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‘Tremendous sense of urgency’ as See You at the Pole returns onsite

SAN DIEGO (BP) – See You at the Pole organizers voice a “tremendous sense of urgency” as they prepare for the student-led event to return onsite at schools and other venues Sept. 22.

“Our youth are being shredded by the results of the pandemic and the dysfunction in our culture (and) desperately need for us to pray for them,” said Doug Clark, event promotion coordinator. “There’s not even the right word that’s superlative enough I think to capture the tremendous sense of urgency that we feel for adults to pray for students and for students to pray.

“I implore you that you would pray for students this year.”

The Global Week of Student Prayer Sept. 19-25 surrounds the day of prayer at flag poles and other community locations in the emphasis designed to mobilize students in disciplined daily prayer for various concerns impacting schools, friends, families, churches and communities. “Just Pray” is the 2021 theme, drawn from James 4:10.

Suicide and psychological devastation are among students’ ills even as the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 662,000 people in the U.S. lingers.

See You at the Pole (SYATP) engaged students and others with an online event in 2020 as many schools were only meeting online to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“Last year COVID was just an enormous distraction. There was so much confusion at the start of the year,” said Clark, who promotes the event in his role as national field director of National Network of Youth Ministries. “I think we’re experiencing that somewhat less this year, but … I’m not sure last year it was much on people’s radar to be doing a See You at the Pole.”

Students will benefit from returning to the classroom, he said, but things won’t return to pre-pandemic conditions overnight. Clark encourages churches to pray for students, schools, teachers and administrators.

“Please come around your students, the ones you see in your neighborhood, the ones you see in the halls of the church, and let them know that you’re praying for them, and pray with them. Pray for our schools,” Clark said. “I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to be a teacher and to be an administrator in a school right now. It’s so chaotic and difficult all across the country, and we can change that by praying.”

The Campus Prayer App is among free resources available to students through SYATP’s partnership with Claim Your Campus, a 10-year-old student-born movement that actively encourages daily student prayer in 1,000 U.S. schools, according to ClaimYourCampus.com.

SYATP will retain its online presence this year for those unable to meet onsite, with viewing information available at SYATP.com.

Clark is encouraging students to follow local COVID protocols and work with school systems to meet onsite this year. Events are constitutionally protected, but if SYATP causes any contention among school administrators, organizers encourage students to meet elsewhere.

“Find a way to accommodate that instead of fight against it,” Clark said. “It’s not a time for more fighting. It’s a time for praying.”

The event has been held in 66 countries, but organizers have focused mainly on the U.S. this year. Still, students in the Dominican Republic and Korea have been among consistent participants, Clark said.

SYATP grew from a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend in Burleson, Texas, when a small group of teenagers were burdened to pray for their friends onsite at several schools. The first annual event months later drew 45,000 students to school flagpoles in numerous states, and quickly grew to include a million students in its early years, and has been observed in 66 countries. Growth has leveled in recent years.

“I don’t know that we have a million right now, especially after COVID, but there continues to be this spark of revival and hope and expectation and prayer among students all across America as they gather to pray,” Clark said on a recent podcast.

Among more than 100 groups and Christian ministries supporting SYATP are Lifeway Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Youth Lab at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.