The beginning of the school year is here and for many families, it’s a time to reengage in church life. In many ways, this time carries more significance for families than the church’s historic start of the calendar on the first Sunday of Advent or even the secular start of the year on January 1. Because families have returned from vacation and kids are moving up a grade, it’s a perfect time to spend Sunday mornings in a series about preparation. We know that our world is falling apart all around us, and there are many pressures and anxieties as the school year unfolds. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out our Sharefaith Kids media pack. For a limited time, you can save up to 25% on all new and upgrade yearly memberships. Want to try before you buy? No problem. Try Sharefaith Kids, free for seven days. Unlock your full pack today!
How To Prepare Parents And Kids For the School Year
Many parents will experience the first step of sending their child to kindergarten or into high school or off to college. Children may be bubbling with excitement but also with self-consciousness about fitting in and being liked. Families will be attending to new schedules with sports and social events pushing into, and in many ways, challenging time together as a family. How do we live well and serve Jesus in spirit and in truth? How do we take every thought captive for our obedience in Christ when we get bombarded with falsehoods in the classroom and among peer groups? Is there a way to navigate down that narrow road that leads to salvation without it opening up to the broader path, where we give in to sin and all its guises and disguises that lure us away?
We are teachers, and we have a responsibility. We know what James 3:1 says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” We became teachers because of God’s calling on our lives. Titus 2:7-8 gives us good instruction. It says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” We are not here to sugarcoat the truth. We are here to form disciples – people who will go into the world and live out the high calling we have received, to be living sacrifices which is a reasonable service to Jesus who paid it all (Romans 12:1).
The school year is a perfect time to engage in a series of powerful sermons that cut at the heart of the matter: that we’ve been bought with a price and need to live like it. If not, what’s the point? We will certainly falter, but we cannot fall. There is too much at stake and are here, among our neighbors, as God workmanship, created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10). Here are 10 sermon series ideas that are worth considering and expanding for the month of August and beyond.
Top 10 Back-To-School Sermon Ideas:
1. The Greatest Story
This guide will help you not just survive but thrive. It’s built around a five-part series, “The Greatest Story.” In this series, your church will be reminded of who God is, what matters most, and what life is all about.
TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
The Importance of Vision: In Matthew 14, there is an incredible account of Peter stepping out of his boat to walk on water with Jesus. For a brief moment, Peter does the impossible — he walks on water! But then, in Matthew 14:30, we read:
“But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
The moment Peter turned his eyes from Jesus to the storm he began to sink. Simply put, where we look determines where we go. A.W. Tozer said it like this: “When the eyes of a soul looking out to meet the eyes of a God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.”
This Back-To-School season, inspire your kids with a five-part series that fixes their eyes upon God and his amazing story. “The Greatest Story” travels from Genesis to Revelation while covering the following big ideas:
1. Creation: It all starts with God. The Bible begins with four simple words “In the beginning God.” In God, everything including life, meaning, and purpose finds its beginning.
2. Fall: God knows our pain. Death, sickness, and suffering can all be traced back to a single moment, and a single word “sin.” But God’s promise is greater than our pain.
3. Incarnation: God has come and God is with us. On the first Christmas, a child was born. He was called Immanuel or “God with Us.” His birth was heralded by angels as the Good News of God
4. Redemption: God has won. With his final breath, Jesus spoke three life-altering words “It is finished!” More than a last gasp, these three words were a victory cry!
5. Restoration: Paradise is eternal life with God. The story of God concludes with a full reverse of the curse. All that is wrong will be made right and we will live with God forever.
2. Learn from Josiah (2 Kings 22)
Josiah is one of the most important kings over Judah, the remaining southern kingdom of Israel after the ten tribes in the North was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The story drives the message home that we hear Paul instructing Timothy in I Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
Josiah came to the throne at age 8, and he was able to do what a series of sinful kings could not. He, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2). For years, the Temple and the law were lost to their real purpose. Josiah’s childlike faith and unabashed willingness to follow God rekindled the practice of faith in others.
When the Book of the Law is found and read to Josiah, “he tore his clothes.” He knew their ways were offensive to God’s standards. He commands the priests to, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (13).
