By Rev. Andy Lewis, Director of The Center for Missional Outreach
In 2013, Bishop McKee and the CMO cast an exciting vision for church-school partnerships that grew out of Methodism’s long history of impacting education, focused on one-on-one mentoring, and was called One + One. As a result, approximately 50 percent of local churches in North Texas are engaged in some kind of church-school partnership and 33 percent of those partnerships involve mentoring relationships. However, many NTC churches, though inspired by the One + One vision, have struggled to live into it fully.
Now, five years later, the CMO recognizes the potential of church-school partnerships to not only affect educational outcomes for students in public schools but also provide priceless avenues for churches to listen to and learn about their mission fields and to build authentic relationships with their neighbors. So, we feel called to breathe new life into the One + One vision and equip churches to be successful in establishing and further developing strong church-school partnerships.
A key partner in this equipping work will be First UMC of Dallas. Since 2014, First UMC of Dallas has been in partnership with J.J. Rhoads, an elementary school in South Dallas / Fair Park. Over the past four years, this partnership – which began with one-on-one mentoring – has grown to include filling backpacks for weekend nourishment for students, providing bicycles as attendance incentives, sponsoring back-to-school meals for parents and teachers, “adopting” teachers and staff and showering them with encouragement year-round, lending a hand in the office and library, and volunteering as readers for Dr. Seuss Day and presenters for Career Day. As of the end of March 2018, members of First UMC of Dallas have given 1,350 hours of service to the J.J. Rhoads community during the 2017-18 school year. Their profound commitment to church-school partnerships and their first-hand experience of the difference they can make on the morale of students and teachers and the attendance rates and grades of children has propelled this church to develop a bold initiative that now has the potential to bless communities and churches across North Texas.
The initiative is One + One Dallas. One + One Dallas is a partnership with First UMC of Dallas, Dallas ISD, Pastors for Texas Children, The Meadows Foundation, and the CMO. The mission of One + One Dallas is to facilitate church-school partnerships, and the overall vision is for every one of the Dallas ISD schools to have a thriving church-school partnership in five years. Jason Lewis is One + One Dallas’ newly hired Executive Director. His role will be two-fold: connect communities of faith with Dallas ISD schools and contextualize and share best practices for church-school partnerships with NTC churches. The CMO is excited to have Jason Lewis as a partner in the work of equipping local churches for ministry with their neighbors.
In addition, Jurrita Williams – new Associate Director of the CMO – is developing a cutting-edge, learning cohort model for connecting and equipping local church leaders from across the conference for the task of beginning and deepening partnerships with their local schools. Our dream is that, one day, the vision of One + One Dallas will spread, and there will be, for example, a One + One Clarksville and a One + One Wichita Falls and a One + One Prosper … all to the glory of God.
For more information about how the CMO can help your local church make disciples through a church-school partnership, contact Jurrita Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.