If we open our eyes this week, we will notice a difference. In the mornings and mid-afternoons, we will see again children making their way to and from school, beginning a new term. There will be those just starting out, holding very tight to the hand of parent or carer, both excited and apprehensive at a new step in life. There will be those returning excited about reconnecting with friends but often similarly apprehensive about all the next year will bring. As you notice this change, please hold them, their families and their teachers in your prayers.
The Good Childhood Report published by The Children’s Society sets out something of the challenge our children and the schools that serve them face. While encouragingly most 10–17-year-olds have coped well with the impact of the pandemic, an estimated quarter of a million have struggled and not seeing family or friends has taken a toll on their wellbeing. This has simply exacerbated the impact of a decade of decline in which the number of young people unhappy with their lives has risen from an estimated 173,000 to 306,000. Add to this such high levels of anxiety nationally and globally in the face of inflation, economic decline and international unrest, and it is clear that as a society we need to work hard to set out a vision of a new and hopeful future for our children.
For those of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ, this is where our hope and our confidence is to be found – a hope and confidence that will allow us to speak a different story, that will challenge the narrative of gloom and doom that seems all pervasive. This is not to gloss over the undoubted challenges that surround us, it is rather to recognise that in Jesus Christ we have one who offers hope out of the deepest darkness, who gives us through the cross and resurrection the confidence to know the darkness will never, can never, have the last word.
Our children and young people desperately need to hear the news of the promise of life in all its fullness, which is at the heart of who we are. As we see our children returning to school, will you pray and join in telling a different story, offering a new hope?
There is a further opportunity to do more for those children who will be coming to school in future years by registering for next March’s Under 5s and Flourishing event. This is an opportunity to explore how the very earliest experiences of childhood impact how children see themselves in the world as they grow.
‘Look at the birds of the air’ said Jesus, ‘they do not sow or reap … yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ (Matthew 6:26-27) Our confidence is in Jesus Christ in whom we can stop worrying and live.