The trees start to turn, a new line of children stands at your street corner, and stores offer sales on superhero-related office supplies. There’s no question — school is back in session! If your parish has an elementary school attached, this may be more prominently on your mind. Maybe you held a commissioning Mass for teachers or had a parish-wide drive for school supplies and gently used secondhand uniforms.
Whether or not your parish has a school, this is a great time of year for evangelization and stewardship. How can you think outside the box to support education and engage a new generation of disciples?
Stewardship in Schools
We often think of how to best mobilize our parishioners for the work of the church. But what about the work of your parish school? An empty nester may not have children enrolled, but they have gifts to give! Make an appeal to parishioners for the volunteer needs of the school, from tutoring to tech support. Parishioners could also be a great source for in-kind donations to the school from their areas of business, such as sporting goods or ongoing grounds maintenance.
Open House Evangelization
For many “back to school nights,” parents file through the halls to their children’s classrooms. They meet the teachers, enjoy a cookie in the gym, and depart for the night. Consider offering brief seminars on important topics. These could address relevant issues such as bullying prevention or navigating social media. These could also address faith-related topics, like praying with your children at home or “Reading the Bible 101.” Consider looping in some of your parish catechists or having other parishioners with expertise volunteer.
Ice Cream Missionaries
School budgets can be tight, and incentivizing academic growth and good behavior might be challenging. Consider turning a team of volunteers into “ice cream missionaries.” They can collaborate with your parish school or a local inner-city elementary school to offer a quarterly party for outstanding students. Whether it’s a build-your-own sundae bar, a pizza lunch, or another fun food item, this can be a great way to support students in your parish school or within your parish boundaries.
Plant a Community Garden
Here’s a great way to educate the young, involve the parish, and give back to the community. A garden offers a hands-on biology and ecology learning opportunity for science class. Parishioners can tend to the garden on the weekends. Food can be shared in community-building events at the parish or donated to the local food pantry — bonus points if it supplements the dry goods pantry your parish might already host!
Bridge the Hunger Gap
Your parish school — or a school within your parish boundaries — may have children on a reduced or free lunch program. Some of these students may not be fed adequately outside of the school day. Consider bridging the gap for these students by providing a simple meal they can bring home in their backpack on Friday.
Many Catholic grade schools employee educators from a variety of faith backgrounds. Help these teachers feel welcome in your parish! Cater a nice lunch or order gourmet coffee and pastries from a local bakery for the teacher’s lounge.
How do you create a culture of stewardship, support, and evangelization at your parish school?