While it’s undeniable that the pandemic is having adverse effects on the social, emotional and spiritual health across every sector of the marketplace, our community’s educators have been disproportionately affected. Not only have teachers, principals, administration and support staff had to care for themselves, deploy new technology and pivot to new methods of classroom facilitation, but they have also had to ensure their own safety and that of their students in the midst of regularly changing guidance and CDC mandates. Fast forward 14 months to today and things have yet to return to any real sense of normality for those serving in education. As burnout, exhaustion and weariness began to seep deeper and deeper into educators’ daily realities, Church United rallied pastors from across our community to pastor these frontline heroes.
Beginnings of pastoring
Beginning with an opt-in 15 minute “pause and pray” call every Thursday morning, a different Senior Pastor from a church in our community led a time of prayer and short devotion via zoom as teachers, principals, administration officials and support staff called in to find a much-needed time of encouragement and reminder that they are not alone.
“When we began the educator “pause and pray” group, I never imagined we would still be praying together every Thursday morning a year later,” said Priscilla Ribeiro who serves as the a Director in the Office of School Performance and Accountability with Broward County Public Schools. “At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was feeling disoriented and isolated. As school leaders we are called upon to bring calm and direction, there were so many uncertainties, and no one on could provide answers. The pastors always reminded us that God was in control and there were no surprises to Him. Those 15 minutes each week helped all of us feel connected, safe, and gave us a semblance of peace. The group has evolved into an ever growing family. We have been there for each other to pray, cry and rejoice as brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t know what we would have done without this support group and connection. It really reminded us that we are one body, one family in Christ, and seeing a new pastoral face each week really drove that home.”
Whether it be Invest, Equip or Unite, every strategic component of our ecosystem at the National Christian Foundation here in South Florida shares a common vision to see South Florida become known as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. Investing in the flourishing of our educators is part of seeing that vision realized. Serving as the strategic backbone organization for Church United allows us to maximize initiatives and impact in the area of education. Not only have Church United been able to rally pastors for this prayer call, local donors have been envisioned to meet tangible needs of our community’s schools, provide unexpected blessing and refreshment to teachers and better connect Sunday’s faith with Monday mornings classroom realities.
“In our local community, we are fortunate to have an expansive array of faith-based organizations like Church United,” said Dr. Valerie Wanza, Chief School Performance and Accountability Officer for Broward County Public Schools. “They provide much-needed resources and support to our students and their families on a daily basis. The majority of these organizations provide a safe place for students to go as an extension of the school day and academic calendar. For these reasons, and many more, our faith-based organizations must be viewed, valued and embraced as integral partners in the continuum of wraparound services provided to address the needs of the whole child.”
They will know we are Christians by our love
From the very beginning of the story of Church United, we have believed that when local churches unite together for mission, the watching world not only takes notice but the claims of Christ become more attractive and appealing. Pastoring our city is a task that’s beyond any one church, pastor, key leader or organization. Owning the lostness, the pain and the brokenness our educators are experiencing and providing needed refreshment of faith, hope and love is our privilege and a reminder of why unity matters.
Jon Lash, lead Pastor of Greenhouse Church and part of Church United put it this way, “Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love. Meeting tangible needs and investing in our local schools is one strong, compelling and tangible way to communicate the love of Jesus with not just our words, but our actions. Over the past year, God has been doing something special in and amongst our South Florida educators! It has been amazing to watch just how many Christians God has placed all throughout the public school system in particular, positioning them in areas of influence to be salt and light – a city set on a hill. I have felt more than ever the need to encourage and cover in prayer these front-line missionaries, working within their calling to help impact the next generation for the glory of God.”
National Day of Prayer: South Florida Educators Call
On Thursday, May 6th from 4-5p.m., Church United will host our second annual National Day of Prayer call with a special focus on education. This call and subsequent focus comes at the invitation of dozens of local public school principals, administration officials and teachers who have been impacted by the 15 minute “pause and pray” calls started at the beginning of the pandemic last year. If you serve in education, whether in a public, private or charter school, we’d welcome the opportunity to pray with and for you as we ask God to strengthen, encourage and protect our educators and the students they serve. Register and learn more about this event at ChurchUnitedFL.com/pray
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida. To learn more about Church United, visit churchunited.city
Read more articles by Edwin Copeland at: goodnewsfl.org/author/edwincopeland/