As children begin heading back to the classroom across the state, N.C. Baptist churches are helping families, teachers and schools get ready for a new school year while sharing the love of Christ.
From adopting a local school to hosting areawide school supply drives and distributions, N.C. Baptist churches are meeting needs and ministering to their communities in a variety of ways.
‘Stuff the Bus’
On a recent weekday, families lined up in the parking lot of Parkview Baptist Church in Morehead City, N.C., as early as 4 a.m. to pick out a free backpack and other school supplies as part of a communitywide distribution event known as “Stuff the Bus.”
Parkview Baptist Church hosts the annual distribution, which is a partnership between Parkview, a local Methodist church, local businesses, civic organizations and the school system.
Parkview pastor John Carswell said event volunteers handed out 547 backpacks to families in need, with more backpacks and supplies scheduled to be distributed before the start of the school year.
Carswell helped start “Stuff the Bus” 10 years ago while then serving as Parkview’s youth pastor to meet a need in the community.
“We would hear stories of students who would come to the start of the school year without anything,” Carswell said. “So we knew there was a huge need, and nobody was meeting that need in our community.”
In addition to school supplies, “Stuff the Bus” provides new shoes for students who need them, as well as haircuts from local barbers and hair stylists who volunteer their time.
Carswell says he considers events like “Stuff the Bus” as a way to meet physical and spiritual needs.
“We’re called to love our neighbors,” Carswell said. “We’re supposed to take Jesus outside the walls of the church.”
Carswell added the event provides numerous opportunities for him and event volunteers from his church to share the gospel with those who attend.
“I got to have a great conversation with one lady about how God showed us mercy and grace,” Carswell said. “And this is an opportunity for us to share with them what God has shared with us.”
Bringing people together for missions
Patrick Fuller, executive director of the Raleigh Baptist Association, worked to start a similar school supply drive and distribution just this year. He reached out to churches in the association early in the summer to solicit school supplies or financial support.
The response was overwhelming.
Donations poured in, volunteers from churches throughout the association assembled backpacks filled with school supplies at the association offices. Over the course of the past month, missions teams from local churches have been canvassing the community to share Christ and distribute backpacks filled with supplies.
Through Aug. 11, Fuller says missions teams have distributed close to 5,000 backpacks and have seen at least 19 people come to know Christ. Professions of faith have come from students, parents and at least one teacher.
“It’s brought a lot of people together,” Fuller said. “It’s taught us that we can do missions together, even though we might worship differently or be in a different type of church. We can still keep our focus on Jesus.”
Fuller said the outreach has not only helped ease burdens on families in need, but it’s also helped teachers and school administrators, as well. Fuller said one school administrator cried in his arms over the outpouring of love demonstrated by the school supply donations.
“It helps meet the physical needs of children who find themselves in difficult situations, and it’s a good witness to the school and staff,” Fuller said. “It relieves pressure on teachers and the administration, and it gives churches an opportunity to share Christ.”
Loving and serving one local school
Pastor Ray Brickhouse has led Oak Forest Baptist Church in Fletcher, N.C., to adopt a nearby elementary school, which is approximately two miles from the church.
Prior to the end of last school year, Brickhouse and other members of the church served the school’s teachers and staff breakfast one morning during the school’s teacher appreciation week.
“They were just so appreciative and maybe even surprised that we were doing something like that,” Brickhouse said.
And it’s opened doors for other avenues of ministry.
Over the summer, Brickhouse and other church leaders were discussing ways they could continue to bless the school. They approached the school about donating needed supplies for students and teachers prior to the start of a new school year.
“We just wanted to show them our appreciation for being right in our community and love on them a little bit,” Brickhouse said. “We’re looking at this for the long haul.”
Brickhouse plans to make a donation of school supplies to the school prior to the start of classes. For Brickhouse and the church, it’s an opportunity for outreach.
“Our people have bought into this,” Brickhouse said. “These folks love Jesus, they love their community and it shows.”
Brickhouse said schools are a natural place to start for churches looking to engage their community.
“If we ask our community what they need, they will tell us,” Brickhouse said. “Then, we need to find a way to fill that need. What better way to do that than through the local school.”