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Several years ago, on the Sunday before Labor Day, the morning announcer in a church I was attending asked all the children present to raise their hands if they were starting school the following Tuesday. Little hands and big hands from children and teens who were feeling emotions from anxious to eager went up all around the sanctuary.

Then the announcer asked all those parents who were excited that their children were going to go to school on Tuesday to raise their hands. Many did and predictably, many people laughed. I cringed as I wondered how the laughter made the kids feel. Sure, they were likely familiar with Back to School commercials that presented things the same way—showing parents who are giddy with excitement that kids are leaving the house again—but was that the best way for God’s family to send them off to school?

A few years ago Kid President's Pep Talk to Teachers and Students! made the rounds on social media. It’s an encouraging pep talk for both students and teachers and a wonderful reminder that we are all learners and we are all teachers.

Watching the video got me thinking about how we as God’s family can also encourage the children and teachers in our midst. Depending on where you live, the students in your congregation may have recently returned to school or starting soon. Some will be anxious, some will be eager. All could use your support, encouragement and blessing.

Instead of defaulting to an easy morning announcement joke at their expense, how about inviting them forward this Sunday to receive a blessing. Invite all of the teachers in your congregation too! And once everyone has gathered at the front or in the aisles, invite members of the congregation to come forward to place a hand on the shoulder of each one while you pray for God’s blessing on their year as they learn, as they teach, and as they live out their faith in whatever school God has placed them.

Send them back to school with a blessing. It’s what families do.

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Our church has a beautiful tradition of giving all students beginning their Kindergarten year a quilt handmade by some of the ladies in the church. Their name is sewed at the top, the congregation signs a panel on the back. At the beginning of the service the Sunday before school begins (this past Sunday) the quilts are draped over the baptismal font. As each child comes forward, I wrap the quilt around their shoulders, remind them of the promises made at their baptism and encourage them to think of their Covenant family giving them a hug every time they wrap themselves in the quilt. This year was my first time being a part of this and it was truly a wonderful moment.

Wow, Kory. I have never heard of Kindergarteners being acknowledged and blessed before school begins. Providing those little ones with such a tangible expression of the love surrounding them from their Covenant family is beautiful. Draping those those quilts over the baptismal font is such powerful reminder of how we are called to live out those baptismal promises. Thanks for sharing!

Amen, Karen! And a big WOW! on those quilts, Kory! However we do it, I agree that this is a good opportunity to pray together for our kids (big and small) and our educators. The editors for Lift Up Your Hearts also thought of marking this moment in worship, and included #274 - a song that says "In all our learning, give us grace to bow ourselves before your face..." (verse 2), along with a spoken prayer for teachers and learners. I also love the simple chorus-like feel of #129 - a song that young and old could sing together with simple percussion, repeating the phrase "We will follow, we will follow Jesus....through the the the our our calling.

On the Sunday evening before Labor Day weekend, we hold a special worship service that's focused on praying for students, teachers/staff, and parents as they prepare for "Back to School."  We've done this for the past several years.  The congregation is given a list of all the students as well as teachers who are members of our congregation.  They are also given the names of the administrators of the local schools (Christian and public).  Last year we had a small enough group where the group that was being prayed for sat in an inner circle and the rest of us sat in an outer circle and offered prayers for each group.  Before the prayer time, each group was given an opportunity to share specific prayer requests.  Our group was a little bigger this year so we had the group that was being prayed for sit in chairs up front and share prayer requests.  I led the prayer and then allowed time for others to offer prayers.  Since it was an evening worship, the number of parents and younger students was quite low and the overall attendance was about 1/4 of the congregation.  I'd love to do a similar format where more of the congregation could be present.  It's a powerful time and each year, students, parents and teachers as well as congregation members comment on how much of a blessing the evening was for them.

Thanks for sharing this idea, Drew. I love that you include both public and Christian students and that you also include teachers and administrators. It sounds like a very powerful intergenerational moment in the life of your congregation and I imagine that everyone---those who were prayed for and those who prayed for them---are blessed by the experience.

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