One of my favorite questions to ask people at conferences is whether or not they like to fish. A usual response is for about 40 percent of the hands to go up immediately. After a brief moment, I always ask another probing question: "How many of you like to catch fish?" After some laughter, about 70 percent of the hands go into the air with much more zeal!
This raises a great point: most people want to reap the benefits of their labor. Therefore, when fishing, we would like to catch fish as often as possible! In other words, we prefer fishing in stocked ponds over community swimming pools! For a fisherman, the attraction is obvious.
Jesus had a few things to say about fishing. In fact, wasn't His initial call to Simon Peter and Andrew an invitation to go fishing? In Matthew 4:19, Jesus simply stated, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
So, where are these ponds where we can "fish for men?" Well, with the start of a new school year, how about starting with our public schools?! In a day when there are many people advocating that Christians should totally abandon public schools, it could alternatively be viewed as an opportunity to fish in overly stocked ponds.
In fact, a powerful Christian witness in public schools is certainly consistent with the Lord's command to be "salt and light."
The obvious question is, "how?" Here are some ideas:
• Keep a personal list of teachers and school administrators, then pray for them every day.
• Organize periodic weekend prayerwalks around the school premises. In fact, some Christian teachers and administrators systematically prayerwalk the school halls every year in the weeks before school starts.
* Some teachers actually pray over every seat with the anticipation of God blessing the efforts of each student and opening the doors to somehow be a spiritual example. Other teachers pray specifically over their school rolls by name every day during the school year. They can also do the same for the student families when they are able to get the parents' names and familiarize themselves with spiritual needs.
• Christian students can keep a list of schoolmates and pray for them by name each day.
• Promote and support See You at the Pole. Since any spiritual event that deals directly with students must be initiated by them, make sure that the national student prayer day, See You at the Pole, is thoroughly explained and promoted through Christian student leaders in your church and youth group. See You at the Pole is an awesome opportunity for students to pray openly on campus, as well as expressing their faith in a non-threatening way. One must always remember that while the government may take prayer out of schools, the greatest travesty is when Christians choose to keep it out! The 2006 See You at the Pole date will be Wednesday, September 27. For more information, go to www.syatp.com.
Acts of Kindness
• Provide fresh Danish for the school office and teacher's lounge each week.
• Volunteer to feed the teachers on an in-service day, serving them with the aim of expressing appreciation. This has actually been very effective in numerous schools across the country. In one situation, the school became so appreciative that they actually demanded to feed and serve the church staff and volunteers on site as a reciprocal gesture.
• Provide donuts and coffee for the bus drivers early in the morning. One local church planter chose to do this just to let them know how much their services were appreciated. It actually caused such a stir of good will among the drivers that the local paper chose to highlight the church planter's servant spirit and heart for people. The result was the birth of a new congregation!
• Work the ticket gates at ballgames.
• Provide free tutoring, school supplies, clothing, and shoes for needy students.
• Volunteer to run errands or to make copies for class sessions. I spoke to one very busy elementary teacher who suggested this. In addition, this same person wondered if churches could adopt various teachers and assist with their school supplies needs. He explained that because of rising costs and spending cuts, that many teachers spend as much as $500 to $1,000 each year out of their own pockets to cover unbudgeted school supplies. You may be thinking: "Isn't that why we pay taxes?" But rather than complaining, we could view it as God's invitation to go fishing.
In each case, you likely will be well received as most public schools are in great need of volunteers and servant role models. Unfortunately, you may not be able to "preach" the Gospel — but never underestimate the power of demonstrating Christ's love and thus being the only Gospel that many people may ever see! However, I have found that when someone asks a simple "why," if you are prepared and sensitive, it usually opens the door to share a brief testimony and to discuss the claims of Christ.
So, is fishing season over because the summer has come to an end? In reality, it may just be starting. I recall a few years ago when my daughter decided to "go fishing" in her high school pond. It began with simple prayers for classmates, yet blossomed when one of the young students was baptized in our church. Recently, I was blessed to visit with a neighbor we initially met through school activities. Praise God, he is no longer just a neighbor — he is now my eternal brother! Happy fishing!