God had every reason, as he always does, to send wrath and punishment against those who trespassed against his laws. Josiah and all of Judah stood utterly and completely guilty in light of God’s righteousness. But the Lord knows the heart. The Lord says, “Because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place” (19-20).
Jesus has cleansed us from all unrighteousness because of the cross, because of the resurrection. That doesn’t mean we are free or accountable to his laws. Romans 6:1-2 asks, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Our obligation is to live in such a way that we tear our garments – the we rend our hearts (Joel 2:13) – as we daily take up our cross and follow Jesus. God’s word is waiting to be read and be rooted in us. Some of our parishioners will realize that, similar to the Israelites in Josiah’s time, God’s word is on their shelf at home, dusty and lost to daily usage. It’s a perfect time to rediscover it.
3. Being Quiet and Listening (I Samuel 1-3)
Samuel’s story starts with a faith commitment of his mother, Hannah. We know the story. She wants a child and prays earnestly to God, promising to dedicate her baby to the service of the Temple. When Samuel is born, she joyously fulfills her pledge when the time comes. She says, “I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. (1:28). All children are gifts from God, created with a plan in mind.
How many parents truly offer up their boys and girls to whatever God wants them to accomplish – for his glory and not their own legacy? Parenting is a difficult road. It means giving up the precious life God gave to us, to him. It’s realizing that our children are lent to us for proper upbringing and dedication to the work of God, and then they are lent back to the Lord. Is this how we think? Is this how we pray? What is our song? Hannah sings in I Samuel 2, not of herself but of the mighty wonders of God –
“My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God….The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them, he has set the world” (1-2, 6-8).
When we get to the story of I Samuel 3, we see the faithfulness of Hannah and Eli, the priest, in the reactions of Samuel. When Samuel hears a voice calling him three times, he thinks Eli needs him. The story suggests no angst or frustration, but rather a patient willingness to serve. When Samuel realizes it’s God who is speaking, his response is obedience, both to Eli and to God: “Speak, for your servant hears.” God doesn’t have good news for Eli. Judgment is waiting for his family because of the sins of his sons. The next morning, Samuel is afraid to report his conversation with God, but Eli insists. His response is a moment of character building for Eli and Samuel. He simply says, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him” (vs. 18).
There is a lot here. Mothers, are you praying daily for your children? Fathers, are you investing in your sons and daughters? Isn’t it grievous when our children reject the faith? Look at Eli. His sons were rotten. Why? In the end, they decided to go their own way, but you wonder if Eli invested in them the same way as he did Samuel. Let’s imagine he did. If so, and there is rejection, are we done? What do we do next? Perhaps we mentor others and find our need for discipling others in another setting – as Sunday School leaders or somewhere in our community. And young people, what voices are you listening to and who are you seeking council from when one or another voice is swaying your opinions or affections? It is good to seek the right council.
4. Be My Witnesses (Acts 1)
Some of us who have served our country know that the order you follow is the last one assigned. We don’t make up new orders until we hear from our commanding officer. It’s the same with Jesus. Hear the conversation in Acts 1: 6-11 –
“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
Jesus gives his followers explicit instructions. It isn’t to return and live out their days reminiscing about the great miracles they saw and the relationship they experienced with such a fascinating and one-of-a-kind teacher. Jesus doesn’t instruct them to return to their old beliefs about God, content with the possibility of his divinity, but assured in the ancient practices of the Jewish faith and customs. No, he has a simple, radical message – “The Holy Spirit is coming and you will be my witnesses throughout the earth.”
Jesus essentially says the same thing at the end of the Gospels: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” in Matthew 28:19; “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” in Mark 16:15; “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you,” in Luke 24: 48-49; and “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true,” in John 21:24, where John applies it personally to the words he wrote.
It’s a call on our lives too. It hasn’t changed. Perhaps we are tempted to refashion it, rebrand it, repackage it in some way, but the call is simple. It involves three things: (1) we are his witnesses; (2) make disciples; (3) go everywhere. If we are his witnesses, we are called to faithfully proclaim his message in words, actions, and intentions. If we are to make disciples, we must be outward focused, in community with others. There is no such thing as a navel-gazing Christian, not one who is faithful, that is. And if we are to be His witnesses and make disciples, we must go – go anywhere he asks us to go. We cannot be reluctant.
