loren Eric Swanson: Embrace Teachers

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Embrace Teachers

Yesterday I was in Omaha with the externally focused leaders from Christ Community Church--Ian Vickers (www.vickersia.blogspot.com), Nancy Fager and Jamie Cogua. Among the many things they do, CCC is part of a growing team of churches that are serving their community through "Embrace Teachers." Here's how Embrace Teachers works...

In the summer of 2004, during a major denominational convention, a proposal was put before the voting body to withdraw all of the students from public schools, citing their dissatisfaction with the values, direction and performance of public schools. The proposal was defeated but nonetheless sent a message to the public schools of America that many in this denomination were unhappy with their performance. And probably many teachers would agree. With budget cuts, standardized testing and little public encouragement, teaching has never been more difficult a profession.

Several churches in Omaha Nebraska are taking a different approach. Rather than pulling their children out and running from the schools, these churches are running towards 46 public schools in Omaha as part of the “Embrace Teachers” movement. The idea of “Embrace Teachers” was the result of a discussion among the pastors of three of Omaha’s largest churches (King of Kings Lutheran, Christ Community Church and Trinity Interdenominational Church), on how they could make a positive impact on the city. Begun in the fall of 2003, these churches and the other churches that joined them, which represent over 15,000 church members, came together to reach out to teachers through “random acts of kindness” to communicate their appreciation and commitment to the teachers of Omaha. When these parents show up they come to register compliments instead of complaints.

A little appreciation can go a long way and sometimes it is the small acts of kindness that have the biggest impact. This past year each school was “thanked” at least three times in practical ways by the churches of Omaha through gifts or acts of service—to let teachers know how much the community appreciated them. Some teams provided large sheet cakes for the teacher’s lounges on the first day of school. Other churches provided readers for the school reading program, painted halls and classrooms, redecorated and refurbished teacher’s lounges. The creativity of saying “thank-you” to those who give so much to the children of the community did not end there. Teams from churches provided teachers with supplies for the classrooms they might normally pay for out of pocket. They prepared homemade bread, brownies, cookies and soup for teachers during parent-teacher conferences. They supplied morning snacks for the teachers and brought balloons for teachers’ birthdays. Some teams picked up trash on the school grounds. Some went so far as to prepare pots of chili to take home so that teachers would have a night off from cooking.

“Embrace Omaha” has served in building healthy bridges between public
schools and local churches. Teachers and principals have responded with tears of gratitude. One school official recently stated during a school board meeting, "We are happy to open our doors to the churches from our community that are willing to reach out to the teachers and schools." Another school official wrote to Embrace Teachers, “This is an outstanding initiative and your support and recognition of the work of teachers in the Omaha public Schools are most appreciated." Still another official said, “This is where I see the church and school working together to serve the community.”

For Wendell Nelson, pastor at Christ Community Church, “Embrace Omaha” is part of the answer to the question that keeps him awake at night—“How do you turn the wounded, the consumers and the seekers into servers, lovers and givers?” “These teachers may never come to our church so the ROI (Return on Investment) might be low for our church but it is huge for the kingdom.” Christ Community is a church that is giving itself away to the community as an externally focused church. Nearly sixty people from Christ Community have been trained and are volunteering in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and fifty students are learning English at Christ Community. They are making a dent and making a difference.

Nearly 100 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt spoke words that defined the difference between the armchair critic and the “strivers.” Most likely you are familiar with the opening lines but it is worth quoting the paragraph in its context.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.”

Being involved in the life of the community is messy—filled with failure, daring, criticism and defeat but there are a group of churches in Omaha who, nonetheless have chosen to “quell the storm and ride the thunder.”

1 Comments:

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