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Teens urged to cry out to God during SYATP

TACOMA, Wash. (BP)–When it comes to preparing youth for the Sept. 19 See You at the Pole national day of student prayer, Washington state youth pastor Dan Spoon knows of only one answer — prayer.

So on the eve of the Sept. 19, Spoon will join about 30 teenagers to pray for See You at the Pole.

“I guess you could call it a pre-prayer rally prayer rally,” said Spoon, youth minister at Lakewood Baptist Church in Tacoma. “We want to make sure all of our kids are ready to walk onto their campuses Wednesday morning and minister.”

The youth at Lakewood Baptist Church will join an estimated 2 million teenagers nationwide on Sept. 19 as they gather around flagpoles on high school and junior high school campuses.

This year’s theme, “Desperate for God,” will encourage students to cry out to the living God, said David Overstreet, a spokesperson for the SYATP movement and assistant director for field ministries at the National Network of Youth Ministries.

“We are seeing God do a tremendous thing through the teenagers of America,” Overstreet told Baptist Press. “The movement continues to grow and even though there may be schools where just one student is praying, that student isn’t praying alone. He is with God.”

Last year, more than 2.3 million students reportedly participated in the annual event, Overstreet said. And the movement has spread to other countries including Australia, Bahrain, Bolivia, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Korea.

SYATP is a student-initiated and student-led movement that started in 1990 with a group of Baptist teenagers in Burleson, Texas. It originated with just one youth group, meeting in the dark of night at several schools around the town.

Overstreet said that while the focus is prayer, many teenagers have accepted Christ at the prayer gatherings.

“We have reports of young men and women who have seen the rally, asked their friends about it and, as a result, have been led to the Lord by their peers,” he said. “That’s exciting.

“Our ministry is about reaching kids on campuses,” Overstreet added. “This is one tool that God has incredibly blessed to do that.”

Janet Bridgewater, a church secretary at the First Southern Baptist Church of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, said students at their church are anxious to gather around their school flagpoles.

“This is a big event for our kids,” Bridgewater said. “We are even getting our parents involved by asking them to pray for their students during the morning rallies.”

Spoon said the prayer gathering has been a rallying point for his students as they prepare spiritually for the new school year.

“These kids are out there trying to spread God’s Word and it’s hard,” Spoon said. “But we have a good group of kids and they are on fire for Jesus.”

The 2001 See You at the Pole also will have a musical tribute. Compiled by Ardent Records, a compact disc was recently released featuring previously unreleased tracks by Skillet, Brother’s Keeper, All Together Separate and new artist, Before You Breathe.

Steve Wiggins, formerly of Big Tent Revival, wrote and performed the SYATP theme song, “Telling Everyone.”

Wiggins and other Christian artists are promoting SYATP through radio and video public service announcements as well as event participation.

The gathering of young people for prayer before school is entirely legal, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In guidelines for school officials issued by former Education Secretary Richard Riley, See You at the Pole is listed among the activities that are appropriate forms of religious expression by students on campus.

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  • Todd Starnes