Kids cheering as the football players all jog to the stage . . . cheerleaders leading the crowd in shouts of encouragement. It’s school pride at its best. But friends, I have to admit that I never really got into pep rallies as a student. “Does this really help players get excited for the big game?” I wondered. I just didn’t understand the concept.
Then years later I experienced my own pep rally while running a Thanksgiving “turkey trot” race. It was one of the coldest days of November on the North Shore of Boston. I had just finished the part of the race along the ocean, where the cold air coming off the water actually took my breath away. Moving away from the water, I turned into a neighborhood full of cheering people. At nearly every house, someone was outside, shouting encouragement to the runners and ringing cowbells. Suddenly, I felt a new surge of energy that carried me through to the end of the race. Maybe the concept of a pep rally isn’t so crazy after all.
As I think about the start of a new Sunday School year, I wonder, why don’t we do this for our kids? Why don’t we send them into a new year of learning about God with excitement and encouragement, the way pep rallies do for a team or that sweet neighborhood did for me?
Imagine what this could look like: On the first day of the new year, you could gather all the children and adults for the first 15 minutes of Sunday school. Introduce all the teachers, encouraging the crowd to cheer for them as though they’re at a pep rally. As you introduce the teachers, have the children who will be in that class stand up, so that everyone can cheer for them as well. Imagine how encouraged kids would feel, knowing their whole church was behind them and supporting them as they enter a new year of Sunday school.
After introducing the teachers, you could use this commissioning litany to dismiss the group with an encouragement. Included in the litany are several parts for young readers that you could invite a child from each of your classes to read. The litany ends with the teachers standing up and affirming that they’ve been called by God and will seek to remain in Christ as they lead in the coming year. What a powerful thing for children to see their teachers commit to at the start of the year!