Seeking God for Our Schools: Kansas Walks Exercise Spiritual Strength
By Carl Stagner
Brutal heat couldn’t keep the people of God off the sun-scorched streets and sidewalks of Elkhart, Kansas, when students and staff of their local schools were at stake. With the dawn of a new school year comes mixed emotions for most families, not to mention teachers and administrators, usually consisting of anticipation about new opportunities and dread over assignments and testing—to name a few. Not many, however, think twice at the beginning of each new day about the plethora of potential dangers facing education today—from school violence to the spread of sickness to the transmission of ideas counter to the cause of Christ—and everything in between. First Church of God recently joined forces with a variety of local churches, from a variety of backgrounds, to cover in prayer the places, people, and possibilities crucial to a safe and successful year.
Pastor Denny Huebner recalls the catalyst for the prayer walks. “The clergy of our small community began to recognize the struggles of our administrators, Board of Education members, teachers, and students,” he says. “Physical challenges like sickness that run through schools…. We face behavioral difficulties and classroom issues that hinder teaching and make it unsafe for students. Teacher retention is a problem. Suicide has been an issue. Drugs and alcohol are a constant battle. And we are aware of the spiritual battles that our children face with the morals and principles of the world crowding out the biblical principles we attempt to impart to our young people. We may get a few hours a week to teach them as spiritual leaders, but they spend forty-plus hours at school. We decided it would be good to start the school year by anointing our schools with prayer and asking God’s blessing and protection over our schools.”
Only a couple thousand people call Elkhart, Kansas, home, but that figure represents more than enough residents to reflect the national statistics of challenges faced at home and at school. The relatively small size of the community makes it feasible to cover the elementary school, middle school, high school, and district office in prayer, in person. After meeting outside the grocery store, prayer warriors of various ages, roles, and church backgrounds walk together, side by side, down the streets and across the campuses of each school. A couple rural schools would be overlooked except for the foresight to send “satellite groups” to the countryside to ensure county-wide coverage. Hands are laid upon every building and representative of the local clergy leads the prayer. The event usually takes place on the Sunday night prior to the first day of school, covers two miles, and takes a little over an hour. Up to seventy-five people participate; this year, more than fifty showed up in spite of 102-degree weather!
“To me, the Church of God is tasked with the ministry and message of unity,” Pastor Denny reflects. “We say we are the hands and feet of Christ. It is vital to us that the body of Christ uses its feet to place its hands on our community as a united kingdom work, and not as a denominational force. We are to reach our community for Christ, and that will take the efforts and giftedness of all our local congregations. We feel led to lead the charge. Nothing happens except by way of prayer. It is the premiere spiritual tool for spiritual battle.”
Citing Nehemiah 4:14, Pastor Denny underscores the essential role prayer plays in our churches, homes, schools, businesses, and communities: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (NIV).
Interested in organizing something similar in your community? “Starting the school year with prayer,” Pastor Denny explains, “is an effective tool to get your congregation to continue with prayer efforts throughout the year. It will inspire your people to create other prayer initiatives. It is a way to have a powerful impact on the needs of your community. It is a way to have your community see you exercising your faith outside the building. It is a way to involve children to pray for their schools, teachers and peers. Start small. Get some true prayer warriors involved. Watch and see what will happen.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Gathered to pray for teachers in August 2022.