a connection from school to church:
Model Enthusiasm for Worship
It may sound simple, but sharing our faith in Jesus with enthusiasm and excitement can have a huge impact on the hearts of our students. It isn’t a matter of “I have to go to church” but “I get to go to church!” During icebreaker games at the beginning of the year, students want to know all about us: our favorite food, how old we are, our pet’s name, our Instagram handle, our favorite song, and, although they may not ask, what we stand for and believe in. Our students watch our every move and sometimes want to mimic our behavior. If our actions point them to Jesus, it may just plant the seed for them to want to do the same.
Make a Personal Invitation
In the past, I’ve used Friday afternoons, as students are lined up with their backpacks on, to ask about their plans for the weekend. I mention how excited I am for worship over the weekend. Before students leave the classroom, I personally invite them to church. I tell them, “You will see me there and are welcome to sit with me.” It doesn’t happen every week, but many times I have a student come to church and give me a big hug and sit in the pew with me. My hope for this is that my enthusiasm and excitement for church will carry over to them. Many students may come from a nonbelieving home. They can bring this enthusiasm home and ask their parents if they can go to church. If it’s a priority to their teacher, it can become a priority for them. We need consistency with our enthusiasm.
Send a Weekly Newsletter with Church Events
Many of the students you may be teaching would not be old enough to take themselves to church and need their parents or grandparents to take them. For our unchurched families, it may be that they haven’t taken a peek at the church website or heard about events going on. In most cases, teachers send out a weekly newsletter to parents, often discussing the spelling words for the week, information about what they have been learning, and upcoming calendar events. I like to format my weekly newsletter to communicate what is going on in the church and school. At the top of every newsletter, I write two to three sentences about the highlights of the previous week, and then the first topic is always the worship schedule. I include information about my grade level’s Sunday School time and what room they will be in. For someone coming for the first time, this could be overwhelming. I also include one sentence every week—“We would love to have you and your child as a part of our church family!”—as a way to foster community so that they are receiving a virtual invitation. If I could invite them all face-to-face each week I would!
The task to bring young families to church can be daunting, but teachers have a unique position in the mission field. Teachers have the influence to foster the relationship and connect families to the community they have at church.
Check out God in My Classroom for devotions that focus specifically on life as a Christian educator.