Dear Inner City Pastor

June 14, 2008

Dear Inner City Pastor,

You probably know better than anyone the education challenges the families in your congregation and surrounding neighborhoods face.


You know the conditions in the schools, the failure and danger that’s accepted by the powers that be as if the children of your neighborhood deserve no better.


Maybe you’re one of many who has gone to bat for the children and gotten involved in the schools to try to force change. For the sake of the children, I hope you’ve had some success.


But by now, you probably also know that most changes will be superficial, designed more to pacify than to give children a real chance at education in a nurturing and safe environment.


You know, too, the dysfunction of many of your families, but you also know their strengths – that they care about their children and given the opportunity and resources will go the extra mile for them, often with a fierceness and dedication found lacking in parents better situated to help their children.


I’m writing this open letter to you because I believe there are things you can do to help, things that maybe only you can do to help. Certainly, you are in a unique position to make a very real difference.


The ideal ultimate goal would be to get as many children as possible completely out of public schools and to create independent options for them. But that may be too big a step to take at once. Still, there are many smaller steps that can be taken that will lead up to real freedom.


Surely there are teachers, retired teachers and many educated individuals within your congregation who could devote part of their time to a ministry of rescuing children from state schools. There are probably people from other churches who would also feel privileged and fulfilled to become part of such a ministry.


You could set up a tutoring center in your church, and people could teach in their homes. You could match up children with mentors and set up apprenticeships. Able individuals could operate workshops to teach crash courses to teens. Not everything has to be done the way schools do it. There’s a lot that can be learned in a much shorter length of time.


Wherever possible, maybe a retired teacher or other individual could spend time in homes helping parents master the art of teaching their own children, or they could conduct workshops for the same purpose. Maybe a mentor could guide a group of teens in educating themselves – meet at a public library or some other place.


Imagine the message that would be sent to children when they see the adults in their lives taking control, not settling for what the establishment has decided to dish out to them. Imagine the difference it would make in families, as well as in the lives of the individual children.


Even the smallest step in the right direction could begin a cascade of hope and possibility.


The existing structure is not really interested in change, nor is it particularly interested in children, beyond the dollars they represent. Helping the system that now controls children’s education is a lot like a sick relationship in which one person despises the other and the despised one endlessly tries to get the hater to love him or her.


I urge you who are the most influential in your communities to use your leadership role to empower the families that have placed themselves under your guidance.


The honest truth is that if you won’t do it, there may not be a whole lot of hope for those who look up to you.


If you will do it, the future holds an incredible amount of possibility for everyone.


Yours truly,


Tammy Drennan