Back to School 
By Sammy Jordan Project Lead HOPE For Every Home

Sammy is in 'Back to School' mode, reminiscing about her 'smelly' experiences of a new school year as a pupil and teacher, whilst sharing practical ways to pray for our schools today, and why this is so much more important than a new, shiny pencil case... 

New Book Smell 2It’s September! The supermarket aisles are now awash with ‘Back to School’ banners and sales (more accurately, since the schools finished back in July!). I wonder how you feel about September? Does the new school year fill you with hope and joy? Or do you get that, ‘Oh no, not again’ feeling in your stomach?

For me, September has a distinct smell to it…smelly September! It’s the smell of new uniform, new shiny pencil cases and stationery (especially rubbers) and new lunchboxes; but most of all, it’s the smell of new books! I’ve confessed to guilty pleasures in these blogs before, but here’s another one…smelling new books! Come on, admit it, I bet I’m not the only one!

There’s something about a new book; pristine, empty but full of promise and no creased pages (even if that means the spine won’t stay open)! I was that pupil at school who, having been made to cover her books (just why?!), tried to keep them looking shiny and new for as long as possible…until my water bottle leaked in my bag!

As a teacher, it was my new ‘teacher planner’ that I looked forward to opening. No spine issues here, and every year was a new colour bursting to get out of the box. The new planner signalled the time at the start of term when I wasn’t yet dealing with piles of marking, and no one needed chasing for late homework or a missed detention! The year was new, full of promise and hope, nothing had spoiled it…yet! September is when the new school year feels more about new opportunities than challenges.

Back to School 2022

In addition to September being ‘smelly’, this month also reminds me, as an ex-teacher and church leader, that whilst many of our churches are empty of families and young people on Sundays (or at least struggling to engage them), our schools and colleges are full on Mondays. In the academic year 2020/21, there were over 10.5 million students attending schools in the UK (according to Schools and colleges are a massive missional opportunity! Which is why Scripture Union run a whole campaign based on ‘the 95%’ of children who are in school but not in church. The challenge then, is how to connect with and serve our local schools.

So perhaps when we see ‘Back to School’ banners, let’s use them as a prompt to pray for our schools. The school’s work charity PAIS alongside Youthscape and Pray for Schools are inviting us to pray specifically around ‘Back to School with God Sunday’, on the Sunday before schools in your area start back, as well as ‘Education Sunday’ on September 11th.
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To connect with the National Day of Prayer for Schools check out @paisengland @paisnorthernireland @youthscape @schoolsworkUK and @prayforschoolsengland on social media. Use #prayforschools on social media on the day as you pray for schools in your community. 
Pete Baker from PAIS dreams that one day every school in the UK would have a church that is praying for it and actively seeking to serve it. Based on the 95% figures, Pete believes that,

"If we truly want to shape the nation, we need to learn how to serve our schools."

And there’s even more opportunity to pray for schools this month, with the ‘National Day of Prayer for Schools’ happening on the 22nd September.
Pete invites us to get involved… 

"Let’s allow this moment to start a movement of praying God’s best for the schools of our nation,
let’s allow God to stir our hearts so we might shape culture by learning how to serve schools."

And the great news is there are lots of ways to join in…

  1. If you’re an early bird, there’s a 7 - 7.30am prayer gathering to start the day, maybe even with some school staff. 
  2. You could prayer walk - speaking God's blessing over your local schools as you walk around your community, or pray as you drop off/collect your children (you could encourage your children to join in).
  3. You might want to host a prayer meeting, either online or in person. (Here’s a crazy idea – how about including a school quiz or dig out your old school ties to wear, purely for a bit of added fun?!)
  4. We'd love to encourage 'Prayer for Schools' gatherings on the evening of the 22nd September all over the UK! From 8am-7pm 'Prayer for Schools' videos will be on social media each hour through PAIS and Youthscape. Please join in and share away on your social media platforms!
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To reinforce the call to pray, Jane Newey from ‘Pray for Schools’ England shares her thoughts on how important it is to pray, especially since Covid-19 hit our schools…

"September is such an important time for praying for our schools, as there is so much uncertainly for children especially those who are undergoing transitions.  This year it will be a relief for so many that their schools have opened, and things appear nearly normal. However, many will still be anxious and it's those children and young people we want to pray for." 

Jane continues with the following advice to make praying for your local school really simple: 

"Whilst walking around your neighbourhood look for signs of children and young people. Maybe stop at the playground and pray for children to have fun.  See the road signs saying, "Slow School" and remember those in school today.  Notice the local convenience store with children queuing for snacks at certain times of the day and pray for their physical health, for sports and general well-being."

APP Button small Jane is using the OIKOS app to help her so that as we pray for schools this September, we continue to press    towards our goal of praying for every street, road and lane in the UK.

"Using the OIKOS app is so simple and it helps with planning a route past all my local schools!"

Why not give Oikos a go? 

All things new 
As I wrap up, at the start of a new school year, with new uniforms, new stationary, new lunchboxes, new books and new opportunities to pray, I believe that this September…

GOD IS DOING A NEW THING! Isaiah 43:19 is much cited, but I really do believe it:
"See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."

God is moving his Church out of buildings and established ways of doing things. Away from big programmes and structures to something new, rooted more in the local and relational. As this happens, churches will become more about Kingdom collaborations and partnerships, as we break out of denominational silos. Included in these Kingdom collaborations will be ‘spheres of influence’, local councils, businesses, police…and of course, schools, amongst others.
So, as we start a new school year, lets embrace the opportunities, the new thing God is doing, as a foretaste of more to come…
…and let’s get praying!

Sammy Jordan, 19/08/2022