Kids Ministry 101 welcomes guest blogger Eric Boswell. Eric serves as the Children’s Pastor at Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, TN.
“I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (CSB)
“It’s impossible!” That’s what I thought when I heard other people talk about ministering in the public school setting. As we all know, over the years religious freedom in public schools in the United States have been limited and I was the biggest skeptic about ministering in a public school. Well folks, I am here to say that it is possible! Our church has been blessed to minister in a public elementary school in the Metro Nashville School System for the last five years.
So, you may be thinking How do you minister in a place like that? Here are few tips if you sense God is leading you to minister in a public school.
Pray—It should go without saying that anytime we consider a new ministry opportunity, we should bathe it in prayer. I prayed about ministering in a public school for over three years before I was able to directly do so. The ministry we started in an elementary school was a result of a campaign to pray for the teachers at the school.
Build Relationship and Serve—Find ways to build relationship with the school and its leaders. In our situation, it was pretty easy since the principal attended our church. From my experience, school leadership greatly appreciates community involvement. An easy way to build relationship is by serving. This could be as easy as taking treats for the teacher’s breakroom, collecting school supplies, or tutoring. If your budget allows, you may be able to become a community partner and provide financial support for the school.
For us, we began with a prayer ministry and then began tutoring students. After a couple of years of building relationship and serving, we were able to start an after-school program. We have on average 30 kids that come each week and hear the gospel presented. We have had families from our after-school program connect with our church by attending church services, VBS, CentriKid, and other family ministry events. We recently hosted a prayer-walking event at the school as they prepare for the start of the new school year.
Observe—As our ministry in the school has grown, we are constantly observing the needs of the students, parents, teachers, and faculty. We have developed a first response ministry called Father’s Heart, which allows our church to meet the needs of the school when unexpected situations come up. This could be providing food from our Food Pantry to a family in need or collecting items for a family in the school whose house burned down. Our goal is to be the hands and feet of Christ.
I believe that our responsibility as children’s ministry leaders is to minister to both children inside and outside the doors of our church. Building a relationship with your local school gives you the opportunity to reach children and their parents, who may never step inside the doors of a church.
WARNING: Ministering in the public schools is not easy. Sometimes school policy keeps you from ministering the way you would like to do it in the ideal world. The kids may act, think, and even speak differently than the kids at your church. However, I can truly say it is completely worth it when a child comes to know the Lord because of your willingness to minister in a difficult place.
“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9
Eric Boswell serves as the children’s minister at Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, Tennessee.