Bill Collins & Charles Wolford, National Adopt a School Initiative
Interview by City Gospel Movements
What got you into this city movement work in the beginning?
Bill: I began working with the school initiative 12 years ago after a career with IBM and Xerox. I understood that the issues schools were facing could not be pigeonholed as merely urban issues. Whether you’re in urban, suburban, or rural America, your young people are dealing with drugs, teen pregnancy, gangs, family issues, and other challenges. This is an American issue.
I am also a father of 7 and a grandfather of 22. The world my kids and grandkids are going to be living in is a world that I am leaving behind—and I want it to be a better one.
Charles: Our church’s mission is to disciple the church to impact the world. While we work to impact the world, we are also focused on rebuilding communities from the inside out here locally.
When I was in 5th grade, I went to 13 different schools. The volunteers we work with are the individuals who can be a consistent adult in a child’s life that experiences a lot of transition.
This work is bigger than us. It’s about that young girl or young boy on the school campus who took us at our word when we said, “We’ll be here next week.” We don’t want to proliferate the injury of adults who said, “I’ll be there” but didn’t follow through on their word.
I work as the Associate Pastor of Outreach at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship which means I oversee the public school outreach.
What are you currently doing?
The National Church Adopt a School Initiative was officially founded in 2006 as one of the many outreach arms of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship where Tony Evans is the senior pastor. But our history of working with schools goes back to 1985.
Over the last 12 years, we’ve been traveling around the country to train churches in how to develop partnerships with their local schools. We’ve traveled to churches, seminaries, and Bible colleges to do our trainings. Over the last 6 years we’ve done 6-10 events per year with 80-100 people attending each event.
When we travel to a city, we make sure there is at least one committed church willing to do the work to do real outreach work in their community.
The training is a one-day training. Tony Evans will start with an hour of connecting the spiritual to social needs and outreach. We then lay a theological foundation by speaking about the implications of the Great Commission. Then we get to very practical equipping where we train participants how to approach a school principal and explain what the separation of church and state really means.
Our goal is at the end of the day every church or non-profit organization in attendance will scale the initiative to fit their context and adopt a school.
Over the years, we’ve seen success by approaching schools and valuing relationship first.
Relationship is the glue that bonds a school and church together. There are so many movements of principals and superintendents so our approach has seen a lot of favor because we maintain a presence on school campuses, and keep asking the question: “How can we serve you?”
Schools tell us what they want to focus on whether that is mentorship, male leadership, teen pregnancy, etc. We then focus on their needs.
Serving schools is not a canned product. Your longevity does not depend on having a good program, but on developing good relationships. We make sure to tell people: if you don’t have intentions to do this for the long haul, we recommend you don’t do this.
Locally we have school coordinators who are Oak Cliff employees, but are housed in the high schools. The in-school coordinators are paid, full time employees funded through the tithes and offerings of our church. Each coordinator manages a cluster of schools.
What do you hope for the future?
We want to see every church in America adopt a public school in their community.