Post Author: Amanda M. Rohrs
I have always loved back to school season. As a child I looked forward to picking out my new folder and composition book, eagerly watching as my mother painstakingly wrote our names on every item that would accompany us on our first day of school. When I finally graduated for the last time, I would find myself in the back-to-school section of Target, looking wistfully at the bins of 24 count crayons and Bic highlighters. Sometimes I grabbed a box or two—$0.25 is a great price for crayons, after all.
This year is different, though. This year I have two excited five-year-olds who don’t quite understand the concept of a supply list. They want new lunch boxes even though their preschool ones are fine; they want the folders with kittens and unicorns instead of the plain red and yellow requested by the teacher. They want the MEGA pack of crayons. In another week or so I will sit on my bed with their supplies scattered around, just as my mother did, and carefully write their names on everything, including each pencil.
In a few weeks I will send my little ones on the bus for the very first time, and my heart will do little flips. Now more than ever I need a blessing on these children and the grownups I am entrusting with their care.
A Blessing of the Backpacks is a wonderful way to begin the school year, surrounding the students, teachers, and educational support staff of your congregation with prayer and blessings. I’ve developed the following liturgy over the last few years, and usually use it during the children’s sermon. It could easily be adapted into a litany so that many voices are represented and heard. The school supplies are in bold as a visual cue to hold up the item and let the children call out its name if you wish:
Dear God, you are our Teacher, Creator, and Guide through life’s classroom.
As we prepare for the beginning of a new school year, we ask your blessings on our students, parents, and teachers.
We thank you for pens and pencils that are held by big and little fingers as they learn to write their names, their thoughts, and their stories. Bless the words that flow from these pens, and bless the ones that write with them.
We thank you for crayons and markers, for all the bright colors in the world around us. May they be used to create beautiful pieces of art that show the wonder of creation and each child’s imagination. Bless the art that they create, and the ones who draw and color with them.
We thank you for calculators and rulers, that help us to add and subtract, multiply and divide as we learn to work with numbers, shapes, and how the world works. Bless the ones who help us understand these things and more.
We thank you for notebooks, folders and binders, for handouts that teach us our letters and numbers, and blank pages we can fill with our own thoughts and stories. Bless these things that help keep our thoughts and work together and from getting lost, and bless the ones who fill them with writing and drawings.
We thank you for the books we read, for the books that teach us our history, the books that teach us who we are, and the books that open up magical worlds of possibility. Bless these books and the stories they tell, and bless the ones who read them.
We thank you for our lunch boxes, filled with food to help our bodies and minds grow strong and mighty. We know that there are children whose lunch boxes are empty, and we pray that their lunchboxes might be filled with good food from caring people. Bless these lunchboxes and the bodies they feed.
We thank you for our backpacks that carry everything we need. Although they may be heavy with school supplies, may the children that wear them be unburdened. May the children who do not have backpacks or supplies receive the things they need, so that they can get off to a good start this school year. Bless these backpacks, and bless the ones who wear them.
We thank you for our teachers, who fill our children’s minds with knowledge, who nurture their spirits, and who protect them while in their care. We thank you for our principals, counselors, custodians, nurses, classroom aides, cafeteria workers and bus drivers who take care of our students. May they receive the support they need and the honor they deserve as they live into their calling to educate this generation. Bless our teachers in their sacred work.
We thank you for our parents, grandparents, and other childcare providers who support and encourage their students in all that they do, and who spend countless hours helping with homework, volunteering in classrooms, and driving the carpools. Bless our parents in their sacred work.
We thank you for our students, for the blessing that they are to us. Strengthen their bodies, minds and spirits throughout this school year, that their knowledge might grow and their imaginations soar with new thoughts, new achievements, and new dreams. Bless our students in all that they do, work and play, for it is all sacred work.
In the name of Jesus, the Great Teacher, we pray. And all God’s children said, Amen.
Amanda is a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church. Currently serving two congregations in New Jersey, Amanda earned her MDiv and STM at Drew Theological School. She enjoys children’s ministry, music, and writing, and is the mama to twin daughters.
Image by: Amanda M. Rohrs
Used with permission