In most churches September is the start of a new church school year. The children of the church will again gather every Sunday morning to sing praise and to learn about God and his people. Adults will meet to study God's Word and to discover new ways of living their faith. Even in churches that hold church school all year long, September is often a time of beginnings—new classes, new students, new teachers.
Although church school teachers answer the very high calling of leading adults to greater knowledge of God's Word and educating our children in the ways of the faith, these men and women often pour hours of effort into their work with little recognition or encouragement. Sometimes parents aren't even aware of who is teaching their children. Recognizing that problem, some churches now hold special services in the fall to identify and commission their church school staff and to encourage the congregation to pray for and support these men and women.
The following litanies were prepared for that purpose. They could be used as part of either a regular service or a special education service. "A Litany to Commission Church School Teachers" was written by Steven D. Law-ton, Minister of Worship for the East Ridge Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The "Service of Commissioning" is part of a superintendent's workshop used by teacher trainers in the Christian Reformed Church.
A Litany to Commission Church School Teachers
Leader: The Lord be with you,
All: And also with you.
Leader: We come together to set apart these teachers for the special work to which Christ himself calls them:
People of God, these new workers will need your support. What will you now say to encourage them?
People: We acknowledge the call of Christ in your life, and affirm your gifts for this calling.
Leader: Let us pray:
Almighty Father, by whose mighty power all things consist, hold us who wait before you with tender care. We long to serve you, but shrink from tasks in fear; we fear criticism, failure, fatigue. Grant us, dear Lord, the wisdom to seek you first, laying fear as a vanquished foe at your feet, for Christ's sake,
Leader: Do you sense the call of Christ to this task and rely on his mercy to equip you to serve him as a church school teacher?
Teachers: I do.
Leader: Will you strive in reliance upon him to seek wisdom and to communicate it to your students as God gives you grace?
Teachers: I will.
Leader: Will you faithfully devote yourself to teaching the truth of the Word of God and showing it to your students by your example?
Teachers: I will.
Leader: (to congregation) Will you lend your prayerful support to these who teach our children the things of God?
Congregation: We will.
Leader: Let us pray:
Kind Father, lovingly guide and protect those who, out of a heart of compassion, undertake to teach your children. Give them knowledge, patience, grace, and peace. Most of all, give them a passion for the wisdom which comes only from you, so that by the work of your Holy Spirit, we may see Christ living in and through us. To the glory of your holy name, through Christ our Lord we pray,
Service of Commissioning
Commissioning of the Teachers in Our Educational Ministry
Leader: As teachers you are entrusted with a special task in which you will be required to give of your time, your talent, and your effort to serve God through educating his children. You are called to teach your students the meaning of Christian discipleship by your words and your example. To this task we now commission you in the ministry of education.
Do you accept this calling and this trust which is committed to you?
Teachers: We do, God helping us.
Charge to the Congregation
Leader: The task of the church is not carried out alone by those who are thrust into positions of leadership or of direct responsibility for the work which must be performed. It is a trust committed to each member and to all of us together that we shall be coworkers with Christ and with those we call to special service, supporting them with our best efforts and our prayers. How do you respond to this calling?
People: We thank God for those he has called to special service in his church. As members, parents, and children, we pledge you our support. We will pray for you as you lead us, and we will work and witness together. We will join you in receiving the Word by faith and in living by it in our daily life.
Inclusive language provoked the most controversy for our group! Adapting texts to eliminate man, mankind, fellowship, etc. took the most time of any single issue discussed. (We never seriously considered changing pronouns or titles for God: He is still Father and King, and Jesus is still Lord and Son of God.)
—Merwin D. Van Doornik (RIL)
My greatest disappointment was the loss of several of my personal favorites. I still can't believe that some of the committee members were unfamiliar with "When the Weary, Seeking Rest." But if we kept everyone's favorites, we wouldn't change the hymnal, and that would deprive the church of many excellent hymns we are adding.
—Donald Poundstone (TH)
One of our august members respectfully suggested that since we in the RCA seldom kneel in worship, perhaps the communion spiritual ought to be changed from "Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees" to "Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Butts!"
—Gloria Norton (RIL)