BACK TO SCHOOL: Five tips for parents

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Maybe my kids are weird, but I have been surprised to learn they can't wait to start school. In fact, as soon as school ended back in June, they were already talking about the teachers they would have in the upcoming year and the activities in which they would participate. I have kids in all age groups: elementary, pre-teen, and teenagers. They all look forward to going back.

What does this look like for you? Are your kids anxious to return to school?

I believe school is another outlet to make disciples for Jesus. We want our kids to live missionally and shape the culture around them. Having said that, we also want them to enjoy the process.

Here are five tips that might serve parents well in launching into the new school year.

1. Consider summer as a time to re-charge for the real work ahead. We all love vacation time, right? But we also know we need to get back to work when the school year rolls around. The work of sharing the Gospel and being ambassadors for Christ is a year-round task, but it's especially important during the school year because there are so many opportunities for our kids to interact with others. So be sure to regularly teach your kids to think and live missionally.

2. Keep a rhythm. It's always good to establish some family routines. Our family aims for a regular mealtime together. We allow some flexibility for the occasional practice, rehearsal, or event, but we're committed to at least five meals together per week. My wife and I intentionally use this time to start spiritual conversations with our kids.

3. Pepper in some fun. I love fun, but not just for the sake of fun. Even during the school year, we plan day trips on the weekends. At least once a month, we do something together as a family. No smart phones. No iPads. No DVD entertainment in the car. We travel together and hang out together. Surprisingly, my teens still love this. I was expecting to hear things like: "This is stupid," or "Why can't I bring my friends?" But our kids have now observed how little time their friends actually spend with their families, and have come to appreciate our time together. Sure, they might complain a little, but press in and stick with it.

4. Go to their school. Your teens might be a little freaked out by this. I'm grateful mine are not. When I worked close to their schools, I went to school and had lunch with each of our four kids at least once a month. My younger kids love it. My heart often breaks when I hear other kids say, "I wish my dad did that." In those moments, I want to be those kids' dad, too!

5. Set them up well. This might seem a little unusual, but stay with me. I want my kids to be all things to all people (see 1 Corinthians 9:19). I want them to fit in so they might connect with as many kids as possible, in order that they might share the Gospel. However, I'm not concerned that they have the coolest clothes or most expensive shoes just so they won't feel left out. In fact, we try to stay tuned into what's popular so we can sway our kids from simply coveting those things. It's gotten to a point with my own kids that they actually make fun of silly trends. They are the kids who push back when a style of clothing or an accessory starts to trend. Having said that, we will usually let our kids pick out some (reasonable) clothes, backpacks, and other school items so they feel comfortable and confident as they try to make new friends and gain influence for God in their new surroundings.

Seek to make every day of the year about Jesus, and you're on the right track.


Jeffrey Reed is director of LifeWay Kids Ministry. This article first appeared in LifeLines, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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