It’s the three most dreaded words in my household: Back to School. My Facebook page has been bombarded since the first of August with first day photos of my friend’s kids (Super cute!). From now through Labor Day, schools across the country will open their doors.
Churches love this time of year when families are getting back to school. Often, there is a special invitation at some point in the new school year to do a blessing of the backpacks. It’s typical for kids and their backpacks to be invited forward during the children’s sermon at worship. Maybe they are given a key chain cross or some trinket to carry with them. Then they are blessed. It’s a beautiful milestone moment! But this year I am going to try something new:
Step 1: My Sermon is on Psalm 78, which says –
“I will open my mouth in parable, says God. I will utter dark sayings from old, things that we have heard and known and that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from our children.”
It tells that we are to listen with studious and reverent ears to the stories that we have heard and known. Stories that have already been told that speak of God’s power and wonder. Stories that have not been hidden from us or from our children. Stories that are meant to be shared.
This Psalm reminds me of the baptismal promises:
- God promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, which gives us faith. It’s in this promise that God’s story unravels itself and calls the newly baptized, child of God.
- Parents and sponsors promise to teach the newly baptized God’s story, to bring them to worship, and to lead a life of service and love.
- Congregations promise to walk hand-in-hand with the newly baptized in learning and growing in God’s story together.
Pairing these together then tells me that we are called to be storytellers of the faith. By sharing God’s story with the youngest generation we are indeed living out the baptismal promises we make as a congregation.
So I wanted to give people an opportunity to share God’s story with one another right in worship.
Step 2: Blessing Prompter Card
At the end of sermon, I direct the congregation to pull out the Blessing Prompter Card found stuffed in the bulletin. On the card, there are prompts to fill in:
May God Bless_________________________________________________________________________
May God’s Love________________________________________________________________________
May God Be____________________________________________________________________________
May God’s story________________________________________________________________________
People including kids are to fill out the cards (more than one if they would like) during the Hymn of the Day, offering or while waiting for communion.
Step 3: Packing Blessing
Before the service closes, students with their backpacks on and open stand in the middle aisle. Everyone else on the count of three stuffs their Blessing Cards into the open backpacks. Kids can pack their cards into backpacks of others. Before leaving, we close with a special blessing for those who wear the backpacks. The congregation then is sending the kids back to school with God’s story packed with them.
Church is one of the last places that has the potential to have 5 or 6 generations sitting together in the same pew. It’s a gift the church has often overlooked. But we made a promise to these young people at their baptism to pass down the stories of faith to them. Packing blessings into their backpacks is one simple way to uphold it.