When we put in an offer on our house here in St. Pete, I didn’t notice just how close we would live to a Target – and we all know how dangerous that can be! While Target can be a favorite destination for those wanting to just browse in the air conditioning, this time of year brings a whole new audience – back-to-school shopping.
You can identify these shoppers by the frazzled look on their faces. They are usually found digging through bins of supplies in search of the specific make and model pencil the teacher has requested, or standing in front of the wall of backpacks barking at their child to “just pick one!” Their red basket is full of supplies from the provided shopping list and they may be panicking at the cash they will soon have to turn over at the register.
The parenting experts will tell you to prepare for the start of school by transitioning your child to their new schedule – earlier bedtimes, nightly reading, less screen time, packing lunches, and setting out clothing the night before. Department stores have sold the story of needing new clothes/shoes/electronics to accompany the ~$150 you already spent in markers, lunchboxes, and locker accessories. Pinterest-addicted moms have ordered the 1st day of school chalkboard and the southern moms have finished the monogramming.
Those preparations are all important things. All children do better when they are adequately prepared for big changes, and starting school – regardless of their age – is a big change and worthy of celebration. And if we listen to the world around us, we have checked off all the necessary preparations. We’re ready.
This year, I’d encourage you to take it another step. No, I am not suggesting you make a first day of school gift for your teacher (though that’d be lovely!) or start meal prepping this weekend.
I challenge you to offer a daily blessing to your children. To bathe them in prayer these last few days of summer.
“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
Don’t just pray for your child as part of your morning devotion with God but pray over your children while they listen. Allow them the honor of hearing their parents lift their name to God.
This may be best done at bedtime, when most children are unwinding and the nightly arguments over bath time, dinner, and where the toys belong has passed. Sit on either side of your child’s bed, place your hands on them, and pray a simple prayer – something like, “Gracious God, we lift (Child’s Name) to you. We know that you love her, care for her, and are always there for her. In just a few days, she will be going back to school and that can be scary. When she finds herself scared, or anxious, or sad, or angry, remind her that you are there, loving her. (Child’s Name), you are a blessed child of God. God is always with you and has great things in store for you. You. Are. Loved. Amen.”
Out of this sacred time together may come a short phrase of blessing and affection that you can incorporate into your morning farewell once school begins.
Church, they can’t do this alone. We are called to live life together and life together means being there for transitions and changes. Commit to praying for the moms, dads, and students within our congregation. Think of them each evening as they prepare for the next day and each morning as they kiss each other goodbye. Offer a blessing to the families closest to you – remind them that you are part of their village and are bathing them in prayer. And when you cross that frustrated parent, wrangling their children in the school supply aisle, greet them with a sincere smile and a kind word. Your encouragement may just be the blessing they need to get through the day.
What a blessing it is to be part of the First St. Pete village! I am thankful the Lord has placed us together for this season of life and ministry. May the start of the new school year also launch the start of great things to come in our ministries with children and families!
-Aimee Hobbs, Pastor for Children & Young Families