Peter Groff, the Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the Department of Education, will be headlining a Teachers College conference on the role of faith congregations in education.   This afternoon, I’ll be outlining these 10 specific ways that congregations can make a difference:

1.  Youth/Family Services: Communities in Schools and interfaith groups like Unified Vailsburg Services Organization are great templates for building a web of support around students.

2. Mentor/Tutor: a church can help organize volunteers to provide tutoring and mentoring for schools during the school day.

3. After school/Summer school: congregations can extend learning by providing faith-based learning during non-school hours/days.

4. Private School: Some faith traditions have a strong tradition of providing high quality private/parochial education, e.g, Catholic SchoolsChristian Schools International, Lutheran Schools.

5. Voucher School: In European countries, faith congregations can run publicly funded faith-based schools.  In a couple US communities, vouchers or private scholarships allow low income students to attend private schools.

6. Alternative Schools: Street School Network members, mostly churches, provide free alternative education to struggling teens.

7. Affordable Private School: Cristo Rey is a network of 24 affordable Catholic schools supported by work-study sponsors.  With improvements in online learning, there is the opportunity to run high quality low cost faith-based private schools that blend the best of online and onsite learning.

8: Charter School: When parochial schools are no longer viable, congregations have converted faith-based schools to public charter schools.  While they can’t provide religious instruction during the day, congregations can still provide services 1-3 above.  Faith leaders can also provide leadership for development of new public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods.

9. Community Development: John Perkins spent the last 20 years championing Christian Community Development–congregations banding together to serve under-resourced neighborhoods.

10. Pray: faith congregations can join together to support kids and teachers with in prayer breakfasts, prayer days, and back-to-school prayer rallies.

Marcus Hall of Education Equality Project did an amazing job pulling this important conference together.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.

1 COMMENT

  1. Maybe, considering the raping of young children by priests, we should do all we can to keep church and state separate.

    I can tell you that I sure as hell don’t want religion impinging on my son!

    This is a really stupid idea.

    Do you even care about humanity?

    • Faith congregations play a vital role in under-resourced communities–often places where public delivery systems have failed for decades.
      The board that hired me as a public school superintendent included a Lutheran pastor that was an extraordinary community leader. Another pastor led a tutoring program and a leadership development program. They defended and supported public education and made our young community a better place to live and learn.
      Private and parochial education also have a wonderful tradition in this country. Catholic schools, in particular, have served urban students well for generations. I’m glad there are folks like Cristo Rey inventing sustainability strategies to maintain faith-based educational options.

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