Another summer is closing as the new school year is here. Why not mark this transition by having a special Back-to-School Sunday?
Your Back-to-School Sunday can be a poignant time in asking the congregation to partner with families to bless the children with health, safety, and a year of growth. Your students will start a new school year (some for the very first time) knowing there is a whole community of people cheering them on. Here are some elements to consider.
A great way to kick off a service is with a fun video. There are plenty of content companies producing video for worship services, and you can most likely find a themed video that will fit your needs. You may also find a clip on YouTube. Use social media to crowdsource for suggestions and links. Remember, it is best practice to ask and receive permission from the content producer before using their content. When permission is in doubt, it is best to assume you do not have it.
A great alternative to having to find (and possibly purchase/license) a video is to produce your own content. It may be easier than you think. Have a youth pastor or children’s pastor—anyone with a quick wit and great repartee with children—interview children about going to school. Ask about favorite activities, something funny that has happened at school, why they love their teachers, etc. Keep it short, 2-4 minutes, add some fun music underneath, and you will have a nice homegrown experience to use in your service.
If you do not have the technical means to show/produce/license a video, a special song presentation or entertaining skit could serve similar purposes.
Charge to students
Have a youth leader to address students returning to class. Encourage your students to remember who they are in the community of faith and who they are in the community of God. Be encouraging! Charge them to be the best version of themselves and to remember their church family is there to celebrate their accomplishments, encourage them in defeat, cheer them on to do their best, and support them in whatever they do.
Charge to parents
Offer a charge to parents to remember that their students are learning who they are in the world. Do not make the school year about the measuring stick of accomplishments or comparing them to others. Also, practice hospitality during the school year by having your kids’ friends in your home getting to know your children’s friends and their families. Honor those who are teaching and coaching your student’s. Remind parents to never hesitate to reach out for guidance when facing challenging situations—we have all been there.
Present Bibles to new students
A nice gesture for students entering school, or at least kindergarten, for the first time can be to present them with a Bible as a gift from their church family. Have the senior students write a note of advice in the Bibles for each child to have and read. Wouldn’t it be cool if this became a tradition and at each subsequent back to school blessing featured a senior sharing the advice from the Bible they received when they entered kindergarten?
Lesson to students
Have the lesson for that morning geared to encourage students to remember who they are in the story of God. Just because they are young, it does not mean they do not have a part to play. Encourage them to make the most of their time, to enjoy life, to enjoy others, and to make the world a better place.
Prayer for students and school staff
Have your students—and teachers, principals, coaches, and other members of your congregation who work in schools and with students—either come to the front of the sanctuary if space permits, or stand where they are. Let them know how much you love them and are cheering them all on. Pray over them for a safe, fun, and successful school year.
Also, don’t forget to be hospitable and invite your neighbors and the new friends you made during the summer at VBS to join you. Follow through with your pledge to these students and educators. Look for creative ways to support the schools in your community and as always, support the students, educators, and families that call your congregation home.