Pastors for Texas Children advocate for public schools

Although Calvary Baptist Church in San Angelo averages only 75 members on Sundays, church members stuffed more than 550 shoeboxes with small Christmas gifts for each of the students and faculty at San Angelo’s Bradford Elementary School. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Calvary Baptist Church in San Angelo)

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While he served on the Coalition of Public Schools for Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission four years ago, Charles Foster Johnson realized something drastic needed to happen to connect churches to public schools at the local level.

“We are not winning the day in Austin,” he remembered thinking. “The real work needs to be done in the local communities.”

pastors students teachers400A teacher at Bradford Elementary School in San Angelo is overcome with emotion as members of nearby Calvary Baptist Church deliver shoeboxes filled with Christmas presents. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Calvary Baptist Church in San Angelo)That realization led the Christian Life Commission to create Pastors for Texas Children in October 2012. Johnson directs the organization, which seeks to provide wrap-around care to students in local public schools and to advocate for children by supporting public education.

Today, nearly 500 faith leaders from varied denominations work in partnership with Pastors for Texas Children. The organization asks local pastors to provide spiritual care for one or more local schools and offer tangible support to a school, such as provide school supplies, food security and after-school mentoring.

The group asks every pastor to make an appointment to pray with the principal of a local school and build a healthy relationship with students, staff and faculty.

Pastors for Texas Children also asks faith leaders to sponsor an event, such as a teacher appreciation banquet, to honor the school’s faculty and administration.

In many cases, Pastors For Texas Children simply promotes best practices, identifying locations where thriving partnerships between a local church and a local school already exist.

pastors students kids packages400Calvary Baptist Church in San Angelo recently completed its second annual “Operation Bradford Child,” inspired by Samaritan’s Purse “Operation Christmas Child.” The project benefits students and faculty at San Angelo’s Bradford Elementary School. (PHOTO/Courtesy of Calvary Baptist Church in San Angelo)In San Angelo, Calvary Baptist Church members take teachers at Bradford Elementary School out to lunch from time to time. Church volunteers are available to offer support, encouragement and prayer. Additionally, the church is involved with the school’s summer feeding program.

The church recently completed its second annual Operation Bradford Child, inspired by Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child. Although the church averages only 75 in attendance on Sundays, church members stuffed more than 550 shoeboxes with small Christmas gifts for each of Bradford Elementary School’s students and faculty.

Pastor Bobby Roger and around half his church members hand-delivered the shoeboxes to students in each classroom at Bradford, six blocks from the church. Caring for students and teachers at the school offers an opportunity for ministry, Roger said.

“We don’t know all that God is going to do with it, but we do know that we want to stay involved in the local school here in the things we are doing,” he said. “They know we are not just some people who show up Sunday morning and hide behind the walls.”

Also in San Angelo, members of Southland Baptist Church provide a monthly appreciation meal for teachers and administrators at San Jacinto Elementary School. They also serve at the school’s annual and monthly events, such as fall festivals and math and science game nights.

Some men in the church act as positive male role models as they mentor boys in the school.

“There has been lots of opportunity for ministry to happen in very natural, organic ways because of the relationships we have built,” Pastor Taylor Sandlin said.

Pastors for Texas Children insists ministry and advocacy go hand-in-hand. Once local churches have made strong, healthy connections with local schools, Pastors for Texas Children encourages the pastors to be the voice of the students in speaking to their legislators.

The organization asks pastors to contact their state legislator and inform him or her about the needs of the local school and to discuss the funding the school receives. The group also asks pastors to advocate for public education in person, by making one trip to Austin during a legislative session.

Johnson, pastor at Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth, said legislators in Austin typically listen to pastors’ concerns about public education because they have influence in their local communities.

“The reason legislators listen to pastors is because we have congregations, and congregations vote,” he said.

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