Stewarding A School
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God. Whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking actual words of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
Have you ever been a part of a group that had a great leader? Someone who poured out information and inspiration and led by example. This person probably stands in great contrast to a bad leader you’ve experienced, who played favorites, used their words to belittle others and gave demands they would never think of fulfilling themselves.
As we spend the month of August praying for schools, we must remember to pray for the leaders; the people who set the tone for the entire faculty, who raise the standards of teaching, and who cast a vision of caring for students beyond their testing scores. The effect a leader has on a school and community can reach far into the futures of the children they shepherd.
Can I share a Glory Story demonstrating God’s wisdom and blessings being poured out through a school leader?
An inner-city elementary school in Texas unknowingly entered a new season when principal Jayanna Kelly stepped onto campus as the new principal. The school struggled with a large portion of the student population living well below the poverty line, a community with rampant violent crime, and dismal academic performance. When Kelly was assigned to the school, she was deeply worried, and sad to leave the community she had fostered in her previous position.
“At first I felt like I was going into exile,” Kelly said. “But Jeremiah 29:11 was my anchor verse that first year.”
Kelly submitted herself to the will of the Lord, embraced His plan for her to lead this school, and determined to give the Lord, and thus the school, her best.
In the first year, there were even more challenges than expected. She experienced pushback from teachers who were resistant to a new leader suggesting new ways of doing things, and a lack of inherent trust from parents. Day after day, she saw the great needs of the children.
“We can’t teach kids if they’re hungry or worried,” Kelly said. “The second year, my goal was to meet the needs of the community, students, and parents, in order to help the whole child.”
In order to fully care for each child, Kelly turned to her team. For students who had free meals at school but went hungry at home, school leaders made a way to have food sent home with students, and through the school social worker, the neediest families got whole meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
She brought on new teachers to replace the 19 who quit following her first year, as well as a new school social worker. The entire staff underwent a great deal of classroom management and cultural training, and Kelly made sure to bring in teachers who were eager to care for students regardless of their home background or race.
Kelly watched the local news each Sunday night, keeping an eye out for news of how many shootings occurred in her school’s district over the weekend. One Sunday evening, the name of the mother of one of her students scrolled through the headline, and Kelly, still determined to give the Lord and the school community her best, visited the grieving family to offer her condolences.
“In a year and a half, parents could see a difference, and started to trust me, that I would do the right thing for their children,” Kelly said.
Through the next few years, the focus began to shift toward how best to steward the school budget and engage the community.
The budgetary priority was creating educational experiences. Whenever there was margin in the funding, teachers and administrators got busy making plans. Students who would never have gone to the state capitol to see the legislature in action, or experienced a guided nature walk with a park ranger or visited an aquarium to learn from marine biologists were suddenly exposed to a variety of enriching experiences that revealed the opportunities open to them through education.
“We kept data on all the students to see where they may be helped, and track their improvement and growth,” Kelly said.
She also brought in community partners to personally pour into the lives of the children. A local cardiologist helped fund the educational experiences, while a dentist from the community chose to invest in the school by rewarding high-achieving students with a nice lunch off campus, and a ride in a limousine on the way back to school.
When Kelly saw a need for more positive influences, she reached out to a neighborhood pastor. The pastor gathered a group of men – all professionals and well-respected in their fields – to volunteer their Saturday mornings providing additional math and science lessons, and along the way, mentorship and prayer for the students.
In the span of five years, Kelly led the lowest performing school in the district through a transformation, and by the end of the process, achieved the best school ratings possible!
“I believe God put me there on purpose, for the ministry we created as a group,” Kelly said.
This is the kind of community-shaping, life-changing, God-glorifying works we ask for when we pray for school leaders!
Will you pray with me right now?
Lord Jesus, You are the source of all good gifts – the gift of leadership, the gift of creative vision, the gift of building strong partnerships… all the talents and abilities that make a good school leader. I pray for the leaders of the schools that are both near to me and dear to me – that they would walk in the calling You have placed on their lives to make a positive impact on young people. Guide them with boldness and love just as you did principal Kelly, to relentlessly advocate for the wellbeing and flourishing of every child, physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, and spiritually. I pray that students would know their school leaders see them as Your precious creation. Direct the decisions of school leaders toward being good stewards of relationships, role models, rewards, and resources for the school. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
Peace and blessings,