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Serving Local Schools: A Creative Solution for Church and State

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When it comes to church and state laws, a little creative thinking can help you obey the law while serving schools.

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Fowler is a middle school in our area where we identified several practical needs with some at-risk kids. I spoke with the principal and offered to send an employee to the school on a full-time basis to help them. The needs of the neighborhood were simply too vast for the meager resources they had available. They needed help and they knew they needed help, but the principal wasn’t sure about my suggestion. She felt that having a Colossae Church employee working for them was a bit too close to the legal line separating church and state. So we tried to get creative and come up with a solution. How could we help the school meet their needs in a way that would not compromise the law, helping the principal feel not only comfortable but excited about our church serving her school?

After looking at a few ideas, we finally decided to create a job description through the AmeriCorps program. I met with the principal to develop a job description that best fit the needs of the school, we sent in our application to AmeriCorps, and the job was ultimately approved. Having an AmeriCorps–approved job meant that we could meet the need as a church in a way that respected the legal tensions the school employees face on a daily basis. The principal obviously knew that we (as a church) had developed and funded the position, yet the employee was also responsible directly to the AmeriCorps program. We were able to choose the employee for AmeriCorps, so we chose an individual (Michael) from our church to hire for the position. Thinking outside the box like this allowed us to show the principal that we respected her limitations while still providing a much-needed resource for the students and the school. She was able to publicly introduce Michael as an AmeriCorps member who was there to help, but when appropriate share how our church funded the position.

But that is a formal program we developed. Any individual, and especially parents, can simply offer themselves as a resource. Nobody is checking religious identity cards at the front doors of schools! There is simply a need for safe people from the community to help. More of us should take advantage of simply being a “member of the community who cares.”

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Taken from Serving Local Schools by Chuck Bomar. Copyright © 2017 by Chuck Bomar. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com

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