Back to school: Classroom evangelists
As you know, September marks the start of a new school year when classrooms are filled again with chatter and learning. It's the perfect time to think about how we can cheer on our children (our own or those in our churches) to share Jesus at school. Rachael Heffer (Unity Programmes Manager, Evangelical Alliance) shares her thoughts with us on how we can do this.
The end of the summer holidays is nearing and, as a Mum to boys aged nine and seven, I join many parents in that odd mix of emotions that September brings…
Firstly, there’s the shock that we survived the six-week juggle of childcare, work commitments, holidays, shoe-shopping, visiting relatives, while not allowing heads or diets to go to complete mush. Secondly, we ask, “is it really September already?” Grappling with the realisation that another summer has passed, and our babies are a year older, we wonder what this new class and key stage might bring for them, prayerfully entrusting them to God with a slight twinge of anxiety.
Jesus affirmed each child He met, encouraging all of us to be more like them:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1–5)
So as a parent of two young boys who love Jesus, how can I best encourage them to live for Him in their school and with their peers, to impact the lives of those around them in the coming year?
I’ve heard my sons boldly state that Jesus loves everyone, that He forgives, and that God still does miracles today!
Encouragingly, children from Christian homes are often more than willing to share the Good News of Jesus without a second thought. I’ve heard my sons boldly state that Jesus loves everyone, that He forgives, and that God still does miracles today! Even more exciting is the way that their peers often lap it up, ask questions, pause momentarily to nod about it, and then carry on playing football, tag, or bulldog just as they were before. Praise God for this childlike boldness to share the truth with their pals, because who knows how Jesus can use this to take root in their young lives!
Therefore, recognising the opportunities of playgrounds, classrooms, and friendships, how do we equip our young evangelists to serve God in their schools?
My experience is that children are often very intuitive, having a keen understanding and concern for their friends’ needs. Talk to your children about their friends, and what their friends might need from God…
Encourage your kids to pray for their friends. Write down their names, noting what they specifically want to pray for, and track answered prayers over the coming weeks.
Explore what opportunities they might have to share God’s truth with those friends. Suggest simple ideas, like could they tell a schoolmate that they’re special, loved, don’t need to be afraid, God is always with them and will never leave them etc? These gospel truths, simply shared, can impact them and, by God’s grace, become etched on their mind for years to come!
As church leaders and community…
Let’s acknowledge the wisdom and evangelistic effectiveness of children, not underestimating all that God can do in and through them. In terms of potential impact, just look at the opportunities they have…
Children infiltrate all spheres of community life – sports, music, activity clubs on a weekly basis – meeting hundreds of children from the widest reaches of our communities.
They often have no filter which means they’re keen to speak truth, invite people to events that seem exciting, and don’t care about perceived social boundaries or divisions. Praise God for His kingdom values modelled through our children!
So as our children head back to school, why not consider celebrating our children and teens as a church:
Commission your children and young people: during church, gather all the children and young people at the front, perhaps interview a few pre-warned volunteers, and then get the church to pray blessing, strength, and opportunity for them as the new term begins.
Challenge your children and young people to share Jesus with their friends: children and young people nearly always rise to a challenge, so make it fun, and encourage them that sharing Jesus could be the most exciting thing they could do in any given week!
Celebrate and cheer them on! Ask regularly for feedback, giving your children space to share stories of where they’ve had the opportunity to talk about Jesus. Make it a normal part of story-sharing, as hearing the stories of others sharing Jesus, however young, will breed confidence in all of us to do the same!
Most importantly, make sure your children and teens know that you, as a church community, are 100% cheering them on!
May your Septembers be bright and full of the joys of seeing your children transition into the new term with God’s blessing and expectation. May we cheer them on, pray for them, and be constantly amazed to see where God is at work through the lives of our young evangelists as He meets with them too!
30 August 2019
Rachael works within the Unity for Mission team of the EA, overseeing the development of greatcommission.co.uk and the One People Commission network encouraging churches in evangelism, diversity, unity, and integration. Rachael worked for British Youth for Christ for thirteen years, followed by four years as the Youth Adviser for the Diocese of Ely. Rachael is married to Darren and lives in Ely, with their two sons, Jacob and Isaac. She is passionate about church unity and evangelism, youth ministry, is a trained coach and mentor, and loves travel, languages, and shoes! Follow Rachael on Twitter and Instagram.
This blog was originally published on the Great Commission and is reproduced with permission (thank you!).
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