Over the past couple of days, I’ve been making shopping plans.
Not the going-to-the-mall-and-buying-clothes kind of shopping. This is about notebooks, backpacks, and all the other things I need to get before I leave for college in just a couple of weeks. The shopping lists on my whiteboard have been getting longer and longer as I try to figure out where and when to buy socks, sheets, and extra sticky notes.
As August begins, most of us are getting ready to go back to school. Autumn may not be here yet, but the fall semester is almost upon us—and so is the back-to-school shopping. Here in Florida, we’re just entering tax-free weekend. Back-to-school sales will begin soon after, and for the first time in my previously-homeschooled life, I’ll be forced to fight the crowds at Walmart for school supplies.
As we get ready to begin school again—whether it’s public or private school, homeschool, or college—we have preparation to do. We’ll buy notebooks and pencils, and maybe new outfits, too. But there are other preparations we need to make that are even more important than new school supplies.
As you prepare for this coming school year, be sure to keep these three areas in mind.
Prepare To Connect
Human beings were made for relationships. And not just the romantic ones, either. We need friends, allies, brothers and sisters in arms. We were created to thrive in community.
For some, connecting with other people seems easier than it is for others (my brothers have always called me a hermit). But whether you naturally gravitate to others or to solitude, you still need to intentionally seek out friendship.
There’s a difference between being surrounded by acquaintances and having friends. Seek to get to know classmates, neighbors, and church members. Intentionally spend time together. When appropriate, have the deeper conversations about things that matter. With other believers, build up one another in the faith. With unbelieving friends, look for opportunities to share the gospel.
The second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The outflow of our relationship with God should be genuine love for those around us, and as others see our love, they’ll see Christ (John 13:35).
Prepare to Learn
The narrative we see in media and our culture says that school is just something to get through. We just have to get good grades so we can get a degree so we can get out of here.
What if we changed the way we think about the school years? What if we didn’t just focus on getting out at the end of it, but on growing and learning where we are right now?
That learning can happen through our classes and our school subjects, but it can also happen in the rest of our life. In a sense, school is just the beginning of our education. Yes, it’s important. Hopefully it’s teaching us knowledge that we can go out and use in our work, friendships, thinking, writing, and all our other endeavors.
But learning doesn’t just happen at school. It happens in all the ordinary and extraordinary events that make up our lives. Conversations with a mentor. An internship. Your job. Sermons and teaching at church. Writing, making music, or some other creative endeavor. All of these give you the opportunity to gain life skills, responsibility, discipline, and knowledge, or even to learn more about God.
Take every opportunity that you can to learn and educate yourself. Learning doesn’t end at school—it only begins there.
Prepare to Abide
School is important. Life skills are important. Relationships with friends and family are important. But vastly more essential is our relationship with our Savior.
We need fellowship with God all the time—not just during the summer, and not just during the school year. We need to spend time with Him through Bible study and prayer, learning more about Him through His word and meditating on His truth.
The problem is, what we start in excitement at the beginning of the school year can easily fall by the wayside as we get busy and lose interest. If we’re just fitting Bible study into odd bits of free time throughout our day, it’ll be easy to let it go as we get busier toward the middle of the semester and those bits of free time start to disappear.
That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about it now. Where can you best fit Bible study and prayer into your schedule, so it won’t get lost by November? For me, morning is the most reliable time and the least distracted, so I make it a point to read or study my Bible, meditate, and pray right after I get up.
Think about what you’ll be reading or studying, too. Will you be reading through a specific portion of Scripture? Will you be studying a book in-depth—and if so, which one? When you already have a plan, you won’t be stuck wondering what you should do once you sit down with your Bible.
As you look toward the beginning of this school year, don’t just focus on buying new school supplies. Prepare to connect with others, to learn in every area of life, and most of all to abide in Christ through His word and prayer.