Five years ago, Center United Methodist Church began an informal partnership with the neighboring Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. Today, they are poised to make a significant impact—or rather, to prevent significant impact—through providing bike safety information and helmets.
In May 2022, Center UMC received a call from the principal. “Typically we call him and ask what we might be able to do for them,” said Pastor Dan. “This time he called.”
“Is there any way you could help us get some helmets?” asked the principal.
One of their students was hit while riding his bike. According to doctors, he only survived because he was wearing a helmet. Another child, who had attended Abraham Lincoln for elementary school, was tragically hit by a car and killed. His death was attributed to the absence of a helmet.
The principal assessed how many children had bikes and how many had helmets. More than half of the children didn’t have helmets. Abraham Lincoln Elementary has over 700 students, with 85% of the students receiving subsidized lunches.
The church responded with vigor. They found a special deal with a high quality manufacturer bringing the cost of helmets to between $6.99 and $10.99, depending on the size. Monies were contributed from the Administrative Council, Youth Fund, Evangelism Team, and congregation to the cause. They raised over $3,000.
Yet even that money is not enough to meet the need, so the church has explored other funding options. They’ve applied to a grant with the Department of Transportation that provides a helmet for all children in first and second grade, and are continuing to reach out to other organizations with similar programs and funds.
As Pastor Dan and the principal brainstormed about addressing the need for bike helmets, another need was raised: bike safety.
“I don’t want to just hand kids helmets. We need a safety course to teach them why they need a helmet,” said Pastor Dan. He is collaborating with some contacts in the Indianapolis Metro Police Department to get a bike training course for the children.
Center UMC is thrilled that the principal felt he could call and ask for help. Partnering with this local school has convinced people that evangelism isn’t what they thought it was.
Pastor Dan said, “Evangelism is not just going door to door and saying ‘Hey, do you know Jesus?’ It’s saying ‘You matter to us for no other reason than because you do.’ We decided as a church that evangelism looks different, and we need to go to people. Because we went to the school, now they feel as though they can come to us.”
On July 25, Abraham Lincoln Elementary will have their Back-to-School kick-off event for over 800 people. The bike safety information and distribution of helmets will take place during the kick-off. Center hopes to be able to equip every child with bike safety skills and a helmet.
May this gift be a “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17) that protects these children from harm and gives them, in the words of the Children Matter Most resolution, “every opportunity to thrive and become disciples of Jesus Christ.”
This story highlights school partnerships, a key area of focus for the Children Matter Most initiative. To find out more about the initiative and ways your church can join in ministry to and with children, click here.
If you would like to give to this project, click here, selecting the “Helmets” fund.