Tutoring program helps connect church to community


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Whether they’re there for the food, the fun computer games, or the free tutoring, the end result is the same: they know ConneXion Church cares.

Every Wednesday afternoon at 3:45, a dozen children from Savannah’s Juliette Low Elementary School pile into a church van and make the short trek to ConneXion Church. They spend a few minutes in the church’s fellowship hall, chatting, playing, and eating snacks. Then the group heads to the education/children’s wing, divides into groups by grade, and gets to work.

When they head home that evening, their homework will be done, their questions will be answered, and, most importantly, says Rev. Michael Culbreth, they’ll know they’re loved and cared for.

ConneXion Church’s new after school tutoring program, launched last month, is just one of several ways the congregation is reaching out to serve its community. The church also leads Juliette Low Elementary School’s Good News Club, a weekly after-school Bible ministry; serves children at another local elementary school through a Backpack Buddies food program; and hosts a Christmas Day brunch for those in the community who have intellectual disabilities.

“This is an extension of our outreach ministry to the community, particularly focusing on children,” said Rev. Culbreth, pastor of ConneXion Church, a multi-generational and multi-racial church that launched three years ago in Savannah. “We knew there was a need in the community and we are helping undergird what teachers are doing at Juliette Low.”

With seed money from Congregational Development’s Increased Impact leadership development program, ConneXion Church was able to purchase several Chromebook laptops and other resources for the after-school tutoring program.

Volunteers run the ministry; two young-adult church members – both teachers – oversee it and students from two local high schools volunteer as tutors.

The tutoring focuses on math and reading. The children, all in third, fourth, or fifth grade, get help with homework and are able to play reading, math, and other educational games on the computers.

The program’s goal is to help children learn and grow, Rev. Culbreth said.

“Our hope is to help strengthen the academic background of our students and to serve our community in whatever way we can, and we feel like this is a good way to serve the community.”

Maya Brown, a 16-year-old junior at Savannah’s Herschel V. Jenkins High School, enjoys helping children and wants to give back to the community that has given much to her.

“I want to help younger kids have the same opportunity,” she said. “Watching and helping them grow and learn has been amazing.”

Rev. Culbreth and the ministry’s leaders work closely with Juliette Low Elementary School to ensure students’ academic needs are being met. With just a few weeks under their belt, it’s hard to measure success in quantifiable ways, but Rev. Culbreth says they expect to see fruit in a year or so.

Whether being tutored in math or reading, playing a computer game, or being mentored by an older friend, Rev. Culbreth says that, at the end of the day, the ministry wants children to leave knowing that ConneXion Church cares for them and offers ministries that are helpful, academically and spiritually.

“In order for the Church to really make disciples we have to be an outward church,” Rev. Culbreth said. “Being inward focused means you’re a dying church, so in order to be vibrant and to make a difference in the communality we have to be outward focused.”