As the school year draws to a close, conversations are quickly heating up regarding next year. Everyone is weighing in—politicians, doctors, psychologists, economists, employers, educators, parents—each with their own legitimate argument as to what schools should do. As the voices get louder and louder, one voice seems to be missing—the children.
Schools have always been a safe haven for children, especially for children of poverty. Closing schools has stripped our children of educational, nutritional, and social support, not to mention mental health and nursing services. Some children (probably more than we want to admit) have also lost their protectors.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who directs the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital, is concerned about the increasing reports of child abuse admissions at hospitals during the lockdown. He also notes a sex-abuse hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reported that half its calls in March came from minors, for the first time in its history. (1)
Not only do children look to school as a place of safety, school is a sanctuary for learning—academically and socially. Children are wired to be social. We are created for community. At no time has this become more evident than now. Teachers have done an amazing job of trying to maintain relationships with students virtually, but the truth is kids miss their friends. They are craving real interaction. We have to resist any modes of instruction that foster isolationism. Children learn to care, love, share, and support each other when they are caring, loving, sharing, and supporting each other. School is about so much more than academics.
While this is true, we all know academics can’t be ignored. The achievement gap was real before the pandemic and will be even greater afterwards. While school systems across this country have done their very best to provide resources and educational opportunities to all students, some children have been left behind. We simply cannot close schools down for nine weeks and expect to recoup the losses in an online setting. The issue of inequity is staring us in the face.
The sacrifices to the lives of our nation’s youth are undeniable. While we have to protect our country from the virus, it is also critical to protect the academic, social, physical, and emotional welfare of our children. How can we strike a balance amidst all of the controversy and misinformation? No one has all of the answers. However, we cannot let fear dictate our decisions. Let’s start with this primary goal in mind—getting kids back to school. If our goal begins here, we can work backwards to identify the best ways to keep everyone safe while providing our children with a supportive educational environment.
Accomplishing this task will take an insurmountable amount of discernment. It will be impossible to please everyone. No decision will be perfect. Administrators often bear the brunt of decision making; however, their hands are frequently tied by state and federal guidelines—guidelines often created by non-educators. Teachers feel a bit helpless as they wait to find out how the landscape of teaching will change. To put it plainly, everyone feels somewhat defenseless in the wake of this virus. However, as Christians, we are not defenseless. We have direct access to the only One who was not caught off guard by the pandemic, the One who will fight this battle for us. (2)
So, while we wait and while we trust, it is critical that we pray. This is something we all CAN do and MUST do. We must pray adamantly, we must pray specifically, and we must pray consisently! (3) The Bible says the prayers of the righteous have great power.(4) We are in a crisis. Prayer cannot be an afterthought. We can never lose sight of the power of prayer.
Our prayers don’t have to be fancy; they just need to be sincere. God isn’t interested in what sounds good. He is interested in our hearts. Anytime I get nervous about praying, I remember this verse.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
Isn’t this just like God? Through Jesus, our pathway to God is unobstructed. Now it’s up to us. Will we call out to the only One who can help us? Let’s join together as Christian educators and offer prayers of discernment for ourselves and our leaders. Let’s lift up our children and pray for their physical, social, emotional, and academic needs. I have penned a prayer below. You are welcome to use it or share it. Consider writing your own. Now, more than ever, we need to be people of prayer. God is truly able to do exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine, so let’s ask and keep on asking! (5)
A Prayer for Discernment
God of heaven and earth, God of power and might, God of mercy and grace,
we need you!
We know what you are capable of! You place the stars in the sky. You speak in the thunder and the heavens roar with rain. You cause the clouds to rise over the earth, and you send lightening with the rain. You heal the sick and raised Jesus from the grave. Your power is indescribable!
God your Word says that if we ask for wisdom, you will grant it. James tells us that your wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. This is the type of wisdom we are praying for ourselves and also those in leadership.
Lord, we cannot do this on our own. Our wisdom is flawed. Give us and those making decisions the wisdom to know fact from fiction. Help us be able to analyze situations from multiple points of view. Grant us a caring and sensitive spirit. Let our words be words of encouragement and support. Help us to be patient and hold firm to our faith. We know you are in control.
God, do not let fear rule. May our hearts be mindful of the children we serve. Show us how to do what is best for them. Grant us such discernment that we can be confident in our decisions. Help us to navigate the waters of dissension with grace. Fill us with your peace.
You promise in your Word that you will never leave or forsake us. We claim that today. We know you are going to use this situation to draw people closer to you. May our battle be turned to blessing and may you get all the glory. Thank you, Lord! We look forward to how you will answer.
In Jesus name, Amen.