Good Shepherd of the Hills Tutoring Program
Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church had a problem. Their property, located adjacent to an apartment complex, was consistently being vandalized—as it turns out, by children from the neighborhood. Rather than repairing the damage repeatedly and simply moving on, parishioners decided to find the root of the problem. It happened to be that the apartment complex’s leadership barred typical play activities on their property, leading to bored children who occasionally made mischief.
Parishioners reached out to the community and residents of the complex, and found a need for tutoring—many students’ parents were not fluent in English—and thus, a ministry was born from an act of vandalism. The church set up a program working with elementary-aged students every Thursday evening from 4:30 until 5:30, making themselves open and receptive to the needs of their neighborhood. The tutoring ministry encourages not only the academic responsibility, but also the important work of relationship building. Families have demonstrated their trust in the program to the point that they send younger siblings along with students. Says Elizabeth Hatcher, the lay leader of the Tutoring Ministry, “This program was originally designed to provide homework help, but we have not discouraged the little ones… from coming. The bigger picture goes to relationship building. The method just happens to be through tutoring.”
Church leadership is very much supportive of the ministry. Good Shepherd of the Hills’ rector, the Rev. Nordon Winger sees it as a bridge to further work in the community, saying, “It provides a quality educational experience and help for the Hispanic children in the area around the church, and it is also enabling us to move into other ministries for the Hispanic population in Cave Creek.” The Right Reverend Kirk Smith, bishop of Arizona, writes glowingly that “Good Shepherd of the Hills is a ‘beacon of God’s light’ in the North Valley of Maricopa County, Arizona. The Tutoring Ministry has brought local under-served children into a community of learning and faith.” In 2013, the tutoring ministry received a $1,500 Program Impact Grant from Jubilee Ministries to further the work among young people.