by Thom Rainer
I have always been weird.
While most of my childhood peers lamented the beginning of a new school year, I looked forward to it with enthusiasm. I loved the opportunity to learn and discover new vistas.
As a pastor, I saw the beginning of a school year as an opportunity to try new approaches and to make a statement about the priorities of our congregation. Over the past three decades, I have been blessed to hear from other church leaders on a multitude of topics. Let me share with you what I have heard about great success stories of churches as a new school year approached. They are basic but profound.
- Recommit to becoming a welcoming church. September could be the month where you see a greater regular flow of guests. Families often move in the summer, so their children can start in a new school at the beginning of the school year. Take a look at two of my books to help guide you in this recommitment. Becoming a Welcoming Church is pretty much a complete guide for your church leaders and members. We Want You Here is a unique book meant specifically for the guest as a gift. Both books are only $5 when purchased in a case of 20 books. Commercial over.
- Dedicate a part of a worship service to praying for students and teachers. We recently did that at our church. And we followed the service by writing brief thank you letters to the teachers at one of the schools near us. It had a huge impact on both the teachers and on our members.
- Adopt a school. Request a meeting with a local school principal. Ask him or her what your church could do to best help the school. If it is within the scope of what the church can do, organize a ministry to meet that very need. Some churches paint classrooms. Some churches clean school grounds. Other churches provide back-to-school resources for students and/or teachers.
- Revitalize the groups in your church. Regardless of what you call them, community groups, life groups, Sunday school classes or many other names, these groups are the lifeblood of assimilation, ministry and stewardship in your church. Do whatever is necessary with a new school year beginning to re-energize and grow your groups.
- Re-cast the vision of the church. Many church leaders re-cast the vision of the church at the beginning of the calendar year. Consider casting the vision at the beginning of the school year. You will likely have more new members and guests in September than in January. You have a great opportunity to ride the wave of freshness that a new school year brings.
These are five of the most effective back-to-school ideas I have heard from churches all across North America and beyond. But this blog has several million faithful audience members. I know many of you have some great ideas. Please share them with our community.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.