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Rob Long: A checklist for back to school

Rob Long • Updated Jul 29, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Next week, students and teachers will return to the classroom as another school year begins. I’m sure some students are excited to get back to school, because it means more time with friends, an opportunity to increase their knowledge and/or a chance to end summer boredom. 

For the students who participate in activities like band, sports, drama, FFA and art club, the beginning of a new school year means getting do the things they love to do again. 

I’m thankful to live in a country and community that values education. I proudly come from a family of educators, and my wife spent eight years as an elementary school teacher before choosing to stay home with our children.  

If I were to guess, coupled with the excitement of the start of school is anxiety and fear, especially for parents. According to everytownresearch.org, in the last two years, there have been 118 “incidents of gunfire on school grounds.” I was visiting a young man Jan. 23 at Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital when a nurse came in to tell him that they were postponing his procedure because the medical staff was going to focus on some out-of-town patients.  Later that day, I discovered that those patients were coming from Benton, Kentucky and were victims of a school shooting. These shootings are horrific, puzzling and gut wrenching. We wonder, what would cause someone to do such a thing? What could have been done to stop it?  

Beyond the school violence, in the past few years there have been shootings at churches, theaters, arenas and restaurants. This kind of widespread violence can cause us to feel unsafe and vulnerable. Of course, it also fuels political debates concerning gun laws and national security, which can generate some good ideas and, I believe, some harmful ones. My aim is not to address the politics of the issue but to call Christians, and all people, to be agents for good in our community.  

Here’s a game plan on how to do that as school starts back up. First, pray for administrators, teacher and students. Ask God to protect them and use His people as a force for good in our schools. Additionally, ask God to help those who are hurting. I appreciate the Kiwanis Club encouraging local churches to have “A Day of Prayer for our Schools.”  

Second, parents, cultivate a family culture of love. You have the God-given role of nurturing and training your children. Toward that goal, it is imperative to model kindness, patience and self-control. Clearly and continually communicate how much you love and appreciate your children. In today’s culture, our young people need moms and dads and other family members who are engaged in their lives. 

Third, affirm and encourage children often. When you see them doing the right thing, tell them. Praise them for making good choices, putting others before themselves and being patient.  

Fourth, be a good neighbor. Our culture is becoming increasingly more individualized and polarized, and in many ways social media and technology are perpetuating the problem. Therefore, I encourage you to connect with neighbors and others in the community. Take the initiative in developing a close-knit community.   

My prayer is that our community’s schools will continue to provide a safe place in which young people can learn, grow and thrive. I pray that our students, teachers and administrators can be agents of good in the hallways, classrooms, on the court or on the sports field. I pray that the headlines concerning news of violence, which were way too common last school year, can this year be replaced by headlines of students flourishing and making a difference in this world.  

Rob Long is the preaching minister at Maple Hill Church of Christ in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher each month who writes a column.

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