I used to teach at a school where the attendance rate was dismally spotty at best. Until Principal Harry came with his camera and his belief in the Power of 7.
At a staff meeting he passed out a roster of all the enrolled kids at school to each of us. He handed me my packet with a wink. My name was scrawled at the top and then seven students who were not my own were highlighted. Each staff member got a packet: the janitor, the bus driver, the teachers, and teacher’s aides. Everyone on staff.
The instructions were simple. Be out front first thing in the morning when the bus arrives and greet each of your seven by name. Welcome them with a smile. Tell them that you’re glad to see them. At the end of the day be sure to say or wave goodbye and let them know you’ll see them tomorrow. If you see them in the hall or on the playground or in the cafeteria acknowledge them. Ask them how their day is going. Sounds innocuous, right?
We saw positive results that we couldn’t deny almost immediately. Not only was attendance much more stable, but the morale at school was on a steady incline, as well. I noticed that staff started taking an interest in the classrooms where their Power of 7 spent their day. As a result staff started collaborating cross-classroom and cross-department more. Coincidence? Maybe. I doubt it.
And another act, simple on the surface, shifted the spirit of the school. Principle Harry started taking pictures of the kids. Close-ups of big grins. And then he’d blow them up to 11×17, laminate them, and hang them in the hall at student level. Beautiful faces lined the hallways like the finest art gallery. Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles started visiting the school just to take a look at their students’ pictures. Kids would proudly point out their portrait. New photos would go up on the wall and the former pictures would be brought home to grace students’ domestic walls. The school began to feel like a joyful community center.
I’ve always wondered how this could translate into congregational life. What if the board, Committee On Ministry, Program Council, youth group – whomever you deem as church leadership were to divide you members of all ages up into lists of seven? Each congregational leader would then be sure to greet their special buddies each Sunday and check in with them. How was their week? How are they feeling about this religious community? How is their life going? And if one of their seven was missing, perhaps an email could be popped their way just letting them know that they were missed on Sunday… I wonder if simple Power of 7 could transform our congregations into joyful community centers.
Please let me know if you try it out.
Religious Education is found in the simple acts that bind us closer together.