Members of the Women’s mission group with the 160 Easter baskets given to a primary school. BBBC/Special
By Dub Joiner
RINGGOLD – The members of Burning Bush Baptist Church have formed a partnership with several schools in the Catoosa County School System to help meet the needs of students and provide encouragement for teachers, administrators, and other staff during the school year.
The church is located in Ringgold, in the far northwest corner of Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“We are blessed to be in a community that takes the partnership seriously,” said the Billy Christol, who serves as youth and associate pastor. “Quite a few of the principals and administrators in Catossa County are believers, and it shows.”
During the school year, the church, through its Community Missions group, supports the various schools in a multitude of ways by providing food and other items to the students, teachers, faculty, and administrators, said Kay Shipley, a member of the Community Missions group. Shipley, along with Mitzi Callahan, have been instrumental in helping to move the church-school partnership forward.
“We provide Easter baskets for elementary schools, as well as clothes for schools that have a large number of low-income families,” she said.
In addition, the church allows the partner schools to use church facilities for faculty and staff meetings, Christmas parties, band and sports banquets, as well as a testing location for students. Shipley said during testing sessions, the church staff provides snacks for students and cinnamon biscuits for the faculty and staff.
“We partner with the schools because it shows love and concern for others in our community,” said Shipley, “but most important we are following Jesus’ command to love and serve others as He did.
“By helping the schools, teachers feel appreciated and the students feel loved because others care about them. Hopefully, the students will continue to pass along small acts of kindness to their friends and show love to them at school.”
In 2015-2016 and again in 2018-2019 the church was named Church/Civic “Partner of the Year.”
Where it all began
The partnership ministry between Burning Bush church and the school system began several years ago when the children’s department became partners with Boynton Elementary School. The partnership with Heritage Middle School began in 2005 when the school was constructed.
A partnership began with Heritage High School when that school was constructed in 2008. The partnership with Lakeview Fort Oglethorpe High School was started through the church’s Communities in Schools program in 2015. The church also addresses needs at some of the other elementary schools throughout the school year.
“So you see our involvement with the county schools actually evolved over several years and has grown each year with our ability to help them,” Shipley said.
One thing that helps the relationship ministry is because the church is located close to one of the elementary schools and one of the high schools.
“We also have a lot of school teachers, staff, and administrators who attend our church, making it a good fit for church ministry,” Shipley explained. “And I retired from the school system as a paraprofessional, so I have seen first-hand the needs of teachers, their classrooms, students, and their families.
As a result, the church has been able to establish a great relationship with the teachers, staff, administrators, and students throughout the county, according to Shipley. It has also brought to light the many needs of Catoosa County teachers, as well as teachers elsewhere, and the many needs of children, youth, and their parents in the school system.
“When we look at the enormity of these needs, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. However, we realize we are created for more than watching. We are created for doing and serving as Jesus did. Through our partnership programs we have been able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children, youth, parents, and educators.”
The school ministry involvement has been accomplished over the past several years with limited funding budgeted by the children’s department and by members of the Women on Mission group. The donated funds have provided Easter baskets for the elementary schools, food, Christmas gifts, funds for gradation and prom expenses, and socks and shoes for low income families.
The ministry, which takes place during the school year, also joined with other local businesses, to provide over $4,000 toward an annual teacher grant at Boynton Elementary School.
“Hopefully, what we are doing in Catossa County will encourage other churches in Georgia to partner with their local school system to minister to the students, teachers, faculty and administrators,” Shipley said.
Dub Joiner is a writer based in Blue Ridge.