It’s so easy to get caught up in busyness. Overcommitted, highly passionate youth workers fall into this trap everyday.
Considering cluttered calendars, cause the calendar to work for you this month.
In ten days, you’ll likely gather with those you love most to overeat and be merry. But the occasion isn’t really about feasting, football, and family. Thanksgiving is about, well, being thankful. Kind of like Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians:
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In the days between now and Turkey Day, what are you, Mr/s. Youth Worker, most thankful for?
Now dig a little deeper.
Who/what did you overlook in the rush to find an answer? Remember, Paul says to be thankful in everything, not just what’s most obvious.
As a youth worker, here’s what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving:
- Free education for the poorest kids in my youth group who cannot afford private alternatives.
- Community partners who help equip my students to become who God created them to be.
- Teachers, coaches, custodians, principals, secretaries, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, and PTA volunteers who align their talents and callings with mine to create an environment where youth can learn to read the Bible I’m urging them to read (the written word that’s going to transform them into the image of God), while also preparing them for college and careers.
- The fact that I don’t have to pay or manage directly any of those teachers, coaches, custodians, principals, etc. (to say nothing of the facilities and equipment costs) out of my youth group budget.
Thank you, God, for providing an army of people within and outside the public school system to prepare my kids to walk into God’s destiny for them!
Now, what’s a proper way to express gratitude to them?
Why not begin by committing to adopt one school within walking distance of your church building for meaningful prayer, advocacy, and service?
School adoption begins with a commitment to pray for the school, as often as your congregation or ministry prays corporately. Become a student of the school so you can pray intelligently and strategically. Then pray that your ministry might become answers to those prayers, and the others already being prayed for and within that school. Ask God for eyes to see and hears to hear what he sees and hears, and the courage to respond.
Take the walk to the school and initiate a relationship/s. Treat everyone you meet with respect, and maintain a humble posture (Philippians 2). Nurture the relationship/s over coffee or a meal (your treat). Give them reasons to trust you by identifying felt needs and offering yourself and your ministry as a resource to help meet those needs through acts of service. Follow-through on any commitments you make (under-promise and over-deliver). Depending on your ministry’s capacity, your engagement might remain service oriented around discrete projects, or may evolve into an ongoing presence at the school that provides supplemental programs or services that support the school’s educational outcomes.
Five Practical Suggestions
Help us brainstorm creative ways to express thanksgiving for/to schools tangibly this season (and beyond). Here are five initial ideas.
- In the short week before Thanksgiving, bring breakfast to the office and teacher’s lounge one day before classes start.
- Learn the names of the teachers and staff and personalize letters of gratitude for their service.
- Invite church members to adopt school staff members for Christmas, and give them a gift that’s meaningful to them (not a free Bible and gospel tract).
- Make staff and teacher appreciation part of the culture of your church. Find out if the school already has a mechanism to celebrate their effort, and enhance what already exists. If something isn’t in place, offer to sponsor and help produce it.
- Sponsor a year-end award for outstanding teachers and/or students the teachers recommend.
- BONUS IDEA: perform an extreme makeover of the Teachers Lounge during winter or spring vacation.
What do you think? Please add your ideas in the comments.
- Upcoming Webinar: Mission Critical: Transforming a Generation One School at a Time – Jeremy Del Rio (12/06/2011 11:00 am)
- Reload Workshop: 20/20 Vision for Schools: Transforming Public Education within a Single Generation of Students
- Article: “Why Public Schools Matter to God (and Should Matter to You Too)”
- 20/20 Vision for Schools: If you’re interested in adopting schools for the purpose of improving educational outcomes, visit 20/20 Vision for Schools.
- Every Student Every School: To learn more about campus ministry primarily for the purpose of evangelism, visit Every Student Every School.