In 2013 I hosted a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training at Shiloh for those interested in changing communities around the world through asset based community development. At that training was a group from Pure Heart Christian Fellowship, one of whom was their local outreach pastor Tracey Beal. Right from the jump I could see she had an enormous heart for our city and was doing things to change it for the better and to put Jesus on display. Her primary avenue for doing this was through local schools.
Pure Heart had seen schools in their area turn from failing schools to A+ schools because of their involvement. This ranged from tutoring, to assisting teachers, school improvement projects, and everything in between. Because of the success of this, they wanted to expand this in a huge way but weren’t sure how. There are over 2200 schools in Arizona and they certainly couldn’t help all of them, but they realized that that greater body of Christ could.
Fast forward two years and Tracey invited me to a city-wide initiative called “Love Our Schools Day.” The idea behind it was very simple; there are two faith communities for every school in Arizona, lets work to get every one of those schools connected to a faith partner that can serve them. Not only did we want to connect faith partners, we also wanted to connect with local business partners and bring them to the table. So in 2015 Shiloh served Quail Run Elementary, Campo Bello Elementary, and Vista Verde Middle School alongside a few other churches and a few local business partners. Across the city there were 40 schools served. Over the last few years, it has spread like wildfire.
Because of some of the work that we did as a church in 2016, I got the opportunity to share alongside Principal Jerry Withers at the School Connect Summit. This event has been hosted at GCU arena for the last two years and brings together over 700 people from 40 different school districts across Arizona. One of those was PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Jim Lee. After the event Jerry & I had a conversation with him where he asked us to bring this into more schools in PVUSD.
I try not to freak out when I share this but I feel as though it gets lost on people. This is a public school superintendent asking for churches to partner with his schools!! We are blessed to have many public educators that call Shiloh home and all of them are astounded at what is happening right now with School Connect. None of them can remember a time when churches were being openly invited into schools and the schools being strongly encouraged to partner with those churches.
Since we have been given this platform and permission we’ve worked hard to spread the word and this year, Lord willing, we will have 30 of the 45 schools in PVUSD partnered with churches on Saturday. Our hope next year is to have a church partner for all 45 of the schools in PVUSD! That is a huge goal and in a lot of ways a scary goal but what an incredible testimony to Jesus we can be if we’re proactively serving and loving the schools.
You might be asking, “what is the point of all this? Are we really putting Jesus on display by doing service projects when no one is there?” Great question! Love Our Schools Day is an avenue for building relationships with the schools and the administration. Through these relationships we get the opportunity to minister in different ways. For example; in the past year I’ve had principals from all 5 schools that we partner with reach out for various needs in their schools. We’ve gotten to spend time with students, meet needs of families, help in the schools, and serve as chaperones on field trips to make sure the schools could go. We are known, appreciated, and looked to for support by the schools and those represented there.
These longstanding relationships are what allow us to show the love of God to all those represented at the school. But it’s not possible to build and sustain these relationships without you!
If you have not signed up for Love Our Schools Day, please please please do so right now! Links for our 5 partner schools are right here:
By serving for 3-4 hours on this day you’re opening up opportunities for dozens of other schools to be served and thousands of kids to be impacted by Bible believing, Jesus loving, service minded churches. Grab a friend, grab some coffee, and join us here at Shiloh Saturday morning at 8:30AM. Even if you can’t do manual labor, please come! We are going to write teacher appreciation cards for over 300 staff members at our schools.
Everyone can do something!