Serve Oklahoma (SOK) is an ongoing theme for Oklahoma Baptists. Congregations are involved in “being the church” instead of “doing church,” mobilizing believers to take Jesus outside the church building walls.
This emphasis definitely can be applied in communities this time of year, as teachers and students all across the state are gearing up to go back to school. Church groups throughout Oklahoma are showing their support and serving different educational groups in generous ways.
“SOK is something every church can do because every church building has a school down the street from it,” said Tim Gentry, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) Evangelism Group Leader. “The needs of our public schools are so great that the doors are literally wide open for a church to get involved in serving.”
Oklahoma City, Southern Hills provided school supplies for students at two area elementary schools, Fairview and Rockwood. Vernona DeCarlo, principal of Fairview Elementary, worked with Southern Hills by providing lists of required supplies for all the grades and told her students to go to the church to pick them up. Church members helped fill 900 backpacks with supplies the week prior to the distribution days.
“I had a grandmother, with tears on her face, tell me she didn’t know how her grandkids were going to get school supplies this year,” said DeCarlo.
Tulsa, First sponsors an annual Back to School Outreach and partners this year with five different schools, including Northwoods Fine Arts Academy in Sand Springs; Tulsa Public Springdale Elementary; Tulsa Public Marian Anderson Elementary; Union Grove Elementary; and the Union 6-7 Grade Center. At each school event, students receive new backpacks, new shoes, new school clothing or uniforms, spirit wear and school supplies.
“Schools with a high rate of unreached families living in some form of poverty were chosen,” said Eric Costanzo, community ministries and teaching pastor at Tulsa, First. Costanzo said Tulsa, First will minister to more than 10,000 people through the five August events.
Del City, Howard Memorial and Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place also had back-to-school events, giving away backpacks and school supplies. Sherry Louthan of Wilmont Place said the church has been providing supplies for Hayes Elementary for about 10 years and continues to reach out to the school throughout the year.
Oklahoma City, Village hosted a Back to School Luncheon for eight area schools’ employees. More than 240 teachers, principals and other employees attended with local businesses donating door prizes and giveaways.
“My challenge to Oklahoma Baptists is to ask yourself, ‘do I expect people to cross the street to come to the church house or does God expect me to cross the street to take the Gospel to the people?’” said Gentry.
This may include using the school crosswalk.