In the midst of the back-to-school season, Southern Baptist churches are loving and serving the students, teachers and schools in their communities.
Churches are meeting needs in a variety of ways including hosting back-to-school bashes, offering free school supplies and giving away free backpacks.
First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla., hosted its annual back-to-school bash on July 30. This event included giveaways, games, distribution of resources and free food.
Peter Burmeister, the church’s associate pastor of discipleship and assimilation, said the event is a great opportunity to serve their local school, C.A. Weis Elementary.
First Baptist’s relationship with the school began more than 10 years ago when members realized the school did not have a PTA. So they formed an organization called “First Friends” that acts as a PTA.
The church also developed a ministry called Weis Initiatives, which plans out ways to serve the school beyond the back-to-school season.
After the initial year of the partnership, the school’s overall grade point average went up an entire letter grade from an F to a D.
Within a few years, the school became eligible for a significant financial grant. And the church recently broke ground on a new building specifically for ministries related to the school.
“I hope we’re beginning to leave a legacy in the community,” Burmeister said.
“For me it’s a reminder of what can happen by having a personalized ministry partner. We’re just astonished by what has happened through simple acts of faith from people in our church.”
First Baptist Pensacola is not the only church with a strong relationship to their local school.
Lake Mystic Baptist Church in Bristol, Fla., is located just half a mile from W.R. Tolar K-8 School.
For the first time this year, Lake Mystic gave out free backpacks to registered families during the school’s open house August 8.
Located in one of least populated counties in Florida, W.R. Tolar has only a little more than 400 students among all of the grades. The nearly 100 backpacks Lake Mystic will give away will cover a large percentage of the student body. Each of the backpacks will also be filled with school supplies based on the lists provided by the school’s teachers.
Due in part to its proximity, Lake Mystic has a close relationship to the faculty and staff at the school. Many of the school’s teachers are members of the church, and the principal is even a former youth pastor at Lake Mystic.
Pastor Cody Watson said the church wants to continue to use these connections to build a strong relationship with the school.
“We just want to be intentional to love and serve,” Watson said. “With us being the closest geographical church to the school, we try to minister and truly reach those families and teachers.”
Many of the backpacks Lake Mystic will give away were given to the church by Send Relief as a part of its Backpack Sunday initiative Aug. 7.
Aug. 7 was also Send Relief Sunday on the 2022 SBC Calendar, and the entire month of August has a focus on Christian service.
Lake Mystic is not the only church to take advantage of the opportunity to receive backpacks from Send Relief.
North Hills Church in West Monroe, La., gave away nearly 90 backpacks to families during its back-to-school bash Aug. 6.
Evan Knies, pastor of families and missions at North Hills, said the needs in the community are great.
He explained the church works with several schools in the area through a community Facebook page designed to meet practical needs. The church posted the sign-up form to receive a backpack in the page, and all of the slots were filled within two hours. The church purchased a few extra backpacks to meet the demand.
“There is great need that’s in our community and we want to use this as an opportunity to meet families and to meet kids,” Knies said.
“Most everyone is excited to go back to school after the summer and there is this sense of anticipation. It’s an awesome opportunity for us to provide and meet a need for families, but if we just give out backpacks, and don’t share the gospel, then we’ve failed. Giving out these backpacks gives us an opportunity to share the Good News.”
Knies added he is thankful to be a part of a convention with entities that make serving the local community during back-to-school time possible.
“Send Relief’s tagline is meeting needs and changing lives. This is why we cooperate, to share the gospel,” Knies said.
“The awesome thing about being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention is that it is not about an ‘us or them,’ mentality, it should be about how can we do this together and cooperate. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)