How churches help public school students

“What an opportunity we have to not live in vain.”

This is something I hear myself say often – and in today’s society, we truly need to recognize and grab each great opportunity that presents itself so that indeed we do not live in vain.

When I accepted the position as the director of schools for Metro Nashville Public Schools, I knew it would be an opportunity to not live in vain.

Aware of the great challenges, I knew we could overcome them as a community.

I knew that making this school district great wouldn’t happen from the top down. It would come from the community supporting, expecting, pushing and, yes, even praying.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting many people anxious to help our public school system. I have been encouraged.

One of the groups working to support our schools and to create an improved environment for students and teachers alike is Operation Andrew, a Christian-based, non-profit organization that provides volunteers, mentors, financial assistance and spiritual guidance for many aspects of our community.

Operation Andrew’s United 4 Hope program pairs churches with Metro schools, where the churches assist in four key areas.

1 They support the schools’ goals of improving academic achievement.

2 They encourage and assist teachers by coordinating supply drives – or simply offering moral support.

3 They encourage increased family engagement.

4 Finally, they help schools with supplies, uniforms and other financial aspects.

The overall goal is to help students improve their knowledge and self-confidence — to make it clear that each student is important and that we all care about them! In the end, the students should see new possibilities and envision themselves succeeding in high school and college.

Our churches are a powerful resource that we often overlook. Nashville has approximately 900 churches with hundreds of thousands of members who each have their own individual gifts.

Could you use your gifts in helping others, especially our young people? We have approximately 89,000 students in Metro, many who could use a mentor. Is it you?

Our students represent 120 different countries and speak 95 different languages. They have a wide variety of needs and interests — and sadly, over 70 percent of our students live in poverty.

We need to ask ourselves what we can each do on a personal level – to help meet the needs of our young people here in the metro area.

Each of us has personal gifts to offer. Some have the gift of time and could volunteer as a mentor for a student – be it through United 4 Hope or some other program that renders similar benefits.

Some have the gift of funds to contribute financially to causes like United 4 Hope – that will enable the program (or others like it) to serve and continue its positive impact on our city. Others have the gift of experience, but we can all serve. We can all have an impact!

We must acknowledge that, though we’ve accomplished a great deal, we still are challenged to meet the needs of every student. We can do something about that! If a child comes to us disadvantaged and leaves us disadvantaged, then we’ve missed an opportunity.

The Operation Andrew staff and founders are to be commended for creating a program like United 4 Hope, as well as their additional programs that combat other needs in our community.

Programs designed to break down barriers of race, gender, denomination, economic status or any other barrier that keeps Christians from being one in Christ.

I encourage you to help outreach programs like those offered by Operation Andrew. I encourage you to help the children of our city.

I encourage you to help each other in business, in parenting, in all the aspects that make a difference in our lives. Because as the old Bill Withers’ song says, “We all need somebody to lean on.”

But most importantly, reaching out to serve gives all of us a grand opportunity to not live in vain!

-        Shawn Joseph is the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

 The Tennessean


Read the Bible together over Nashville

We are encouraging you to sign up for a segment of Scripture to be read aloud into the airwaves over Nashville and Middle Tennessee on Sunday, June 25th.

The opening of John’s Revelation places a blessing on a person who reads, and a person who hears the words of John’s prophecy. During the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the entire Torah (Pentateuch) was read aloud in the hearing of all the people as a way of rededicating themselves to God. Israel was to read the entire Torah repeatedly through the years, read it aloud and listen to it being read.

This is the second annual "Exalt The Word" coordinated through our faith community, and hosted by Operation Andrew.

Choose your segment (approx. 1-hour) and read it aloud wherever you are, with a small group gathered, preferably outdoors. We believe we actually change airwaves over our city, as we proclaim our allegiance to the Lord in the airwaves, while reading His Word into those airwaves.

At 4:00pm a culminating reading for the day will be spoken by a panel of seven voices, in Collins Alumni Auditorium, at Lipscomb University.

Let us speak out to God His very Word. In that one day, the entire Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation.

Please - share this opportunity with friends so that 80 different people or groups will lead in taking a segment. Go now to sign up.

Let us honor God by speaking His Word over our city!

Blessings in Jesus!

Don Finto and Rhonda Lowry

Listen to Don invite us all to Exalt The Word!


