March 06, 2019

Jake McGlothin, former director of Serve Ministries at Floris United Methodist Church in Fairfax County, Virginia, and currently a pastor at Restoration Church in Loudoun, led a webinar elaborating on his book A Mission-Minded Guide to Church and School Partnerships. Passionate about actively engaging the community to teach about service and generosity, McGlothin spoke about his personal experience partnering with Hutchinson Elementary School, one of the largest elementary schools in the country that also has one of the highest percentages of poverty.

Here are five things we can take away from McGlothin’s teaching:

#1 – Partnerships foster crucial relationships. During the webinar, McGlothin instructed viewers to take a moment and think about the people in their church who have had an impact on their life. He explained how the people who helped raise us in the faith, maybe a Sunday school teacher, pastor or mentor in the church, have significantly impacted our faith walk. Partnerships allow adult mentors to invest love, energy and passion into a child or a teenager and possibly change the trajectory of their walk with Christ forever. 

With 50 million people in the United States living in poverty and 36 percent of them being children, so many of them encounter barriers to learning. Education directly impacts a child’s future and quality of life, and this is where the church can step in. McGlothin writes in his book that, “If we are to ever see changes to poverty, the people of God and congregations across the county must make a stand and end the indifference to those who are most impacted by the ills of poverty. The church must choose the side of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Christ chose the vulnerable (p. 23).” 

#2 – It’s not about the size of the church it’s about the amount of passion. Taking what God has blessed your church with and putting that energy into the school is how transformation happens. By getting to know your community, building relationships and organizing the resources your church can provide, you are taking the first steps in living out your Christian call beyond the church walls. “That is what church and school partnerships are about,” McGlothin says. “They are about taking what’s best and what’s wonderful and what’s transformative about the church, and we get to invest our time and energy into kids, into teachers and into our community.”

#3 – Partnerships don’t just impact the school; they impact the church. Partnerships align with our identity as Christians to see the need in the world and meet it in whatever way God calls us to, using the resources. God has provided for us. School-church partnerships not only provide a way for the church to serve those in poverty but create an opportunity that impacts our own faith. Churches provide schools with human resources in the form of volunteers; material resources, such as food and clothing; and an opportunity to build connections by advocating for schools. Schools can provide churches a deepened sense of mission in the community, a better understanding of compassion and justice, and an understanding of their purpose in the community. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

#4 – Take a step of faith in starting a partnership, and watch God provide. Yes, create a plan, including measurable goals, project plans and deadlines, but also be flexible and leave room for God to work. Partnerships should remain adaptable in order to meet needs that rise up and serve those who urgently need it. McGlothin advises that you ask parents and teachers what keeps them up at night when it comes to their students and meet that need. Additionally, ask them, “If resources weren’t a factor, what would you do?” Take these goals, move aside the fears and preconceived notions you have about your budget, and let the Holy Spirit move. If God is calling you to a specific ministry and you don’t feel that you have the resources to make it happen, trust that God will provide. If God calls you, God will equip you. 

#5 – The work you do now paves the way for a magnificent future. Play the long game. Think about the Kingdom vision to inspire God-sized goals. All your work, done with the intention to serve, will have lasting impact, no matter how big or small. Think about the ways God may use you or your faith community so that in 20-30 years your community is different because of it. McGlothin’s writes, “Our Christian calling aligns us with Christ, who saw the hurts of the world, who saw the pain in individuals and in communities, and who sought to heal and comfort them in the name of his Father ... This is our missional task in this world.” (p. 45)

By: Kelsey Bekermeier