For our church, back to school means blessing backpacks. Every kid gets a luggage tag for their backpack and is charged with handing them out to the kids and young adults too cool to come and get one for themselves. They hand them out to the teachers, too. In fact, anyone who has their hand raised to indicate they're going to school in some way gets one. We pray together for the coming year.
The prayer we say together is for the things that I know the kids worry about: finding friends, people to eat lunch with, standing up for what is right. I admit, I loved school. I'd probably be much better at adulting if I were still given grades. The whole system worked exceedingly well for me and I have the report cards and transcripts to prove it. I'm painfully aware that's not true for every kid.
More importantly, how they do in school has nothing to do with how much God loves them. How they do in school also has nothing to do with how much their church loves them. When I send kids off to a place that will be sometimes amazing and sometimes terrible, that's the best reminder I can give them.
Despite lots of brainstorming each year, I keep making tags that remind kids how much they are loved and that they are called to love others. Last year, the tag read, "Love God. Love others. Love yourself." This year, it's simply, "You are loved."
"You are loved," is the deepest truth I can offer them. It's the truth that I can hope will sustain them when they are scared, or sitting alone at a lunch table, or fail a test. Some of my kids have brown skin. Some of them having learning disabilities. Some of them are LGBTQ. Some of them have struggles I know nothing about. And still I say with great confidence, "You are loved."
May this sustain them their whole life long.
Jesus said, "As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love." John 15:9