Church’s Vision for Children Yields Life-Giving Public School Partnerships
By Carl Stagner
“I was in one of our Sunday morning worship services in the summer of 2015. The Lord prompted me to look at Judges 2:10, which describes a generation that knew not the Lord nor his works. Then I looked out over our congregation and saw youth and children dispersed among the crowd. Most were engaged in the worship service, but there were a few that were completely disconnected and apparently disinterested. My heart was burdened for them. I was convicted in that moment to reevaluate how we do church, our focus, etc. Are we having church around and above the heads of our children? It was frightening to me to come to the realization that many of our children are ‘church kids,’ but not born-again Christians.” This realization changed Pastor D. H. Dawkins’ approach to ministry planning and practice. Less than half a year into what has been dubbed the Year of Children and Youth, no one at Praise Tabernacle International regrets this fundamental shift.
Since the beginning of the year, the Church of God congregation in Plantation, Florida, has adopted a total of nine public schools in the area—including elementary, middle, and high schools. Adoption includes not only blessings for the students, but for faculty and staff, as well. And when Praise Tabernacle adopts a school, they don’t go halfway! Church volunteers serve as the hands and feet of Jesus while they:
• pray for students, faculty, and staff on a daily basis;
• prepare an appreciation breakfast for faculty and staff of each school, on site;
• host a service at Praise Tabernacle to celebrate the students and give bands, choirs, drama teams, and other student groups opportunity to participate;
• provide school supplies and other resources;
• make community service hours available through the church;
• mentor students;
• speak at events and rallies; and
• support activities for each school (sports games, concerts, etc.).
“The camaraderie between Broward Schools and the church has enhanced greatly,” Dawkins explains. “The schools and the church are the two most influential institutions, second only to the home, in the lives of our children and youth. The collaboration of the two has created a unity that is sparking a movement in the region. The schools are supporting the church, and the church is supporting the schools.”
Pastor Dawkins says it’s as if the schools have actually been waiting for the church to come in, though they’ve not extended any formal invitation. Schools are in great need, but more often than not, neither the church nor the school do anything about it, for fear of “separation of church and state.” But it can be done, and Praise Tabernacle International testifies to this fact. “The idea that people of faith—the church—cannot engage freely with the public school system is only a reality to those who haven’t used wisdom to merge together,” Dawkins asserts.
Praise Tabernacle stepped out in faith, and God is blessing. Wise integration of faith and education through Christ’s love in and around Plantation, Florida, has led to dozens of people accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord. Those saved have included principals, teachers, students, and parents!
Praise Tabernacle has decided to stop adding additional schools to their adoption list in order to focus their attention building lasting relationships. In addition, the church has implemented training for children’s ministry and youth ministry volunteers. Ultimately, they envision a redesign of their sanctuary and children’s ministry wings for a multi-sensory, student-friendly space. But first, they’re planning a Friends and Family Month for July, during which Sundays will be limited to one service, followed by recreation, competitions, sports, bounce houses, and a diverse menu each week to reflect the diverse demographics at Praise Tabernacle—barbecue, Latin, Caribbean, and soul food.
“My prayer is that God will prepare us for the harvest that has been waiting on us,” Dawkins explains. “For too long we have analyzed the bait, when the bait was never for the caught, but for the catch.”
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.