Seizing Back to School Gospel Moments

It has already started. Emails from school districts, school supply lists at your local Walmart and Target, shiny new shoes, and lunch box and thermos kits. The hustle and bustle of back-to-school season is underway and with its arrival there can be a flood of excitement and anxiety whether it’s the first day of preschool or the last ‘first’ day of grad school. 

Wherever you may fall on the spectrum of back-to-school emotions, one thing I want to highlight is how much opportunity we have to show, be, and invite people into a relationship with Jesus.

Dr.Rainer has spoken recently of the church’s steep decline in evangelism and although it has been hard words for the church and her leaders to hear, it gives new clarity and insight into how we can take the everyday opportunities that are right in front of us to lead the way in sharing the Gospel with others.

As a ministry leader, August brings all kinds of new faces through the doors of our churches, schools, and workplaces and we get to be tangible expressions of God’s love and comfort for people who are walking through change, grief, and maybe even fighting the feeling of isolation.

As we look to kicking off the fall semester I wanted to give a few key points for you as you seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus this school year.

Seek Out The New Kid/Mom
When my husband and I did student ministry we always challenged our students to find the new kid on the first day of school. They were usually easy to spot. They were the ones that walked a little slower, were trying to take in all of the signs and directional cues from staff, and most often they were the ones looking overwhelmed in the lunchroom. Or it’s the mom that is asking all the questions at schedule pick up and posting on the neighborhood Facebook page.

Walking into a new place, whether that is a church or a school, can be incredibly intimidating for a new person, and what can help ease those moments are people who are intentionally looking out for them to come alongside.  

This takes intentionality and sacrifice, but it is a great way to start a new relationship.

The Power of an Invite
A survey by Action for Children reported that 24% of parents surveyed said they were always or often lonely. I’m sure you can think of moments in your life where you felt the sting of loneliness. Statistics are still being calculated and tallied on the effects of what the Covid-19 pandemic has done in terms of mental health, but one of the consistent data points is how loneliness has touched every generation.

An invite isn’t a catch-all-cure to the loneliness epidemic, but it is a small and tangible way to push back the lies that many are hearing and experiencing right now. Invite them into your home for a cup of coffee, to get ice cream after school, or to your next small group or women’s get together.

A simple “I’d love for you to come with me” says to the other person, “I see you. I value you. I want to get to know you more.”

In a world of people who feel unwanted, what an easy way to spark some light into someone’s soul.

Be A Listening Ear

One of the most undervalued resources we have is our time. When we give of our time to really sit and listen to someone’s story we open up an opportunity to show them what it means to be known and met with compassion, grace, and empathy. 

  • Ask about their story and what brought them to your community.
  • Listen for needs, fears, and similarities in experiences.
  • Share some of your own fears and struggles and point them to Jesus. 
  • Follow up after your time together with encouragement, check in’s, and more invites.

I’m praying for you and all the new faces that you will encounter in the school pick up lines, at athletic events, and in Sunday morning lobby chats. I truly believe we are in a moment where so many are searching and hungering for answers to some of life’s deepest aches, and we have the privilege of being used by God to watch His story of redemption unfold in their lives. 

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Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.