Each week of the school year, volunteers from Gobin UMC go into local elementary, middle, and high schools to mentor students, made possible in part by the Bishop’s Christmas Offering.
A decade ago, Gobin UMC surveyed the Greencastle community and identified an area of need: young people. In response, Gobin UMC formed multiple avenues of mentoring that have made significant impact on area young people. The efforts have coalesced under the volunteer-led non-profit “” that seeks “to mobilize a broad-based coalition of community members to empower neighbors to build new resources through compassionate relationships where everyone involved is transformed.”
Two components of Transformers are mentoring programs for youth: TALKS and Kids Hope.
TALKS was the first program they launched with the goal of greater success in kids’ schooling, which can yield greater success in future jobs and service to the community in the future. Local DePauw University students mentored middle school students while community adult volunteers mentored high school students. Conversations centered on soft skills such as interpersonal communications, goal setting and working towards them, and how to achieve their dreams for the future.
Research has shown that students who go through TALKS mentoring improve school attendance, raise grades, and reduce behavior incidents in school.
Kids Hope USA is a national program with a mission to build life-changing relationships one hour at a time through a school-based mentoring program. The partnership with a local elementary school first began in 2018. In 2021-2022, Gobin UMC mentored thirteen children.
When Kids Hope volunteers go into the schools, administration pairs them with a child. They are together for one hour each week.
Member of Gobin UMC and the Kids Hope Director Carol Miller explained, “You don’t just go in and tutor for an hour. It’s a blended mix of academic support and relationship building. They encourage creative play, going outside to play soccer, creative painting, or whatever the child is interested in.”
While most of the mentoring relationships conclude after a year, some Kids Hope children have been with the same mentor for four years. One such relationship inspired a child to open up and ask his mentor about losses in his life which his mentor was able to speak into. Another mentor shared that, when she met her mentee four years ago, he was frequently disruptive in class. She shared with joy that this past year he was student of the month for his class—twice. His mentor affirmed him for all the ways he has grown.
For churches considering ways to partner with local schools, the Gobin team suggests simply starting a conversation with a local principal. Lori Miller, a Transformers volunteer, encourages churches to ask, “How can you serve the kids in your schools?” Carol agreed saying, “If someone is willing to volunteer and invest in students, most educators are like, ‘Please! We can use all the help we can get.’”
The Bishop’s Christmas Offering allowed Gobin UMC to continue their mentoring programs in spite of the pandemic. Lori shared, “The program is made possible because of money from Bishop’s Christmas Offering. Gobin isn’t a large congregation, and though everyone is generous in their giving, these ministries are beyond what the church could support. Bishop’s Christmas Offering fills the gap for these ministry needs.”
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, .