Diversity in Unity: Our Calling and the Gifts of the Spirit
Updated: Sep 21, 2019
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send
out laborers into his harvest.”—Matthew 9
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit…indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.”—1 Corinthians 12
To think of the many ways that God has blessed Pastors for Texas Children is to think first and foremost of our members. The faith leaders across Texas who make up our network are truly working as the hands and feet of God in our public schools. Through direct service, community outreach, and lobbying at the Texas Statehouse for just policy, these faith leaders have changed the face of education in our state, nation, and world.
Six years ago, when Pastors for Texas Children was just getting started, PTC leaders knew God’s Spirit would move in the hearts of faithful Texans who support public education. Initially, the “laborers were few” in our movement. We were a scrappy band of justice-minded ministers who believed in fair and equitable school funding. But, guided by God’s hand and a passion for public education, we grew into a diverse and robust movement. We were called by the Spirit and the needs of public-school kids to do something great.
Every time the PTC team spoke to a school superintendent and heard about a district’s underfunded and underappreciated schools, we felt the Spirit call PTC to ministries of service: backpack drives, tutoring, and teacher appreciation. Every time we spoke to a pastor and heard about how public schools had served the children of her church, we felt the Spirit call PTC to build church-school partnerships that would serve these children’s needs. Every time our lobbying team sat in a legislator’s office, we felt the Spirit call PTC to advocate for fair and equitable public school funding.
Most importantly, every time we looked into the face of one of God’s beloved children in a public school classroom, we heard the voice of Christ: “When you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25)
When we prayed for a movement of faithful public school supporters across Texas, God sent laborers into the harvest. We were sent Republicans, Democrats, and independents. We were sent faithful advocates of every race, color, and creed. From the churches, schools, and synagogues of our great state, God sent us pastors, faith leaders, teachers, business leaders, school administrators, parents, and advocates who understand that public education is a provision of God’s common good and a guarantee of the Texas State Constitution.
Today, Pastors for Texas Children is 2,000 members strong. Our partners serve schools across the state through dozens of direct service initiatives, and our coalitional lobbying work across lines of political and religious difference has successfully blocked bad bills and promoted necessary funding for our schools.
Not all of the members in our network are called to the same work. God has blessed us with a diverse movement where we bring a variety of gifts to the table.
The first gift that PTC and the broader church can offer our public schools is pastoral care and prayer. Many of our pastors and faith leaders live out this ministry by offering prayer and spiritual support to the superintendents, principals, teachers, and staff who serve our schools. In a world that does not treasure the gift of public education like it should, prayer for our schools is a powerful tool that calls down the blessings of God’s grace on our public-school leaders. These servant leaders give of their whole selves to serve Texas kids--they need our prayerful support!
Several superintendents across Texas have even assembled an advisory council of faith leaders from their local community to do the work of prayerfully supporting public education. In a recent tweet, Millsap ISD superintendent Deann Lee reflected on her district’s Faith Coalition, giving thanks for how these local faith leaders “support students and staff” of Millsap ISD “in numerous and powerful ways.” The most significant to her? “Knowing they continually lift us up in prayer.”
The second gift that churches can offer their local public schools is the ministry of direct service. Through community outreach and assistance, churches have helped “fill the gaps” at our schools, offering materials, volunteer hours, and mentorship to students in need. Respecting God’s good gifts of religious liberty and religious freedom, churches have served our schools in a way that changes the lives of students and volunteers alike.
At Pastors for Texas Children, we encourage our faith partners to get involved with their local school district through three modes of direct service:
School supply drives: Have your congregation fill and bless backpacks with school supplies that can go to students in need.
Mentorship: Encourage members of your congregation to volunteer and with your local school district’s tutoring and mentorship programs.
Teacher appreciation: Host teacher appreciation days in your congregation and find ways to support your local teachers through gifts and volunteer efforts.
So many congregations across Texas are already doing this direct service work. Groups like Loving Houston and First United Methodist Church of Dallas have already sent hundreds of volunteers and tutors into their local schools.
Not in an area that already has a congregational school service initiative? You can start one! Reach out to your local school superintendent and ask two simple questions: “What does your district need?” and “How can we help?” These questions can be the beginning of a joyful and fruitful church-school partnership. If you have questions about school service or would like to start a school service initiative, you can contact PTC’s Ministry Intern.
The third way that congregations and people of faith can get involved with school support ministry is by lobbying for legislation that supports our public schools. At Pastors for Texas Children, we believe that church-state separation is a gift from God that allows the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to flourish. But keeping church and state separate doesn’t mean that justice-minded people of faith shouldn’t work to influence public policy for the common good. Our faith calls us to bold action in the public square.
When pastors and people of faith raise our collective voice and name public schools as a crucial component of God’s common good, we do the work of the Spirit in the world. When legislators hear faith communities say “we support our schools,” they listen. When pastors and faith leaders lobby and march and vote in a way that supports public schools, sinful vouchers and budget cuts that drain money from the public trust are blocked and Texas kids in public schools get the funding they deserve.
Pastors for Texas Children is guided by five legislative priorities in our lobbying initiatives.
Interested in lobbying for public schools as a pastor or faith leader? Find your representative and set up a meeting to discuss why public schools matter to you!
Pastors for Texas Children has been blessed by many gifts, and it is important for us to reflect upon these gifts as grace-filled blessings of the same Spirit. God smiles upon all work that serves the common good, whether it be a prayer ministry, a direct service initiative, or a pro-public schools lobbying effort. We cannot do this work without God’s blessings, and we cannot do this work without a diversity of spiritual gifts.
Thanks be to God for all who serve our schools, and for all faith leaders who work alongside educators and administrators for the Spirit’s common purpose and God’s common good.