The start of the school year is a good time to rededicate ourselves to the simple call of Jesus as he leaves the disciples in Acts 1. It’s also a good time to remember that he doesn’t leave us alone or lonely in our work. The Holy Spirit is in us and with us as we live out the high calling we’ve received. Also, the story is not only about our duty but about the angelical promise. The Scripture says, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Let’s practice our faith and be bold living holy lives. Let’s practice our faith and make disciples through the help of the Holy Spirit. Let’s practice our faith and go far and wide, from neighbor to neighbor, knowing God goes before us and he will make a way.
5. Dealing with Temptation (I Corinthians 10:9-13)
This new school year will bring a ripe, new set of temptations. The 1760 hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, recently reworked by Chris Tomlin says, “Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee: prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
Our wandering hearts find a home in Jesus, no doubt. But we are all continually vulnerable. The fiery darts of the devil are aimed squarely at us, every day, all the time. It reminds me of movies where the suspense is so high and the camera angles are always suggestive of someone watching, seeking to do harm to the protagonist in the story.
There’s no rest for us as Christians, except for in our surrender to Jesus who says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). It’s peculiar to read his words again and discover not an absence of burden, but a light one. This is in comparison to the heavy guilt, despair, and toll of the wages of sin.
Our relationship with Jesus is not without burden, but it is the only place we can rest. We must always remember that temptation is hunting us. I Corinthians 10: 9-13 says, “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now, these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands to take heed lest he falls. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Paul gives us several points to reflect on: (1) don’t live in a way that we are continually tempted, that we “put Christ to the test”; (2) don’t grumble about our situations (Paul is referencing some instances in the Old Testament that are worth looking rereading) because the Destroyer will destroy our joy, if not our lives; (3) we need to learn from the Old Testament, especially, and not make the same mistakes; (4) no temptation is without an exit so stop making excuses; (5) we can endure and should.
The new school year is full of temptation, for parents with a change in schedule and a challenge to find time to pray and devote themselves to Bible study, and for children who might see and hear things that are not in step with the call on their lives. We must be careful and rely on Jesus every step we take. It’s in the simple steps that a disciple is formed, not in the giant ones. They only come if we’ve daily sought out God through the drudgery of life.
6. Parents and Children in Right Relationship (Ephesians 6)
Our culture has neutered the parent’s role into nothing more than a consulting voice, at best, for a child. We must reclaim our role as parents and our children must reclaim their position as subjugated to their parents. This sounds harsh, but it’s biblical. Parents are not to do this out of force or in a spirit of superiority, and children are not to fulfill their role begrudgingly. Rather, if we live by the Scripture and are being formed in the obedience of the Father, we will listen to what he says through his Word.
Ephesians 6:1-4 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
It’s not a new command. Paul simply pulls it from the Old Testament and reintroduces it to the church in Ephesus. Family structure is important and it’s always been integral in the rise and fall of people in the Bible. We see how it destroys families like David’s, through his sin and all the repercussions later on. We also see how it changes lives through faithful obedience, like in the life of Cornelius who listens to God, reaches out to Peter, and he and his whole household are baptized into the faith.
Establish a time to pray as a family this year. Dedicate your family to traditions and habits: daily in quiet times before God, weekly in keeping the Sabbath, and seasonally, especially during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Parents, let’s take up the mantel of humble leaders of our families. Our children might better fall into honoring us if we are more like Jesus every day.
7. Answering Softly (Proverbs 15:1-7)
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It’s so hard to keep this command sometimes. Our tongues so quickly, “pour out folly” instead of being an instrument for encouragement and right teaching. The passage also asks children to not be fools in despising a father’s instruction, but rather listen and learn from him.
The two seem to be tied. We know this in practice. When an angry parent tries to implore a child to do something, the child is normally reluctant or accomplishing the task out of fear, not respect. However, if a parent provides a soft voice, the child likely will respond (eventually) with more goodwill. It’s one of the simple steps that build up a child, and it certainly applies to both fathers and mothers alike. Our responses in everyday living and in crises are the stuff that builds character traits in our children. They often are able to cut to the quick and see our intentions too.
