South Carolina evangelism director: God is still in our schools

Watching sand pass through an hourglass always captivated me as a child. It seemed as though the mass of sand would never pass through the bottleneck, but in quick order the final grains fell.

There is a bottleneck where nearly every person over the next 20 years will pass. The church could surround this bottleneck and change communities and impact every life in across the nation over a few decades. Some churches have realized the great strategic value and already have gotten started.

The bottleneck is your local school.

Only 3 percent of children are homeschooled here in South Carolina. This means that 97 percent of a generation of children will flow through an elementary school, private or public, over the next 10 years. Not only will they flow through, but their parents will be engaged at some level as well.

God hasn't been taken out of our public schools. He is there every day, living inside Christian children, educators and volunteer parents. In some cases, however, the church has walked away from our public schools.

There is a movement of churches reengaging schools through service. Some are providing teacher support and encouragement. Others are providing backpacks filled with food for free- and reduced-lunch children for the weekend. Other churches are sending volunteers to read to children once a week and providing after-school tutoring. In every case, they have the opportunity to continue the conversation outside of school time with their families.

The South Carolina Department of Education even has opened an Office of Family & Community Engagement to connect every school with a community organization that will serve and volunteer.

Molly Spearman, South Carolina's superintendent of education, said, "You may not be able to talk about Jesus in our public schools, but you can come and act like Him." She already has communicated to school superintendents that it is OK to allow churches to serve in their schools.

The traditional question of evangelism asked by Christians is: "If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?" The new question that is emerging will be asked by the lost: "Who are you? And why are you here helping me?"

When you serve in your local school, get ready to give an answer to that question. As you serve, you help the school with their business of educating children and making communities a better place. Serving will, in turn, help you see doors of opportunities fling open in families' lives to share the hope of the Gospel.

In the rural town of Williston, S.C., First Baptist Church decided to minister to the Title I school across the street, which had few volunteers. When they checked with the principal, she responded they needed reading help. Church members came alongside the school, hosted a literacy night and read with the children on a weekly basis. The school has been thrilled with the partnership so much that it has given the church a classroom to turn into its own reading center to meet with children throughout the week.

Other churches have joined the movement. Your church can as well. These are the days of your life. Make them count and saturate every life with the hope of the Gospel.

Lee Clamp is evangelism group director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention (www.scbaptist.org).

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