On the heels of the infamous summer slump, the back-to-school season offers your church an opportunity to re-engage your congregation and forge new connections with your community by supporting families, encouraging school staff, and helping kids build new relationships.
Here are 10 back-to-school outreach ideas your church can use this year.
1. Start a sports league
At this point in the year, a lot of kids may not have anything to do after school yet. Many of them are new to their schools, too, and don’t have friends. Whether you have your own field or court, or you use one that’s available to the public, starting a sports league is a great way for your church to build relationships with others in the community. This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, either. Games like cornhole require a minimal investment, and you can set them up just about anywhere.
2. Set up a backpack drive
Backpack drives are the go-to plan for most churches when it comes to supporting families during the back-to-school season—and for good reason. School supply costs add up fast, and the burden on families only seems to increase each year. This is a great way to connect with needy families and schools in your community. Consider coordinating with local schools to create a list of supplies, and then ask your congregation to either purchase supplies or donate to a backpack drive fund (which you can easily set up in the Pushpay app).
Be sure to promote your event to your local area on social media and learn how other churches are using technology in the State of Church Tech Report.
3. Prepare a back-to-school bash
A back-to-school bash can include a backpack drive, but it goes well beyond that. This is essentially a community party, and it’s a chance for your church to go big. You could partner with local businesses and encourage them to donate supplies, clothes, food, services, or games and activities to make this event something your community will remember. Be sure to plan ahead, and get as many volunteers as you can. Your “events” tab can give people all the information they need, and you can use push notifications to ask your church for help.
4. Sponsor a school or classroom
Every school—indeed, every classroom—has unique needs they can’t meet with the resources they have. In order to stick to their budget, they’ve had to make hard choices about what kids and staff need to succeed, and that often means that important, valuable projects and tools don’t make the cut.
Your church can help. Depending on what you think your church is equipped to provide, talk to a local school or a specific teacher about what they need—whether that’s an ongoing expense, a one-time investment, volunteers, or labor. Maybe the playground is dangerously outdated. Or a class simply doesn’t have enough equipment, and kids are sharing tech or using old textbooks.
Find out how you can help, and make a commitment to sponsor a school or classroom. Set up a dedicated fund for this commitment, and encourage your church to donate time or money.
5. Encourage church members to volunteer at schools
Schools can always use volunteers. Whether they need more help supervising at recess or detention, coaching on school teams, or support for group activities, there’s always somewhere schools could use an extra set of hands. Encourage your congregation to be that extra set of hands and be ambassadors for your church.
6. Plan a teacher appreciation day
Every year, National Teacher Appreciation Day is on Tuesday of the first full week of May. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate teachers on other days, too. Your church can plan a separate special day for teachers and honor them with:
- Notes and thank yous (from parents, community members, or perhaps kids in your children’s ministry)
- Baked goods
- Gift cards
- Special, highly coveted school supplies like Mr. Sketch Scented Markers
7. Tutor homeschooled kids
Homeschooled kids go “back-to-school” in the fall, too. Many homeschooled kids have incredible support at home from their parents. But not all do. If there are homeschool families at your church, they may know other homeschoolers outside of your church who could use some extra help. This could be a good way for youth leaders, college students, or even other homeschool parents to develop relationships with unchurched kids.
8. Host a family movie night
If your church has a projector and a screen, you’re capable of facilitating an entertainment experience most people can’t get at home. Whether you bring everything outdoors or stay inside, a family movie night is a great way to cap off the summer. But there’s also no reason why you can’t keep it going through the school year. This is a great way to help families in your community see your church as a place where they’re welcome, comfortable, and cared for.
Just be mindful of the fact that showing a movie at church constitutes a public performance and might require a license.
9. Give parents a night off
Many parents rarely—if ever—get a night to themselves. It can be hard to ask friends and family to babysit (especially if grandparents live far away), and babysitters cost money. That’s where you come in. You have a facility that’s already equipped to keep kids of all ages happy and safe, and you have a team of volunteers who care about kids and have passed background checks.
So why not offer to give parents a date night, and let them drop off their kids for a few hours?
10. Invite teachers to church for a special service
To kick off the school year, consider preparing a special service to honor and lift up teachers in your community. You could share a sermon about God’s heart for kids and the importance of teaching, loving, and supporting them. But you could also keep it simple, and have a special time of prayer acknowledging the important role teachers have in your community and the world, and then serve them food and spend time with them after the service.
Make the most of the back-to-school season
When families go back-to-school, it’s the start of something new, and they’re still deciding what their routine is going to look like for the rest of the school year. That makes this one of the ideal times to connect with new families because there’s still room for you in their lives.
So be sure to find some intentional ways your church can come alongside parents, students, and schools this fall.
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