At UBA, we talk a lot about being better together—because we know it to be true. When our churches work together to advance the gospel, they can do all kinds of things that would never have been possible for each individual church on their own. But being “better together” doesn't stop just with other churches, though.
Not only can churches partner with other churches, but churches can also partner with schools in their communities to do great things, as well. We recently got the chance to talk with Kevin Alvarez, lead pastor of Long Point Baptist Church, and hear how Loving Houston helped connect and equip his church to be better together with their local school district.
Getting the Ball Rolling
Kevin and his wife were no strangers to the many needs of children, teachers, and school systems. Kevin's wife Yvette is a teacher, and Kevin served as the youth pastor at Long Point Church from 2011-2015 before becoming the senior pastor in 2017. When they heard about Loving Houston, Kevin, Yvette, and Long Point's children's director, Jessica, went to one of the 101 workshops to find out more.
At the workshop, they began to see the benefit of these church-school partnerships and wanted to get involved. They sat down with Loving Houston's Executive Director Marilyn Lee, and she presented 3-4 schools in their area who would be great candidates for a partnership. Jessica asked which school could use the most help, and Abby Walker, who works as a Liaison for the Spring Branch School District, said Landrum Middle School would be a great partner.
A Slow Start
Long Point first started conversations with Landrum Middle in August 2017—the week that Hurricane Harvey hit. This set both the school and the church back quite a bit, so the partnership took a while to get off the ground.
When Long Point Church finally got into the school, they spent the first year focused on building relationships. They didn't force projects to happen or come in with any kind of agenda. Instead, they got to know and invested in the staff at Landrum. Those relationships, however, were the necessary foundation for everything that would open up in the years to come.
The Staff as Gatekeepers
Over the last 2 years, Long Point Baptist Church has been able to impact the students and their families first by loving the staff at Landrum well. As a Title I school, Landrum does not have as many financial and personnel resources as other schools, and the teachers can often be stretched thin. So, Long Point started with a teacher appreciation lunch, served breakfasts, and were able to fill up stockings for teachers around Christmas time. Eventually, their consistency and genuine love expressed to the staff built a bridge of trust.
Now, staff not only come to the church to present needs but they also help with things the church is doing, as well. For example, the school and church work hand-in-hand for the weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes activities and events.
September 19, when Tropical Depression Imelda hit Houston, Landrum had flood waters enter their school. The students and staff immediately stepped in to clean up the next day. Since the cleanup was already completed, Long Point decided to bless the school with hot tea and chocolates to help de-stress from a very crazy week.
From the Institutions to the Individuals
As Long Point became more and more involved as noticeable parts of their community, it opened doors to individual families within that community, as well. Kevin said he met one family in particular at the Landrum Middle open house in their second year.
That particular family later saw them helping at school, cleaning up at the local park, and present all throughout their community. They noticed the church was an undeniable part of the community and eventually came to Long Point to see what they were about. After a few months, this family became active members who still serve in the church today.
What About You?
Could your church also connect with a public school in your area? Right now, there are more than 40 local schools asking for a church partner but not enough churches signed up. Church-school partnerships allow you to go beyond the four walls of your church to build meaningful relationships with the students, parents, and teachers in your neighborhood. What an opportunity to love our neighbors in Jesus’ name!
Just like Kevin and the members of Long Point, you can come to a 101 Workshop on Tuesday, October 8 at 9:30 am. 101 Workshops are for church and school leaders or volunteers considering a church-school partnership. Loving Houston will cast vision for church-school partnerships, clarify how this fits with the separation of church and state, and walk through a step-by-step action plan that will help your church build a long-term relationship with a local public school. There is no commitment for those who attend.
Ready to get started? Then, come to the Action Plan Lab on October 8th at 11:30 am. This is a hands-on workshop where you and your team will receive personalized guidance from our Loving Houston District Coordinators. We’ll walk with you step by step through the Church-School Partnership Action Plan and ensure that your church has everything you need to build a strong foundation for your church-school partnership.
Are you already involved in a church-school partnership? There is also a Leader Luncheon October 8th at 12:30 pm. This is a FREE luncheon that will provide church and school leaders an opportunity to talk about challenges, share ideas, and network together in order to expand and grow your partnerships. It's a time of encouragement and refreshment for you as a thanks for all you do! This month, Blake Thomas, Bridge-Builders Director for The Forge for Families, will also be sharing about Cultural Intelligence – you don’t want to miss this!