We have an ideal time to start afresh with our soft answers as the busy time of the school year begins. We can’t just will ourselves into being more gentle. We must learn from Jesus, through time in the Word and in prayer. We might want to seek a council or some form of accountability so we will more fully live out the gentle ways of Jesus in our daily lives. Breathe. Let’s not enter our homes in a tizzy about something at work or the shape of the yard or a thousand other things. Enjoy family while we have a family. We have a sign in the laundry room that says we will enjoy all the dirty laundry from all the kids now because in a little while, they’ll have their own homes and we won’t have that joy any longer!
8. What Does it Mean to Reason Together with the Lord (Isaiah 1)
Isaiah 1:18 starts with, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” What an amazing chapter! Our sins are crimson and without redemption. We are lost without a guide. We are dead in our trespasses and the wrath of God is flying overhead, ready to swoop down and rightfully knock us out. But, we are asked to come close in to our Lord and reason with him. We are instructed to bring all the baggage of all the stuff from all the days that we just didn’t measure up, and reason with the God who was thoughtful and generous enough to give us the choice to follow or fall away.
Isaiah 1:18-20 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Are we willing and obedient? There’s a consequence if we pretend, reject, or if we go our own way. But, if we come and reason with our Father who is in Heaven, hallowing his name, the kingdom of Heaven gets worked in and through our lives here on earth. The school year is a time where we can once again find ourselves in the habit of conversation with God – reasoning with him about our day and how we can profit it for his glory and not our own.
9. Do You Like Geometry? How Should We Measure God’s Love (Ephesians 3:14-19)
God’s love knows no bounds. When Paul talks about it, he asks us to imagine God’s love in a special way, that, “being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth…” (Ephesians 3:17-18). It’s certainly not ours to test the bounds of God’s love by our flagrant disobedience, but as we approach more and more closely to Jesus through prayer and Bible reading, as the things of earth grow strangely dim, we will uncover the exhaustive corruption that takes ahold of us so often. Where we thought at times we were decent followers of Jesus, we will more fully realize the geometry of God’s love and the invitation it has for us to daily follow him.
It’s good to see this in context. Ephesians 3: 14-19 says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
There are several points that can nicely build a sermon series for back to school: (1) we are strengthened through Jesus and the riches of his glory; (3) it’s through his Spirit that we have Christ dwelling within us; (3) therefore, we are grounded in love and we are able to comprehend the extent of his love; (4) and that his love surpasses knowledge, surpasses logic, surpasses reason.
Live in God’s love. It’s boundless and we are God’s workman, created for good works in Christ. Let us show a dying world the love that surpasses understanding, that doesn’t get bounded in by first impressions or any sin that bars people out of knowing. This doesn’t exempt people from committing their lives wholly to God, in mind, body, and spirit, but it does provide access to understanding who their Creator is and how much he loves everyone, hoping that all will come and none perish.
10. How Can We Guard Our Hearts? (Deuteronomy 4:9; I Kings 8:61; Proverbs 4:20-27)
How easily we forget. Moses, traditionally thought to be the author of the Torah, knew it. Even after the episodic adventure of leaving Egypt and having food fall from the sky and rocks open their mouths with water, he knew memories are short in light of whatever is wanting in a person’s present day. He says in Deuteronomy 4:9 to, “take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
What is our story of faith and God’s provision? Are we continually reminding our children? Are we reaching back into the Old and New Testament to see the fuller narrative of God’s grace and leading? Solomon says in I Kings 8:61, a great prayer of commitment as the ark is returning to the Temple, to, “Let your heart, therefore, be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”
Then, in Proverbs 4, we see the wisdom of a father speaking to his son. “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings,” Solomon says. “Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil” (20-27).
What are we teaching our children? How are we instructing them? If it’s purely our experience, we are forgetting the lessons and stories of Scripture – the instructions they need to hide within their hearts. If we are purely relaying Scripture, have we connected it with the shape God has made in us and in our lives? Both are necessary for our children to realize the goodness of God and the truth of his word. The start of the school year is an ideal time to instruct anew in the ways of God. Write notes for your children as part of their lunch boxes, renew the family dinner time with defined instructions and applications as the year begins. Point to daily example –mission moments– that defined you as a believer that day. It will help soften their hearts and ours at the same time.