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Creating leaders through education

Students and volunteers in front of a school in Liberia

Michigan congregations are invited to raise at least $600 over the next year to support scholarships for children at United Methodist-sponsored schools in Michigan and Liberia.

MEGHAN HARTLEY
Mission and Justice Communications Intern

All United Methodist congregations in Michigan are encouraged to prepare August 28, 2022, as a Back to School Sunday to highlight the launch of the “Readers to Leaders” campaign, which will make a life-changing investment in the lives of children in Michigan and Liberia.

The campaign runs until May 1, 2023, and has the goal of raising $500,000 to support scholarships for children in two conference-sponsored educational ministries. Local churches are also being invited to create their own ministry relationship with a public school in their community.

At the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference, members voted overwhelmingly to support “Readers to Leaders,” which challenges each Michigan congregation to raise at least $600 before May 1, 2023. The money raised will benefit the Liberia Scholarship Program and the Michigan Conference’s Children Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools Program, two ministries that encourage and support children’s education.

The Liberia Ministry Partners (formerly the Liberia Task Force) is establishing the Liberia Scholarship Program to celebrate the renewal of the covenant between the Liberia and Michigan Conferences. Three hundred dollars will cover the school fees for one student at a United Methodist school in Liberia. The goal of the program is to raise funds for 100 students for eight years of schooling.

The CDF Freedom Schools Program currently operates two sites in Michigan: Second Grace-St. Timothy UMC in Detroit and Flint: Bethel-Calvary UMCs. The CDF Freedom Schools Program is a six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program designed to serve children and youth in grades K–12 in communities where quality academic enrichment programming is limited, too expensive, or nonexistent. The money raised will help increase the Michigan Conference’s capacity to continue supporting and expanding the number of children and youth served through new sites.

Teacher reading a book to small children.
The Flint Freedom School Collaborative (FFSC) is a summer program for students K-12 to gain math and reading literacies to increase their comprehension for the upcoming school year. the summer program had its start in 2016 when Bethel United Methodist Church, in Flint, hosted its first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School summer program. It was created in response to the Flint Water Crisis. ~ MIphoto/Mark Doyal

Both programs are making strides to create leaders through education, but they can’t do it alone. Throughout the next ten months, each congregation is challenged to raise at least $600 to support these ministries.

Local churches are also asked to develop a missional commitment to a public school in their own community. Practical examples of how to do this include having an ingathering of school supplies, offering to tutor or teach English as a second language, hosting after-school programs, or facilitating weekend food programs for at-risk students.

For inspiration on how to begin crafting a missional commitment so your congregation can have an impact on the lives of children in your community, review this list of 50 ways to engage with local schools published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Congregations ready to give to this campaign can submit a check to the Michigan Conference at 1161 East Clark Road, Suite 212, DeWitt MI 48820. Write this phrase in the memo line: “Readers to Leaders #4415.” An online giving option will be available soon.

Updates will be published in the coming months as congregations begin to participate in this life-changing campaign to support children in communities across Michigan, and in Liberia.

Questions related to the Readers to Leaders campaign can be sent to Lisa Batten at lbatten@michiganumc.org.

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