June 25, 2018

By Susan Sneed

Rev. Tina L. Harris, director of the Office of Mission, Service and Justice, introduced her team and lifted-up 20 years of partnership with Mozambique as well as the partnerships with Festival of Sharing, disaster relief organizations and mission in Puerto Rico. Partnerships are the hallmark of effective ministry. 
    
This year, in partnership with the Values Team, Journey for Justice was created. The inaugural 2018 trip was to Memphis to the National Civil Rights Museum for the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. More journeys are being planned. 
    
“This year we launch the Pathway Out of Poverty campaign,” Harris said. “This campaign will enable the partnership between schools and our churches with the goal of raising reading levels.” She noted that reading is one of the primary ways to enrich education that has proven to interrupt child poverty. The goal is to move our church partnership from 10 percent involvement to 40 percent by June 2019. 
    
“God is at work, and we are already collecting evidence of that. When you have a partnership at your school, you will have a better understanding of the community, and the church will be seen as a part of a child education success.”
    
Harris acknowledged that there are congregations who may believe they are unable to provide a good number of reading partners. There are other ways a church can partner with a school: host an appreciation lunch or snack time for teachers or serve as greeters at a special school event. Talk to your school administrators to find out their needs. If you already have a partnership, you can look for ways to do new things and go deeper in that partnership. 
    
“We have a lot of innovative and exciting ministries throughout the state, enriching in their communities,” Harris said. One church has partnered with Scholastic Reading to insure every student has a book. Another is using the empty parsonage as an enrichment center for the local school. A promotional video featuring one church resulted in a $10,000 grant for programming in the school. 
    
An Education Task Force has been created with members who have experience in the classroom, as administrators and with school boards to help strategize and resource this mission. 
    
Harris recommended as a first resource the book The Mission-Minded Guide to Church and School Partnerships by Jake McGlothin. This book was distributed to the members of conference at registration. 
    
“We should note there are 260,000 children in poverty Missouri alone,” said Harris. “We will have to work our faith hard on this.” She quoted McGlothin as saying “ If the church doesn’t care about those children in poverty, then what good is it?”