Back to school — Ministry events aimed to help Christian students

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TRENTON, N.J. — Even as school teachers across the country are preparing their classrooms for the start of school, several Christian ministries are also hard at work hoping to help with the spiritual side of student life.

The 9th annual Scriptures in School Week will be held Sept. 24 to 30. The project was started to encourage Christian students, teachers, and support staff in public schools to bring their Bibles to class. As part of the national observance, organizers are suggesting that students use Bible references to complete various in-class assignments and homework.

"The nationwide kick-off event is designed to establish the habit for students to bring Bibles to class all year long and make the Bible a commonplace text in America's schools once again," the event news release said.

The event is timed to coincide with the annual See You at the Pole observance, this year planned for Sept. 27. This year's theme is "Be Still. Know God."

See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led movement that started in the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson, Texas, in 1990. It originated with just one youth group, who met at night at several schools around Burleson during a weekend retreat. Through the project, students gather at their school flagpoles to intercede for their leaders, schools, and families, asking God to bring moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses and countries.

Last year, more than two million teen-agers met for See You at the Pole in all 50 states. Internationally, reports came in from countries on six continents, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Scotland, and South Africa.

The Pole event is now coordinated by San Diego-based National Network of Youth Ministries.

"Every year, we have seen this day serve as a springboard for unity among teen-agers on their campuses," Paul Fleischmann, president of the network said in a news release. "See You at the Pole unites students in prayer at the beginning of the semester. Young people have taken unprecedented leadership through this to have a positive impact at their schools."


Other resources
Also on the September calendar is "Challenge Sunday­— Adopt a School for Christ" on Sept. 24 and "The Word at Work Week," a project for Christian parents, which also coincides with Scriptures in School Week. Christian parents are asked to take their Bibles to work as a way to role model the practice for their children.

Church congregations nationwide can show support for See You at the Pole by sponsoring special "Campus Challenge Sunday" commissioning services the weekend before See You at the Pole.

Participants will recognize and pray for Christian students and educators in their congregations. Campus Challenge Sunday resources have been created by the National Network of Youth Ministries to help church leaders plan for this event.

"Campus Challenge Sunday is a significant day to engage your church family in helping to propel your students and caring adults into the schools in your community for the sake of advancing The Kingdom of God," the Web site said.

According to Scriptures in School coordinator, Bob Pawson, the project was inspired by the Great Commission and Isaiah 55:11. It's billed SIS as an effective, friendly, low-key, legal and ethical way for Christian students to casually and routinely introduce Biblical concepts into America's public school classrooms, a practice  using what Pawson calls "academic evangelism." His slogan is "Tote 'em and quote 'em! And use 'em in class."

"Dare to bring your Bibles," said Pawson, a teacher in the Trenton Public Schools since 1980. "Let's return the Bible to our public schools and restore basic biblical literacy to America's children."


'Academic evangelism'
Although school-sponsored prayer in schools is prohibited, courts have generally upheld an individual student's right to religious expression.

"Academic Evangelism creates daily opportunities for students from kindergarten through 12th grade to share Bible concepts with classmates and teachers in a scholarly manner," Pawson said.

"Students can present gospel truths academically by using biblical references to complete some assignments each week such as essays, book reports, spelling sentences, penmanship or word processing samples, oral readings, dramatic presentations and biographies. Bible concepts can even be presented in subjects like math, science, social studies, art, and music."


Confidence builder
The coordinator said a national observance helps provide support to students who may feel isolated in their faith.

"It's a real confidence booster to participating students, knowing that millions of other people all across America are also bringing their Bibles to public schools that week," he said.

For more resources and information, including ideas on how to incorporate Scripture into schoolwork, visit bringyourbible.com.

Everything necessary for students to plan and promote a successful SYATP is available free at syatp.com.

A special video for Campus Challenge can be ordered by calling (858) 451-1111, and a local church "Planning Guide" can be downloaded free from everyschool.com.