School days are already upon us. Believe it or not, I can remember that far back in my own experience. Frankly, it was a Norman Rockwell time in history.

School was a safe place to be. We began every morning with the Pledge of Allegiance, Bible reading and prayer. Consequently, the big issues punishable by detention or a swat applied to the appropriate spot were gum chewing, passing notes in class or talking. I know, because I ran afoul of the law on all counts.

The same problems existed in high school. Sometimes the very few bad kids got in trouble for smoking on school grounds. Drinking among teens was a problem but not overwhelming. Some kids got involved in drugs and sex (it was the mid to late 1960s), but most did not engage in those things. There was a sense of respect for authority, and the teacher was to be obeyed. Many youngsters were under the mandate that if the teacher spanked them, they would face the same thing at home. Most kids went home to two parents.

My, how things have changed! Numerous schools have become war zones. Drugs, alcohol and sex are experienced on a regular basis by a majority of students who are starting younger and younger to experiment with these ills. The most “dangerous” thing to show up in a classroom these days is a Bible. Discipline is difficult at best.

Into this setting march scores of brave and dedicated teachers and administrators who believe they can make a difference in the lives of students from kindergarten to high school graduation. As followers of Christ, they do not see their profession as secular, but as a calling from God.

I give thanks to those who enter the mission field of our schools. Like many of our missionaries who serve in hard places around the world, these dedicated servants confront the onslaught and brunt of our changing times and culture.

I am also thankful for Christian young people who walk into their schools armed with a deep and living faith in Christ. They have the opportunity to invade every corner of the school. Students face far fewer restrictions on communicating their faith than do teachers and administrators. Each year at Falls Creek and the Youth Evangelism Conference, our youth are challenged to live and share their faith. Our youth ministers in the local church do a great job preparing and challenging our young people to make a difference for Christ at school.

Every fall, I challenge our pastors to have a time of dedication and commissioning of teachers, administrators and students as they embark on a new school year. Teachers and administrators should know Christian parents are praying for them.

I encourage churches to set aside a time to prayerwalk their local schools. Invite teachers near you to a breakfast, and pray for them. Find ways to help the school and provide students with supplies. Many of you do this already, and I applaud you. I wish every school in Oklahoma had a Baptist church as a partner serving them with no expectation of return.

We can make a difference in our schools. Prayer and service are the key. Blessings on teachers, administrators and pupils. May this school year be blessed of the Lord.