I recently sat down with a phone book and counted the number of churches in our area that are listed in the yellow pages.
There are two-hundred-and-eighty(280).
280 multiplied by the average congregation size equals, well, a “whole bunch” of church-going people in our area; easily in the tens-of-thousands, I would guess.
Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that make us feel proud of our community, knowing that most of us are church-going, “people of faith”?
I am one of those people. Yes, indeed! I go to church most Sundays and, sometimes, on Wednesdays, too. I listen to the thought-provoking sermon and the beautiful music and enjoy the fellowship. I’m even part of a weekly book study at the church during the Season of Lent. In addition to all of that, I even give money to the church!
Hallelujah! I’m blessed!! I am a “Christian”!!!
When I’m in church and with my church family, that is…
What about when I’m not in church and not with my church family? What about the other five-to-six days of the week; the time I spend in my community? (Jesus of Nazareth knew a little something about being “out-and-about” in his community and helping total strangers; that was where and how he spent most of his time.)
What about 1 John 3:16, in which the writer states:
“By this we know love. That he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for each other.”
Am I spending enough of my time “laying down my life” for the children and young adults of my greater community? Am I making enough room in my schedule for the youngsters in my community who need a little more attention? Who need a bit of extra, weekly help with their schoolwork?
Who just need something more?
I need to re-evaluate my priorities.
We, the entire faith community of Meridian, Mississippi, need to re-evaluate our priorities.
I know, I know. We do a lot. We do this and we do that. We probably do more than the average church-goer in the average church-going community. And while our churches can never do enough in any area, there are, unfortunately, areas in our own backyard that are crying out for our attention.
Please know that I recognize and applaud the immeasurable amount of mission work being completed at home and abroad by our local churches on a continuous basis. This work is needed and it is making a difference.
Please also know that, while we Mississippians are proud “people of faith”, the most recent high school graduation rate for our area — based on the ’07-’08 school year — is an unacceptable, unholy 72%.*
I could go on, but I’m not. You know the rankings. And, like me, you are sick and tired of hearing them. I’m thirty-five years old and I’ve heard them all my life. “Fed up” doesn’t come anywhere close to describing my feelings about these statistics.
Indeed, these dismal numbers are nothing new. They are the same-old, same-old, and they are not what God wants.
In fact, God calls for just the opposite. He calls for “something new in the world”.
If we are to succeed — if we are to answer the challenge that is laid out before us in the Holy Gospel — we must get involved with the children of our community on a colossal, unprecedented scale, and our churches must be at the forefront of this endeavor..
We, the faith community, must do something “new“.
By starting and sustaining an after-school program at Parkview Elementary School this year, First Baptist Church Meridian is doing just that.
I recently spoke with Mrs. Donia Evans, FBC member and coordinator of the First Baptist Church Parkview Project:
PSW: How many church members are taking part in this program on a weekly basis?
DE: We have thirty-one volunteers working with 3rd graders at Parkview Elementary School weekly.
PSW: How often do you show up?
DE: We work 3:30 to 4:30, every Tuesday and Thursday.
PSW: How many students are in the program?
DE:About 32, so we are able to work mostly one-on-one.
PSW: Do the kids seem to be benefiting from it?
DE: Yes, they like the personal attention they receive and we have a workbook that deals with specific reading skills they will be tested on.
PSW: What is your advice to other churches who are interested in starting a similar program?
DE: Get involved, it is very rewarding to build relationships and see children grow. This year’s program has been a work in progress, but I have learned a lot and have very specific plans for next year. We have done this with our people and plan to continue next year. Now is the time to start making plans, it won’t happen overnight.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for you to take part in an after-school program, don’t worry! Instead, you can answer God’s call by using your lunch break one day per week to be a Study-Buddy. It’s free. Find out more at www.studybuddynow.com.
If your church is interested in starting an after-school program with a local school, here are some phone numbers:
MPSD Schools and Principals:
Crestwood Elementary — Kim Kendricks — 601-484-4971
Oakland Heights Elementary — Rosalind Operton — 601-484-4983
Parkview Elementary — Lisa Barfield — 601-484-4990
Poplar Springs Elementary — Lavonda Germany — 601-484-4450
Harris Elementary — Shannon Miller — 601-484-4464
West Hills Elementary — Ouida Stewart — 601-484-4472
Carver Middle School — Tiffany Plott — 601-484-4482
Magnolia Middle School — Rufus Wright — 601-484-4060
Northwest Middle School — Bruce Pugh — 601-484-4094
Meridian High School — Victor Hubbard — 601-482-3191