Faith Works 8-13-16
Prayer and schools are an excellent fit
School starts for many this next week or so.
Wednesday or Thursday for most of the public schools in the county; colleges a little later, but today is the day my wife and I drop our son off for Marching 110 camp well before classes start at OU.
Prayer? We'll take some, thank you. For him, yes, for his newly empty nester parents, absolutely. And we'll be praying for him in this new venture.
School for the parents of kindergarteners, students transitioning between buildings, or heading into a senior year let alone off to college: it's all quite the provocation to prayer. A reminder to pray for parents, for friends, for grandparents and relatives across the county, for all of us thinking about our own first days on our own in a dorm, at a campus, in classes.
Closer to home, we find ourselves praying for teachers and staff and lunchroom crew, for bus drivers and the other drivers idling while the red stop sign and flashers swing out from the yellow chassis. We pray for the principal and the choir directors and band leaders, the coaches and the trainers who will have both physical and educational care for our young people; so many who can build up or tear down with a word, whether intentional or as an indifferent aside. We pray that they see and hear and know and understand what they're doing as our children grow up in their care.
We pray for our own alertness and awareness as new paths to school intersect with streets and roads, kids darting out where no doubt they shouldn't be, but are, and we pray that we see them, avoid them, bless them and send them safely on their way, even if they don't know how close we came to . . . and we pray.
Prayer, it has been said, will always be in school as long as there is algebra. Yes, and chair placement battles and basketball tryouts and application to enrichment programs. We pray that foolishness of the summer will not follow our youth into the hallways and cafeterias and gymnasiums and classrooms; we pray that what was learned as last school year ended still has some life in it to be watered into growth and renewal this fall.
Know that there are teachers praying for their students and the parents and families well before they even see the class lists, and they pray for us by name after those are handed 'round. Principals and assistants and deans and secretaries who meet in private, personal Bible studies, who ask their Sunday morning classes to pray for them and their work as the new school year begins, who are alert to the weak and vulnerable and the simply quiet and cautious, bringing them the attention and skill they deserve – and they pray that they keep on through the year in that work, not falling into the easier habits of tending to the squeaky wheels and brighter, more compelling kids.
In churches, we pray for all these groups and more by name, with special emphases depending on the congregation. Perhaps we no longer have teachers leading set prayers in front of their classes, but that's not an era I've ever known, nor one that I would call back. I'll let schools work with the diversity they are mandated to embrace, and remind churches that the task of faith formation is ours to manage . . . or not. Some suggest, I think with cause, that we spent a generation among many mainline Protestant bodies getting sloppy with our teaching and training in faithfulness because we thought we could assume the culture and our schools would do our work for us. No more, and I can live with that. I pray that we as a faith community are faithful in that task of training up our children in the ways they should go.
And I would add: I believe, very strongly, in homeschooling, and I think everyone should do it. Some of us also choose to supplement that with the public school classroom, but I pray we never forget that a child's first teacher is always the parents, and in the home. If we remember that, the school teachers and the team around them can do their jobs all the better!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's been told at home he can be a tedious teacher at times. Tell him about historic markers you stop the car at by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.