“Go to the principal’s office” are some words every child dreads hearing. Thankfully, I did not have to hear those too often and if the principal didn’t know my name that was all the better.
For the local church pastor, it is imperative to go to the principal’s office, however. Summer is a great time to do so. As a pastor learns about his or her community one person to reach out to are the principals at the local elementary, middle and high school. Summer is a great time to do this as the students are not there and the administration is not “as busy” as usual. Local school principals (and guidance counselors as well) have their finger on the pulse of the community and can serve as great sources of information about the needs of the local community. They and their staff come face to face with such needs nine months out of the year.
Here is a how to do it. Pick up the phone and call the school secretary and tell them who you are and ask if it would be possible to meet with the principal for a half hour to just introduce yourself (i.e. you have no agenda). I have found every school and principal I have ever called open to meeting. I then make sure I show up on time recognizing the principal’s busy schedule. I also come prepared with a series of questions. In addition to the questions I have about the needs of the community I also thank them profusely for meeting with me and ask them and share about my own life. After the meeting I will usually follow up with a thank you note with contact info offering any future assistance they may need.
Here are some of the questions I would ask…
- Tell me about the student body? What is the socioeconomic make-up, racial make up, how many children on free lunch, the boundaries of your school?, etc.
- What are some of your most successful programs for students struggling and students excelling?
- As you look at your school and the community at large what is the biggest unmet need you see?
- Are there other churches partnering with your school in any way?
- How could we best help you and your school achieve your mission?
You can come up with your own list. If nothing else, the time together with the principal or his or her designee builds good will. Notice, as the church you are not asking for anything, you are not crossing any boundary that would give the principal a problem. You are simply seeking to be a good community partner.
So, maybe this summer it would be worth taking a trip to the principal’s office. Believe me, it is not as scary as it used to be!