How to Survive Back to School

Jon CaldwellThis fall, I’m joining my students in the anticipation, anxiety, and fears of returning to school. I’ll have my first day back to school in ten years – I’m starting the journey of getting my Master of Arts in Youth, Child, and Family Ministry. As I thought about how I felt about this, I asked myself, “What do I need on this journey?” … And I realized I’m not alone. Here are a few thoughts on how we can support the students in our circle of influence heading back to school this fall.

1. Support

As I think about my upcoming journey through school, one of the biggest things I need is support. Having my wife encourage me makes all the tasks that much easier. But there’s a difference between encouragement and nagging. It’s a fine line at times. Amanda can encourage me all she wants, but at some point, I need to do the work.back to school support

Encourage your student through this journey but don’t nag. You may be thinking, “But if I don’t nag they won’t do their homework.” You may be right – and letting them face the consequences of that is a great life lesson and an opportunity to give them some great wisdom from Proverbs:

“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (Proverbs 13:4)

The day will come when they will have a career – and you won’t be beside them making sure they do their work.

2. Space

We all need some space in our schedule – a break from chores, homework, extra-curricular activities. Space to relax and breathe. But we also need space to fail. One of the things I really like about Pastor James’ leadership is that he expects us to fail sometimes. Not all the time … but failing shows we’re trying new things and not just accepting the status quo.

Students have expectations from all angles – parents, teachers, coaches, pastors … Is one of our expectations that they might not meet all our expectations? Are we OK with that?

space to fail

I’m not suggesting we allow our kids to totally fail an entire class, but are we OK with a less-than-expected grade on a paper or assignment sometimes? True success is not found in just high marks at school. In fact, Ian MacRae and Adrian Furnham of University College London have now identified six traits outside of grades that are consistently linked to workplace success. (Article, Six Traits That Predict High Performance in Life, May 31, 2018). Those six traits include:

  • conscientiousness
  • adjustment
  • ambiguity acceptance
  • curiosity
  • risk approach
  • competitiveness

3. Sabbath

As I said, we all need space to take a break. The most life-giving thing we can do for ourselves and our families is to stop and take a Sabbath, both daily and weekly. A break from work, homework, sports … We need to take a break from the chaos of life and spend time in rest and worship. This summer we looked at “Sacred Rest” as part of our summer series on the Ten Commandments.

What does your student’s schedule look like? Is there scheduled time to Sabbath? Is there time to be in community with other believers? Does something need to go in order to prioritize the spiritual lives of the family?

As Dallas Willard says, “we need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our life.” Is there something in our lives and the lives of our students that needs to be eliminated?

Here we are at the end of August … Summer has flown by and returning quickly is the schedule of school, homework, sports, and the BEST part … back to our full Student Ministries schedule here at FAC.

Back in May I made the announcement that JHS (Junior High Students’ ministry) would be combining our Saturday night services and Tuesday night small groups into one night (Wednesdays). We’ll also be reintroducing Friday night events once a month this year.

The change was spurred on in part by the success of Tuesday night small groups and in part by looking ahead at where we’re going as a whole at FAC. With the vision set by Pastor James to launch a second FAC site by the fall of 2019, we needed to evaluate how we were doing things in JHS.

At staff retreat back in February one of the questions asked was this: “Is what we’re doing on the map in our ministries in a place where we’re ready to go off the map?” As we look towards becoming a multi-site church – which is off the map – I didn’t feel our current model as a whole was replicable to other sites. Which meant something had to change.

JHS (Jr. High Students) this fall

Starting September 12, 2018 we’ll meet on Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm, starting upstairs in the Discovery Theatre. We’ll begin each night with a little intro, an icebreaker, and a surprise (it’s a good surprise) for students joining us for JHS for the first time at First Alliance Church.

Two or three Wednesdays each month after our icebreaker we’ll join SHS (Senior High Students) for a game and time of worship and then back upstairs for teaching. Teaching will always be separate. To remove some barriers, because we know it can be intimidating for a Grade 7 student to walk into a room full of High School students, we’ll always start the night gathering in our separate areas and then come together for those times of worship.

So, what about the other Wednesday nights? These may be different each month, but may include an acoustic worship time, a teach time or “Super Groups” (something SHS does), where small group leaders lead through the lesson for the night. Each night of teaching will always end in a time to connect in small groups.

This year we’ll also be reintroducing Friday night events. Last week Pastor Dave Conrad and I were chatting about some of the events and the excitement we both walked away with was awesome. So keep your eyes out for the calendar of events.

Change can bring challenges and even barriers. Please continue to pray for us in the coming months as we work to make what we do on the map clear.

Written by Jon Caldwell