Serving Together 2016-2017

The Operation Andrew Group operates just like Andrew! As one of the first disciples, Andrew sought out his brother Simon (Peter) to join him in following Jesus. Every day, as brothers and sisters, we are doing the same thing; seeking to serve churches so that together we can serve our city.


We are in the process of contacting pastors who can make an important time commitment to launch our LINC program. We love the conversations with ministers and clergy, literally linking people together. Participants will meet approximately 75 leaders from specialized fields and make on-site visits to all parts of the city. This once-a-month, full day of in-depth sessions provides current data and transforms our perspectives. Apply for the 2017-2018 program.  - Rubel Shelly, Brooke Horton


Oak Project

With over 80 professionals now paired in Oak’s second year of mentoring, we are experiencing real impact. “From the moment I met him, he helped me to feel welcomed into his life by inviting me to his mother’s 93rd birthday party. It is people like Mr. Gentry that know how important community is and have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others by simply sharing their own lives... and [I] look forward to further developing our relationship.”- James Richfield, Mentee. Consider how you may become involved this year.  - Chris Kinney, Nathan Mueting



The last 18 months we’ve been building community, more than doubling United4Hope partnerships. Coordinators, church leaders and partnering organizations are energized by higher levels of training, with comments like: “The all-day training was invigorating ... helpful to hear other coordinators facing the same challenges. It made me feel a part of the Nashville community!”  Dr. Shawn Joseph, our new MNPS Director of Schools, has asked that we consider a reachable goal of one or more church(es) for every school in Nashville. - Stan Weber

National Day of Prayer

Mayor Megan Barry and Speaker Beth Harwell opened the 2016 Annual Downtown Gathering themed “Wake-up America”.  Leaders from across the city, small group prayer, and bi-lingual booklets were highlights of the 10th Annual event. Following the program, the NDP booklets were shared with an Edgehill after-school program where over 25 students gave their lives to Christ, even surprising teachers with their new commitments! - Aaron Y. Johnson

Exalt The Word

Operation Andrew worked hand-in-hand with The National Bible Association and The Caleb Company to engage a city-wide reading of the entire Bible, all in one day! It was really thrilling to hear the excitment rise up, covering Davidson and Williamson Counties and extending from White House to Bonanroo. Prayers have begun for a the second Exalt the Word in 2017. - Linda Nelson

Rodgers Celebration

The Eighth Annual Joe & Honey Rodgers Awards dinner for Christian Civic Leadership recognized Howard Gentry, Amy Grant and Don Finto. Each Honoree gave their unique insights on Nashville, and how they maintain a personal journey with Christ. Honey Rodgers was pleased to see cross-sector leaders celebrated, all serving our city together and in support of Operation Andrew’s growing ministries. - Turney Stevens


During my tenure as President of Operation Andrew I would often ask a simple question as I spoke to various churches and groups throughout Greater Nashville: “How many churches would you guess exists in the five-county area of Nashville?”  The listener would assume that I had access to the latest statistics and was about to share an accurate number they might find useful.  To their surprise, my standard answer was: ONE! The response was almost always the same.  Initially, a questioning expression, quickly followed by a smile and a nod, after realizing I am addressing the matter of unity within the Body of Christ.

Then, I cite the prayer Jesus prayed only a few hours before he was crucified:   

“Father, I pray that they might be one, as you and I are one, so that
the world will believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21)   

Sharing my conviction that the Father granted the request of His Son, there is only ONE church in Nashville.  Granted that it is marked with lots of diversity.  Operation Andrew, embraced at her founding, to make this unity which the Father granted the Church of the Lord Jesus to be both visible and functional in our city!

So, today we are blessed to see an increasing number of churches marked with great diversity and individuals joining hands, offering themselves as sponsors, as participants in educational partnerships, business mentoring, and bridging faith leaders with civic awareness. Operation Andrew is now multiplying. Together we actively serve Nashville’s children and their families, experienced and rising professionals, and are providing ministers with insights into our cross-sector community! Gradually, every so gradually, the unity of the church Is becoming more visible and more functional in our city.  

It has been amazing to watch - all because churches across the city are laying aside things about which they disagree and join hands to serve Jesus together.

