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It’s back to school time, and for parents that means helping children sharpen their pencils and charge their laptops in preparation for the first day. For children it means adapting to new morning routines and getting back to a studying and test-taking rhythm. And for pastors, it’s that wonderful time of year to bless school backpacks. While blessing backpacks is popular in big and small churches, it is only the start to what congregations can — and should — be doing to engage more deeply with local schools. According to Dr. Irvin Scott, a faculty member of Harvard Graduate School of Education, backpack blessings have grown over the years because they provide a relatively hassle-free, easy-to-execute outreach to families. “It’s a good first step,” said Scott, with emphasis on “first.”
Middleburg Presbyterian Church, a small community church southwest of Jacksonville in Clay County, Florida, participates in a feeding program called Operation Backpack. The outreach program works with the guidance counselor at a nearby elementary school. The counselor identifies the children and families who will receive a backpack filled with healthy child-friendly food.