New school year? New opportunity to build faith!

Uncomfortable shiny shoes. A new pencil case full of stationery treats. A staged photo on the doorstep, complete with fixed grin and new uniform. This is the evidence of a new school year. For many families, there is far more happening beneath the social media surface.

Transitions matter

A great deal of research has gone into understanding the factors that lead to the children of Christian parents either keeping or losing faith. Transitions are shown to be crucial. Whether it’s the first day of full-time school or the start of University, it is at the points of change where faith is often built (or discarded). When our children find themselves in a new classroom, a new school or a new city, the more significant aspect is what is happening in their heads and hearts. Transitions reveal our coping mechanisms and test our faith. When our children face change, they need to learn new skills and new routines and they need to trust that while they are struggling, there is one over them who has their days planned out with their good in mind. Our role as parents is to teach our children how to turn towards Christ, rather than away from him, whenever they feel alone, confused or nervous.

New school years give us a predictable moment of transition for which we can prepare, building a foundation that helps our children face the unpredictable changes that will come later.

Preparing ourselves
One friend ran a Bible study for mums about to drop their child off at school for the first time. Word got out. She had to run it again …. and again. The mums were clear that they were not ready; they were struggling to get used to the idea of their child being in full-time school. There was going to be a moment at the first drop-off when they would discover who would dissolve into tears first. These mums knew that before they could help their child, they had to go to work on their own hearts. 

Preparing our children

For myself, I will be opening Acts 18:1-11 with my family in the run-up to the new school year. It’s the story of Paul arriving in a new city. He arrived bold and brave ready to witness to Christ, but there were difficulties and setbacks. Christians have never been promised an easy ride. We can’t prevent our children facing difficulties and setbacks; we can help them to be ready. God spoke directly to Paul offering truth, direction and reassurance. Alongside the specific message for Paul was the timeless truth, “For I am with you.” If your child is young, count those five words off on the fingers and thumb of their hand and then tell them to make a fist (for courage). Wherever they are, whatever is happening, however they are feeling, those five words will always be true. Ask them to practise saying them, counting them off on their fingers. They can say them to themselves. With such simple words, faith is built for life. 

If your child feels calm and prepared, there is no harm in opening the Bible together, talking about new beginnings and finishing by praying. If your child is anxious, doing so is even more valuable.  However old your child, their emotions show what is happening in their hearts. Their worries, their fears and their beliefs are laid bare, even if they can’t explain them or even understand them. Take those things, together, to the God who loves them, and hear his words of reassuring truth.  

Do join Ed, Amy and Eliza Huie on the Faith in Parents podcast #121 as they talk about Parenting Big Emotions.

Ed Drew.

A version of this article appears in the September 2023 edition of Evangelicals Now.