A recent post on social media sparked a strong response from the community. Local youth minister Colton Key took to the largest local group on Facebook, Vicksburg, MS, and asked:
Colton Key, Crossway Church.
“If someone (or a group of people) could do something to make your job easier and more enjoyable for you, what would that be? Think practical/physical ways people from the community could help support you in your role.”
Colton has been at Crossway Church just short of 6 years. He originally moved to Vicksburg from St. Louis to be Crossway’s Worship Pastor. About a year in, “I felt called to help our Student Ministry, which was without a student pastor at the time. To make a long story short, I eventually made a full transition to overseeing our student ministry and passing off the leadership of our worship ministry,” Key said.
“Personal relationships are a valuable asset in reaching students in our community, and I saw groups as a ‘method’ of getting us there successfully. Our groups model has been a huge success in creating a sticky faith with our students. It has given each student a spiritual leader (adult volunteer) that is intentional and consistent in their lives week in and week out.”
Key’s ministry is now at a point where its numerical growth outnumbers its volunteer base.
“This is an amazing problem to have,” he said.
That growth led Key to evaluate his ministry and think about how he can continue to improve that system to reach and invest in students. His reflection led Key to a bit of a revelation.
“As a student ministry, we miss our mark with so many schools in our community,” he said. “We invest in students from certain schools but do a poor job investing in the lives of students in the majority of schools.
“During this process, I also realized how much better of a job we could do in investing in our schools as a whole. This includes celebrating and partnering with school staff.”
He believes one of the key success factors of any educational system is for the family and community to be involved in the educational process. “I know how exhausting it can be to invest in the lives of the next generation with little to no reward,” Key said. “Our volunteers understand this struggle, and I believe in the teachers (and) school staff in our community.”
The response on social media to Key’s request for information from teachers and the community was very strong.
Some educators noted the need for earbuds and headphones for the younger grades.
Wrote one: “I would love to see a ‘store’ filled with all kinds of school supplies (paper, pencils, crayons, calculators, etc.) where teachers could go ‘shop’ at no cost to the teacher. Maybe United Way or a church could donate space and the different organizations (Junior Auxiliary, Rotary, Cotillion Club, Delta Sigma Theta, churches, etc.) could stock the store. This would be a huge relief to teachers who often buy school supplies out of their own pockets.”
Comments also noted that some students need help paying for their lunch, as an empty stomach leads to a poor student. Other students need help with school uniforms because they fit poorly or are ripped and stained.
Another educator noted teachers need basic supplies including “Clorox wipes, tissues, paper towels, GermX, pencils, especially for upper grades that don’t get many donations at the beginning of the year.”
Dale Bailey Architects rendering of the New Acadamy of Innovation.
Perhaps the request with the most potential impact was for mentoring. Key said that a lot of fellow community members and future leaders need help in their lives, someone to mentor them, show them how to respond to situations and to listen to them. “Come to schools. Buddy up to them. Give them an ear outlet,” a respondent wrote.
Minister Key summarized by saying, “I am unsure what all I can do to make a difference in the lives of our teachers, school staff and students, but I have been creating teams of volunteers that are growing a passion for those people. We know each school, teacher and student are different, so we are hoping to gather great information and ideas from that Facebook post to use in our planning for how to help moving forward.”
If you want to help, contact Colton Key at Crossway Church, phone 601-636-2596. You may also contact the Vicksburg Warren School District at 601-638-5122