INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--A new school year begins soon. What an opportune time for a church to encourage students and teachers. Need fresh ideas?

-- Pray for students and teachers. An adult Bible class can adopt a youth class to pray for them by name. During worship, a pastor could invite students to kneel at the altar as he or the youth minister prays for them. Or he could invite teachers and school staff (elementary, secondary, college, home school) to stand, then pray and challenge the entire church to pray for them faithfully. After taking children to school the first day, moms can gather for coffee, fellowship and prayer for the kids and teachers.

-- Make it easy for kids to invite friends to church. Print a bookmark-size schedule of weekly and special fall events for kids at your church. Order book covers, notebooks, T-shirts or pencils with Scripture, the youth motto, the church website and the church name. Our church teens redecorate their Sunday School classrooms annually, painting murals and Scripture art. Plan a back-to-school party or Christian concert. After school the first day, serve homemade pizza at the church. Work hard to provide relevant, top-quality Bible classes and activities for students.

-- Adopt a school. Your church or adult Bible class could help a nearby school. Visit the principal to offer assistance, such as mentoring, office help, reading, crossing guards, scholarship application aid or providing shoes, haircut or school supplies for a child in need. Send encouraging prayer notes to the principal. Deliver a huge basket of snacks for the teacher's break room with a note from your church. An Indiana church painted the playground and developed a great relationship with the school. Be flexible, and joyfully show God's love as you respond to requests.

-- Prepare for guests. In Sunday's bulletin, print names of children's and youth Bible teachers, choir leaders, missions teachers, and so on. Church members can pray for them, and guests will see your commitment to disciple kids. Since families often relocate during summer, purchase a newcomer list for your town, and mail or deliver church invitations before school begins. You could advertise in the local paper to invite all teachers and school faculty in town to worship on Sunday before school begins. Recognize them, pray for them, and give a gift (coffee cup, pen) with a Scripture and promise of prayer.

As our children, youth and teachers return to school as ambassadors for Christ, will you assure them of your church's love and prayers?

August 6, 2010

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Diana Davis is the author of "Fresh Ideas," "Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry" and "Deacon Wives" (B&H Publishing) and the wife of the Indiana Baptist State Convention executive director. Learn more at www.keeponshining.com.