By Rob Hurtgen
All across America, backpacks overflow with composition notebooks, pencils, tissues, and crayons. Our children are going back to class. Unquestionably, our students, teachers, and everyone connected to both public and private school are facing tremendous challenges.
A quick search of the word “school” in the Fact & Trends search bar will recall articles about school shootings, LGBT high school students, and student activism. The students, teachers, bus drivers, and everyone connected to your local school need your church’s support.
As church leaders, we need to lead our churches to engage our communities, especially in our schools. I want to propose five simple ways to lead your church to engage your local schools.
Set aside time for prayer
Take time during a Sunday morning worship, either before or right after school begins in your community, to pray for your students, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria staff, and anyone else connected to your local school. Include those who are attending private schools and homeschoolers.
One way to pray for your schools is to ask everyone connected to public, private, and homeschool in whatever capacity to stand. Then ask your congregation to identify someone who is standing and pray for them.
Ask them to not only pray for them now but to commit to pray for them on the first day of school. And then pray. Pray for their protection, pray they would be wise, and pray they will be salt and light in the school.
Send a handwritten note
Take time to write a handwritten note to the principals, administrators, and school board members to let them know as a pastor in your community you are thankful for their concern for your schools and you are praying for them. Fight the temptation to voice a concern, but simply tell them you and your church are praying for them.
Host a prayer walk
There are many ways to approach having a prayer walk for your schools. You could have a virtual prayer walk be creating stations with a sheet of paper that lists the school name, the principal and other leaders at each school, and teachers from your church at that school. Then ask those in attendance to pray at each station for those listed on the sheet.
You could also gather at your church for prayer, then divide up sending out teams to each school campus to pray, and then return for a closing prayer. You could even use a minivan or church van to drive to each school and pray while in the vehicle. This last option may be popular with those who have mobility issues.
Schedule a time to pray on-site for your schools.
Encourage church members to volunteer at the school
In your schools, there are kids whose families are falling apart. Kids whose dads are distant and, in some cases, gone. Kids whose parents are busy working multiple jobs and cannot (and in some cases choose not to) go over spelling words with their children.
Reading stories, working through spelling lists, helping with math problems are tasks that help the teacher. Besides, the relationships that form before and after the assignments is the Kingdom goal.
In all honesty, encouraging volunteerism at the school has been challenging. However, the few church members, especially men, who have volunteered at school return with some amazing stories of boys and girls who just want someone to listen to them.
Schedule intentional teacher appreciation
In the past, showing appreciation for our teachers has been hit or miss. My goal this school year is to consistently let our teachers know we appreciate and are praying for them. I plan on accomplishing this by scheduling in advance days for teacher appreciation.
There are certainly more ways to help your church prepare for the new school year., but one simple way to lead our churches to engage the community God has called us to is to care for and pray for our local schools.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at https://robhurtgen.wordpress.com.