Why I don't do SYATP

It's that time of year...SYATP time.

If you were a teenager in the 90’s than you probably know what SYATP stands for. See You At The Pole.  A well meaning idea or movement from the 90’s where students gather at their school flag pole before school to pray. This event happens annually on a Wednesday morning in September. An opportunity for students to meet and pray publicly for their school, friends, teachers, administrators, and for their country. Youth pastors typically show up, hand out flyers [or get their students to] and videotape the event for some “rally” that night.

I participated in many of these. I've guilted my own youth group teens way back when into "showing up" at their school's flag pole to pray. I am sure my plea involved some cheesy Newsboys song [also big in the 90’s] about not being ashamed of the Gospel in the back ground.

I don’t do See You at The Pole anymore. I don’t promote it. I don’t go to it. I don’t ask my students to either. I understand that God can use anything and I am sure good fruit still comes out of it. But I don’t personally like the idea of SYATP and here is why:

Prayer is a faith practice. It’s not a once a year event.
Prayer is a practice we want students, parents, and each other to actually engage in more than once a year. It’s usually private. It’s intimate.  If it is meaningful and life changing...chances are you don’t have to make a flyer for it. You can grab a friend or two and pray in your car on the way to school. You can pray at your kitchen table next to your bowl of Captain Crunch with your little sister. You can pray while you go on a walk with youth group friends who live down the street. Pray with your small group as you walk around the school track field or school perimeter. Prayer is something to practice both alone and together. It's not something to be guilted into for some long forgotten 90’s movement or so you can trend on twitter. Help students make prayer a part of their everyday life and not some once a year gig a youth pastor pressured them into.

Prayer- happens best in the context of a relationships.
Youth pastors showing up unannounced at a public school and taking pictures of minors for Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for #syatp is not something any school administrator is going to like. Instead of building bridges, you are burning them.  Why not instead be proactive and intentional about volunteering on campus? Not by leading some cheesy Bible club or recruiting students to your youth program. Toss the agenda and be PRESENT in the lives of teenagers. Perhaps coach a Battle of the Books team [nerd speak for middle school book clubs competing against other book clubs by answering questions about books] or coach girls volleyball. Do something that establishes a relationship with the school and invites you to actually know what students, staff, and parents might actually need prayer for.  Empower students to pray for real people they have taken the time to know. To lead, to love, to pray as a practice. Not a so called "student led" event that a youth pastor initiated to happen in the first place.

Prayer isn’t about self-promotion.
This event is usually a clever catalyst to use students as a means to launching a campus Bible study, promote a youth group event or get them to invite their friends to attend some program or after rally. It’s a way to increase attendance and build numbers and use teens for our benefit in some way. Hidden behind a mask of being "student led" but is it really? An attempt in getting teenagers to believe what we want them to believe or do what we want them to do.  It’s ultimately more about us and less about them. Maybe I am dead wrong, but I don’t think so.  

I am for students. I am for prayer. I love praying with and for students, but not making an event or awkward spectacle of it.

Rant is now over.


  1. angierines9/24/2014

    Fortunately in the Northeast SYATP isn't even a thing!


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