I think we have found a winning formula... LOVE GOD, LOVE EACH OTHER, AND LOVE THE CITY!  TOGETHER we are getting better at doing that as ONE body, and the likelihood of our unity becoming more visible... others seeing the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel ... is attractive and believable!

Dr. Charles E. McGowan
President Emeritus

Exalt the Word

Dear Friends,

Believing that the Word of God has a unique power in our lives to build a relationship with our creator and fellow believers, Operation Andrew invites churches, and groups of believers, to Exalt the Word over the city of Nashville on Sunday, June 12.

Reflecting our unified belief in the power of Scripture, join in by simply reading a portion of the Word of God, at your place of choice.  Then come together at 4:00 p.m. on the  Bennett Student Center Flatt Amphitheater of Lipscomb University, to conclude the public reading over our city with the reading of the last chapters of the Book of Revelation.

This seems so simple, but the word of God has eternal strength.

Rhonda Lowry
The Operation Andrew Group

Exalt The Word
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Pentecost on the 2016 Biblical Calendar

4:00 p.m., Lipscomb University Amphitheater

1. Go to Exalt The Word event page to register
2.  Submit your request
3. Your Scripture reading will be confirmed by email

Consider uniting together with all who will share in this experience!
His promise is that “His Word does not return void”!

The Operation Andrew Group
Don Finto, The Caleb Company
The National Bible Association


2016 National Day of Prayer - Co-Sponsors

National Day of Prayer
Downtown Nashville Observance
Bridgestone Arena Plaza
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.
Dear Friends,

Operation Andrew Group and the YMCA of Middle Tennessee
warmly invite you to join in the observance of the 65th Annual National
Day of Prayer. This mid-day event will bring cultures and denominations throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee together for a day of
transforming prayer events.

The event will include prayers by a diverse group of civic, community,
business and church leaders and give you an opportunity to pray at the close of the gathering. Together we are claiming God's promise of hearing the prayers of His people. Please bring your lunch out to the sunshine and unite in lifting our city up to God.

Rhonda Lowry
President, The Operation Andrew Group


Partners in Prayer,

It is the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s honor to again partner with the Operation Andrew Group to host an observance of the National Day of Prayer at Bridgestone Arena Plaza.

As the region’s leading nonprofit dedicated to nurturing the potential of children and teens, improving health and well-being, and providing opportunities to give back and support our neighbors, we look forward to joining together with you in prayer for all of the men, women and children who call our community home. We hope you’ll consider joining us downtown May 5, or visiting a local YMCA’s National Day of Prayer observance.

With thanks,
Dan Dummermuth
President& CEO, YMCA of Middle Tennessee


There is a famous photograph of the young son of President John Kennedy playing under the keyhole of his Father’s desk in the Oval Office while his Dad, his uncle, Bobby, and about eight other leaders of our country contemplate the possibility of the end of the world during what has become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Young John seems oblivious to the access he has as he plays in that small, dark, space hidden under his Dad’s desk.  All he would had to have done was to come out, grab his Daddy’s hand, and the young lad would have had access to a better understanding what was going on in the world at that most critical time.   We all have access to a power greater than any Oval Office through the daily practice of spiritual disciplines. Jesus would rather have died than for you not to have the relationship with Him that gives you access to a spiritual understanding, power, and authentic grounding in the world today.  We celebrate this week His gift of access.

Most of what we practice as prayer has been reduced to our telling God what we want or need from Him. That is one form of access and yes, a viable one as He longs to hear our heart’s desire. However, His gift to us is greater than simply our talking to God.  In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul teaches that we are to be co-laborers together with God. We have been invited into the circle with our Creator and given access to be a part of creating His story. It is like He provides the lead lines and the tag lines and we are free to live out His story as we listen through the disciplines of solitude, silence, and then walk with him through the disciplines of service, worship, hospitality, to name just a few. Yes! You have access to live His story because of what He did on Easter.  

Is it not time we come out of our safe, dark, key holes and embrace His calling in our lives? How would your world be different if you spent even an hour a week in complete silence and solitude listening for your lead line into what He is doing in the world? Tolstoy said, “Everyone wants to change the world; no one wants to change themselves.”  May we be a community that not only celebrates our access but then embraces the change that will no doubt come to each one of us when we have gone from our safe, dark, keyhole like places and we grab the hand of our Father.