Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Rethinking Relationships

    Nine months out of the year, I spend every Tuesday and Wednesday in the local school cafeterias. I rotate though the schools, trying to eat lunch with all of my youth at least once a semester. As I enter my fourth year of ministry at the church I currently serve, I’m finally beginning to develop relationships with a number of the school teachers, administrators, and lunch room supervisors. But what does it mean to be in a relationship with the public schools? What is the role of the church in the public school system?

    2020 Vision for schools has some intriguing goals—they are trying to transform the New York City public school system. Their vision encouraged me to reflect on what we are doing for our public schools. How can we, as youth ministers, be more intentional about the ways in which we help our schools and our students succeed? In the church I serve, and probably in your church as well, we have numerous individuals involved with the school at some level or another. How can we connect and strengthen our relationships with these individuals? What should we be doing?

    What do you think? How can we form a partnership with our local schools?



    Cobus said...

    and how do we do this without seeming like we long for a new Christendom?

    I would say that the welfare of the school should become the agenda, not the way in which partnering with the school can help the youth ministry of the church.

    As theologians we can also contribute as questions on religion seem to be on an increase, not decrease. How do schools that previously existed in an all-Christian environment think about the growing pluralism? What do schools do within a fundamentalist culture (whether Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or whatever form)? These questions theologians have been struggling with for years, and we can help the school system in finding solutions to these growing problems.

    Marv Nelson said...

    I am stoked about this conversation! I went to the Principal of Nyack High School (in Nyack, NY) and told him about my vision, my teens and how I would like to help out. I then later in the summer had a meeting with him again and asked if I could hang out with my teens during their lunch. He then preceded to GIVE ME A STAFF NAME TAG, so I could come and go as I please! I met all the security and know most by name. In my case, all it took was two meetings and now I have an excellent relationship with the Principle and some staff!!

    Marv Nelson said...

    On the question, what can we do? Build relationships with our teens friends (most important in my mind) so they can see that Christians (in particular) Pastors aren't total nut jobs and just pour into those times you have them in your comm-line. Discuss Christ, your life, what you do but do it after you've built the trust with your teens and then in turn their friends. This will then lead to more realtionships with staff, faculty and admin. It works! I have non-Christian kids asking when I'm coming back. My teens say the genuinely enjoy me there! God is good!

    Brian said...

    Cobus, I like your thought that the welfare of the school should become our agenda. My church has a great relationship with the school across the street from us because we regularly supply them with volunteers. Our parish nurse organized a back-to-school fair for the students so they could get free physicals, backpacks, etc. And many of us serve as tutors. In addition, next week we are providing a feast of snacks and baked goods for the teachers for their professional development day. None of this is done as a way to win the favor of the school. We simply see it as part of our ministry to the neighborhood around our church.

    Marv, thanks for sharing your experience. I would hope that most of us would recieve the same welcome if we are straight forward with the school staff and let them know we are there to be of help if possible.

    Jacob said...

    I agree with all that has been said. The welfare of our schools should be a top priority, along with the need to find a way to have conversations among the various beliefs/religions/traditions. Thank you Marv and Brian for the ideas. Visiting the principal, offering support, and forming those relationships are crucial and definitely an important aspect of our ministry.

    Anonymous said...

    i am going to be honest, i have been thinking about this post for the past 3 days.

    i think visiting the campus for lunch is such a great idea!!! if a youth worker can get the clearance to get on campus and befriend the teachers and students, this is such a great asset to the campus, community, and students.

    i was also thinking of other places we could visit and befriend--namely visiting the local police department..maybe connecting with the adolescent police offer or visiting the city hall or the local coffee shops or local pizza parlors or local gas stations or local yogurt place.

    i am more and more convinced that we need to get our of your church office and go into the community and just hang out.