Posted: September 16, 2021
By: Tracey O’Neal, Prevent Child Abuse NC Partnership Engagement Manager

Did you know that the positive social connections we make can rewire the neural pathways of our brains which can reduce the effects of stress and build resilience? One caring supportive adult in a child’s life can make all the difference.

It’s back-to-school time here in North Carolina, yet uncertainty can linger for educators, parents, and children as we continue to navigate through the global pandemic. One faith leader in Wilmington, NC saw this as an opportunity to build connections with families and children. 

Reverend Barnett is a busy man. Yet on weekday mornings, you will find him and his parishioners greeting children and families in the drop-off line at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, one of eight UNC System Lab Schools across the state aiming to provide enhanced learning to students in low-performing schools. By simply showing up and greeting the children, Reverend Barnett and his parishioners provide consistent supportive adult connection and hope for the children, family, and staff in the school community.  

Reverend Barnett knows the importance of these connections in building strong, supported families through servicing his Wilmington community as pastor at Warner Temple AME Zion Church, a Wilmington City Councilman, and sitting on several boards including First 2000 Days, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, New Hanover County Smart Start, and the New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force.

Reverend Barnett and the congregants of Warner Temple AME Zion Church have partnered with Prevent Child Abuse NC in becoming a Connections Matter Congregation. As a Connected Congregation, Warner Temple AME Zion Church invests in building safe, nurturing environments and communities for our children and families. Reverend Barnett will also be an opening keynote speaker for our upcoming 2021 Statewide Virtual Policy Institute on September 28. Register to hear Reverend Barnett’s keynote address here. 

If you are reading this and are inspired to be that caring, supportive adult, yet pressed for time, check out these simple ways on how you can #BeAConnection and make a positive difference for children and families in your congregations and communities. To learn more about how you can become a Connections Matter Congregation please visit our website and reach out to Tracey O’Neal at