26 Aug 2019
Sand is still in their shoes, postcards are on their way to grandparents and suntans have not yet faded; but nerves and worry about the new school year have already started.
I know a 7 year-old; let’s call her Ella. She gets very anxious about school. Friendships are hard to navigate. She’s up in the night. She’s sometimes sick in the morning. Her Mum feels exhausted, knowing that she will peel her daughter off her leg at the school gate. Everyone feels like a failure.
There is more we can say than just, “I’ll speak to your teacher about it,” and, “I’m sure it will be alright.”
We go to school knowing that the Spirit of Christ goes with us.
He is not an imaginary friend from a pop-up book. He is not an empty parenting platitude. He is not a last-resort reassurance when all else fails. He is the one who Jesus asked his Father to send, to be your child’s helper. “The world cannot accept him because it does not see him or know him. But your child knows him. He lives with your child and he will be in your child.” (John 14:17, ICB, with slight modifications!)
If your child could have anyone with them at school, who would they choose? Probably you. But who would you choose? Someone who could bring words of truth to mind? Someone who could bring reassurance, comfort and contentment to their heart? Someone who could oversee every moment to develop greater trust in their Heavenly Father?
We can remind our children that the heart-changing, event-ordering, day-transforming Spirit is their helper; always with them.
We go to school to learn about God’s world and to learn to think.
"The heavens tell the glory of God.
And the skies announce what his hands have made." (Psalm 19:1, ICB)
As our children study Science they can see how every atom speaks of their Creator. As they study Geography, they can see how God created every river and mountain and the wondrous diversity of humanity. As they study History they can see how much a broken world needs a Saviour. As they learn languages they will be able to build friendships, enjoy cultural diversity and tell the gospel to other nations.
God tells us to love him with our minds just as much as with our hearts. School trains minds to work well, to understand the Bible, to reason with friends and to decide if the things other people say are true. Sometimes school teaches things that are not true or helpful but even this is an opportunity for parents to help children learn discernment. Just as we go to the gym and do peculiar exercises rarely seen in the normal world, so in learning to think about subjects that don’t seem important, children are being trained to think about the most important subject - God.
We go to school to live for Jesus.
It was the last thing Jesus told his disciples: “Go and make followers of all people…. Teach them to obey everything I have told you.” All of us, of every age, are to live for Jesus, showing what it looks like to obey everything he told us and to taking every opportunity to speak about him.
At school, children learn to love people who are different from them and who believe different things. They learn how to care for the lonely, love the discouraged and cope with persecution.
This applies even for those who ‘go to school’ at home. These children can still model the Christian life, speak about faith, look to make friends whenever they can and tell both Christian and not-yet-saved siblings things they need to hear about Jesus!
And Ella? The turnaround began when she heard at church that Jesus goes with her beyond the school gate. She heard that Jesus said, “God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many birds.” (Matthew 10:30-31, ICB). She had been told this before, but this time it meant more, because God speaks into our situation at just the right time for us to learn to trust him. Now they pray before school, that she would remember that Jesus goes with her. Her mum may not be sat next to her but the King is. Slowly, over time, it gets better.
Take a look at our three short kids talks on these three principles. Perhaps you can start the school year at your church with these?
This article first appeared in the September 2019 issue of the Christian newspaper Evangelicals Now www.e-n.org.uk
To hear more on this topic listen to our podcast on going back to school.