Each fall the children and youth in your church mark a significant milestone: the beginning of the school year. Adjusting to new routines and unfamiliar teachers while navigating friendships and managing expectations places all sorts of pressure on both kids and their parents. It also makes it the perfect time for your church to show and tell those families that God and God’s big family (your church!) is with them every step of the way. Here are some simple ideas for doing so:
Use your words. Take time during the worship service to acknowledge that the start of the school year is a big deal for students and their families. You’ll find three wonderful back-to-school litanies in the post Rituals and Transitions: Back-to-School Litanies. Depending on your space and context, you also might invite all students to come forward and then invite members of the church family to gather around them and pray as a microphone is passed around.
Spell it out. The post Build a Back to School Prayer Station describes how one church collected back-to-school prayers on a community chalkboard placed outside their building. Consider doing something similar at your church; perhaps setting up your board in or near the sanctuary and providing time for people to offer up their prayers. Imagine the impact on kids as they watch church members print their prayers for them.
Provide supplies. “The families in my church do not need more activities to do, more ducks to juggle. Nor do I.” says Austin Crenshaw Shelley (When Doing More Isn't Enough). Rather than providing families with more things to DO, provide them with fresh ways to BE by giving them some or all of the following tools:
- A small blank notebook.
- Our Spiritual Characteristics of Children and Teens guide. If you’ve ever spent time in the shoe aisle or the school supply section at your local department store in August you know that the physical and mental development of children is on the mind of every parent. But kids develop spiritually too. This fabulous resource describes how. (Get copies for grandparents, worship planners, council members, and children/youth ministry leaders too.)
- A tea bag or instant coffee packet.
- A Faith 5 bookmark to provide parents with a do-able devotional plan as well as a beautiful way to gain insight into their child’s day.
- A simple snack for celebrating the completion of the first day or week of school. Although a carton of ice cream is perishable and hard to tote home, a sleeve of cones isn’t! Neither is a bag of popcorn. What would your families enjoy?
Package the above in a colorful magazine file folder, a snappy clipboard or other fun school-themed container. Add an encouraging note about the contents. Here’s mine:
Fall is a busy time for households with children and teens. This package is our way of letting you know that we’ll be praying for you during this time of new beginnings. We hope you’ll feel encouraged by it and that the tools will help you as you ease into the rhythms of a new school year.
- Use the Spiritual Characteristics of Children and Teens guide to learn more about how faith grows.
- Use the notebook to regularly record the date and prayers of your family during this school year. Look back at it at the end of the school year to recall all the ways God has been faithful.
- Try using the following blessing each day before you say goodbye or when you say goodnight: “You are a child of God. God loves you and so do I.” Invite your child to use the same blessing with you!
- Follow the steps on the Faith 5 bookmark as a way to grow in faith together while sharing what happened during your day.
- Share the snack as you celebrate what’s new and remember together how God is always with you. (We provided the cones, all you need is the ice creamJ)
- Parenting is hard work. Take time just for you and enjoy the tea when you do!
God’s Big Family, your church
That’s it! A package of faith formation back-to-school supplies that provides recipients with the same warm fuzzies as finding a “You’ve got this, kiddo!” note in your lunch bag. It’s what families do.