As students return to school, people from churches throughout South Florida are uniting in prayer at their local elementary, middle and high schools on the Saturday before school starts to pray for the local campuses. Initiated by First Priority, a ministry passionate about connecting the church to reach the campus for Christ, Back to School Prayer 2016 simply encourages every person from every church to meet at their school’s flagpole at 9 a.m. and spend an hour in prayer. If you cannot access the flagpole, gather by the main school sign along the road.
For Palm Beach County public schools that will be Saturday, August 13. In Broward and Dade counties, they will meet on Saturday, August 20th.
“Wouldn’t it be great to see the body of Christ uniting together – people from every different church in that community gathering on the local public school to spend an hour in prayer for that campus.,” said Chris Lane, executive director of First Priority. “I am so excited about this initiative… We want to see your church involved.”
A Back to School Prayer Guide outlines four specific prayer requests: campus safety, spiritual awakening, student missionaries, administration and faculty. The guides are modeled after similar ones used by Moms in Prayer, a national initiative that brings moms together to pray for their school throughout the year.
“We have found it is helpful to have a format that keeps it to one hour and to pray Scripture,” said Marcy Russo, Florida coordinator of Moms in Prayer.
Russo is promoting Back to School Prayer 2016 to all of her Moms in Prayer group leaders. “What I’m letting them know is you may meet other Christian moms who could join your prayer group…It’s a wonderful thing when they can cast their burdens and cares for their children on the Lord,” said Russo.
Barkley Wycokff, director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Palm Beach County, said “There’s nothing more important you can do than pray. If we want to see schools change, we need to cover them in prayer, and if we don’t do it, no one else will.” Wyckoff said he’s encouraging everyone who participates in FCA huddles to join in the Back to School Prayer.
Youth for Christ volunteers and the churches they represent are also being encouraged to participate, said David Killian, ministry director of Youth for Christ in Palm Beach County. “Prayer is absolutely essential… It is by the grace of God that we are allowed on campus and we want to continue that,” he said. “This opportunity to encourage the community, to pray for lost kids, administrators and teachers, we feel is a high priority.”
Alan Platt, chief architect of Church United, is also a fan of Back to School Prayer. “There is no question that prayer changes things, and there is nothing greater than an intentional saturation of blessing to the next generation,” said Platt. “Every opportunity we create for the church to serve with what we’ve been blessed is an opportunity we should capture, and First Priority has created a wonderful platform for different churches to take hands and unite in blessing our city.”
According to Fred Revell, associated director of First Priority, the idea for Back to School Prayer 2016 came after the First Priority chapter in Nashville, Tennessee, petitioned their governor to establish a statewide day of prayer for the schools. “We’re trying to do that at the grassroots from the ground up,” he said.
While many people are familiar with See You at the Pole, a student-led prayer event held for the past 25 years that encourages students to pray for their generation at their school flag pole in September, Back to School Prayer is new and different. Revell explained, “See You at the Pole is limited to students. And prayer is such a good thing, we thought why not engage the church in a way that would encourage participation even before school starts.” He emphasized that this is not just for high schools and middle schools, but for elementary schools too. This includes public schools, private schools, charter schools and home schools.
First Priority has put together a variety of resources to encourage participation on their website at www.firstpriority.cc/BTSprayer. These include promotional postcards, posters, slides and a video that can be used to announce the event during church services. People are also encouraged to download and print the Back to School Prayer Guides to take with them the morning of the event.
A summary of the Back to School Prayer Guides follows and each prayer point includes a Scripture verse for reference.
Pray for God to protect the campus, for angels to keep guard, and pray against evil. “In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem” (Psalm 20:1-2, NLT).
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for the lost to be found, and for the gospel to grow and bear fruit. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you” (Psalm 51:12-13).
Pray for students to be salt and light, for them to make disciples and to invite friends to church. “I am sending you …to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18).
