HODGENVILLE, Ky. (KT) – From kindergartener to college student, back-to-school jitters are unavoidable, and Kentucky's church are doing what they can to help.
In LaRue County, teachers and students were greeted on the first day with bright yellow cards taped to classroom doors letting occupants know: “You are loved!”
The notes of encouragement were the work of more than 200 Christians who spent the evening before praying at each elementary, middle and high school that God would provide peace, wisdom and safety.
“I think it tells our community that we as a body of believers in our community are very much supportive of our schools, our teachers, our students and families,” said Paul Richey, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hodgenville.
A few days earlier, Richey said members of First Baptist delivered care packages to every teacher in the county as a sign of “genuine love” and appreciation.
“We just wanted them to know if there's anything we can do – if we can pray for them, if we can support them, if we can support a kid – we're here for them,” said Richey. “Just let us know. No strings attached.”
The small central Kentucky town was rocked by a series of unrelated scandals last school year that led to the arrest of the high school principal and a girls’ basketball coach.
South Fork Baptist Church Pastor Jonathan Carl called the scandals “horrible stuff” that left many in the school district, and even the greater community, demoralized by broken trusts. He said the idea for the prayer night grew out of a desire by churches to show the healing power of Christ’s love amid turmoil and grief.
“We can’t fix all their problems, but we can go to the God who can,” Carl said.
In Owensboro, Walnut Memorial Baptist Church helped kids get the academic year off to a good start by partnering with Newton Parrish Elementary School, located conveniently across the street, to offer free haircuts and new clothing.
“This was one of our ‘the church has left the building events,’” said Senior Pastor Travis Ferris, referring to the church’s emphasis on community ministry.
The back-to-school bash drew about 300 parents and kids with free snow cones and school supplies, but more importantly said Ferris, it has created opportunities for future partnerships with the school.
“Because of the event, our children’s pastor has been asked to teach a Tony Dungy mentoring program for dads and sons,” Ferris said.
The school also requested use of church facilities for an after-school etiquette class and put out an appeal for church members to volunteer and read with children during the day.
“It’s been fantastic to watch how God has opened doors for us,” Ferris said.
Primary and secondary schools aren’t the only ones needing help from the community. Earlier this month, the University of Kentucky put out a call for volunteers to help students move into dormitories.
Kentucky Baptist churches have a long history of greeting students and helping them get settled into college life, said Kentucky Baptist Campus Missionary Jon Barron, and this year’s Big Blue Move-In is no different.
“It’s great opportunity for churches that want to make an impact with collegiate students or just serve their community better,” said Barron. “What better way to be a friendly church than to help nervous, and sometimes lonely, college students move in to their dorms.”