At the Start of a New School Year

I remember getting ready for the first day of sixth grade. I had a backpack packed and my outfit picked out — a bright yellow sweatshirt and purple shirt with coordinated bow. I needed to be ready because it was my last year in elementary school, and I knew it would be a “BIG year.”

young rachel

My elementary school had been expanded over the summer, and we went from having two classes per grade to three classes! New students were arriving, and new teachers were already setting up classrooms. The school I knew had changed. I remember how hard it was to live in that strange space oscillating between anxiety and anticipation. I also remember one of my Sunday School teachers whispering to me the Sunday before school started, “We love you, you’ve got this, and God’s got you.” It was just the one line. She didn’t say the year wouldn’t be hard, or that everything would be fine, or that my worries weren’t justified. She just reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that I had what I needed to start the year.

Our children are looking at the year ahead. Some are filled with anxiety, some with anticipation, and some with a wishful hope that summer could stretch until December or January. I ask you to join me in praying for each one – for the students we number among our own here at BMPC, for the children who live on your block, for the second cousins twice removed who live in southern Texas, for the harried family in front of you at Target.

Over the next few weeks, pause and whisper a word of encouragement – “You’ve got this!” – or offer a short prayer of blessing, “God be with this child and the year ahead.” If you’d like, you can even pick up laminated cards to share with others after church on Sunday at the Back-to-School Blessing.

A Prayer for the Start of the Year

God of playgrounds and homerooms.

God of bus stops and hallways.

God of swing sets and libraries,

Prepare a safe place for each child.

Transform classrooms into communities of belonging.

Transform desks into sanctuaries; make them places of learning and exploring.

Help us hold our fears and anxieties so they do not overwhelm.

Bless each child as they begin a year of learning:

Fill them with your wisdom and help them understand the world you have created and work for the world you desire.

Surround them with a strong community of friends and teachers to grow with them in the year ahead.

Surprise them with unexpected grace, new opportunities, and strengths they can discover.

Be with teachers, administrators, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, monitors, class aids, and counselors as they shape a year of learning and the students in their care.

Be with parents and guardians, grandparents and extended family, as they form a circle around each child. Fill them with love and understanding.

Be with all those who are invested in lives of children. Help each one of us live out our promises to love and nurture.

Good Shepherd, as you guide our children, we pray that you would help us see the world through the eyes of our children. May we too look at the world with compassion and hope, with curiosity and wonder. Renew our minds and strengthen our hearts.