Administration and Faculty
Pray for unity on the school staff. Pray for joy in their calling as educators and that teachers would speak truth. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
If you would like to learn more about Back to School Prayer 2016, visit www.firstpriority.cc/BTSprayer.
Shining Light into Our Schools
There are several organizations that continue to reach students on campus with the word of God in after school programs, student-led clubs and through prayer. If you want to reinforce the Christian worldview among students and educators, find out if these programs are active in your child’s school and how you, your child or your church can get involved.
Since 1998, First Priority has been on a mission to reach every student on every public middle and high school campus with the gospel through student-led Bible clubs. When students start a club, they send a church-approved youth worker to coach them. The clubs follow a four-week strategy they call TEAM that focuses on telling about Jesus, equipping leaders, asking God to move, and mission weeks in which students invite others. They currently have almost 200 clubs from South Florida to the Treasure Coast and partner with over 120 local churches. To find a club, visit firstpriority.cc/clubfinder/.
Youth For Christ
Every day at community centers, high schools, middle schools, juvenile institutions, coffee shops, and local hangouts, Youth For Christ staff and adult leaders meet with young people who need Jesus. “We empower adult volunteers to reach kids through Campus Life Clubs,” said David Killian, a ministry director for Youth For Christ. They currently have clubs in 18 middle schools and three high schools in Palm Beach County. Middle school clubs often meet in the gymnasium before school starts while high school clubs are typically after school. In each case, students have hang out time, play an organized game and hear a biblical message while adult volunteers are encouraged to develop mentoring relationships with the kids. To find out if your school has a Campus Life Club, visit www.yfcteens.com/ministries/.
Good News Clubs
Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) partners with local churches to host once a week Good News Clubs in elementary schools. With permission slips signed by parents, the Good News Clubs are often a welcome after school alternative run by church volunteers with resources provided by Child Evangelism Fellowship. “Children in elementary school are most open to the gospel and we want to teach them the truth about who Jesus is,” said Charles Martinez, CEF of Florida director. While their presence is minimal in South Florida, The Bridge Church in Pembroke Pines and Christ Community Church in Wellington both host Good News Clubs in area elementary schools. To find out how your church can get involved, visit www.ceffl.org.
Moms in Prayer
Moms in Prayer International impacts children and schools worldwide for Christ by gathering mothers to pray. It all started 30 years ago with one woman in her kitchen calling a friend to pray for her son who was starting middle school. Now women all over the country gather in homes, libraries, coffee shops or churches to bath their schools, teachers and children in prayer. Moms in prayer provides prayer guides and other resources for moms to set aside one hour once a week to cast their cares for their children on the Lord. Visit momsinprayer.org to find a group or start your own.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging coaches and athletes to make a difference for Christ in the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels. There are active team and all school FCA huddles in high schools throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties. To learn more about FCA visit browardfca.org or fcapbc.org.
The demands on educators have grown over the years, and SchooLifeUSA has developed a culture of support by establishing long term relationships with educators. A catalyst for positive change in the Palm Beach County School System, SchooLifeUSA influences the lives of educators with the message of love and respect; first with themselves, then with their families, then with their coworkers and ultimately with the students. They do this through principal luncheons and encouragement/prayer groups for teachers. To learn more, visit www.schoolifeusa.com.
School Board Chair Hosts Prayer Vigil
For the fourth year in a row, Dr. Rosalind Osgood, chair of the School Board of Broward County, will host a County-Wide Back to School Prayer Vigil on Thursday, August 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Praise Tabernacle International, 1050 N.W. 43rd. Ave., in Plantation. The event is being co-hosted by Pastor D. H. Dawkins, Sr.
“I believe that prayer helps us to spiritually prepare for the school year,” said Osgood. “As an ordained clergy person, I include prayer in most things that I do.” The prayer vigil is open to any who wishes to attend.
Osgood said she also plans to participate in First Priority’s Back to School Prayer 2016 at 9 a.m. on the Saturday before the first day of school. “The more prayer the better,” she remarked.