A worldwide ministry effort hopes to reach Gen Zers who have strayed from God by challenging students to see Him with their “whole heart” by observing prayer time around their school’s flag pole.
See You at the Pole is an annual student-led prayer movement that consists of students gathering together in prayer on the fourth Wednesday of September. Students in elementary, middle school and high school, as well as university students, can participate. Adults are also invited to pray at their work, church or any other location.
Doug Clark, national field director for the National Network of Youth Ministries, which is involved with SYATP, told The Christian Post that the verse has a “special meaning” for him.
According to Clark, when most people quote this chapter of the Bible, they cite Jeremiah 29:11, which states: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“But in the context of that, God says through Jeremiah, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,’” Clark said, quoting a later section of the chapter.
The national field director said that he interpreted the verse as a condition to the promise that God made in verse 11 about the future, in which Clark noted that the Lord promises what lies ahead will be “wonderful.”
“But in the context, there’s a question of: Are you seeking me with your whole heart?” Clark said. “So, the theme this year is ‘wholehearted.’ We want to challenge students to see God with their whole hearts.”
Explaining the process for selecting a theme for the year, Clark said that he, a representative of Claim Your Campus — another organization that helps with the event — and several others pray over it. The group then makes a decision once it feels that there is an agreement about the theme.
Clark also shared with CP how an event like this can impact young people, particularly Gen Zers. As some recent studies have shown, younger generations appear less likely to embrace religion.
The Christian leader noted that at the time the book of Jeremiah was written, the people of Judah were living in exile, but God spoke through Jeremiah to offer words of hope. He contended that there is always a sense of hope, even in what he described as the “most crushing” of prophecies in the Old Testament, that God watches over those who pursue Him with a “whole heart.”
“I think there’s a remnant of students in Gen Z that are very hungry to know God better,” Clark said.
The field director detailed the event’s history, which goes back to 1990 when a youth group in Texas felt compelled to create a sense of togetherness, Clark said. The students started discussing the possibility of hosting a prayer gathering at school by a flag pole, as every school has one.
After 45,000 teenagers participated in the first SYATP event on Sept. 12, 1990, the youth group asked the National Network of Youth Ministries to help due to its platform of working with multiple denominations and ministries.
In terms of turnout, previous SYATP events have drawn around a million students. As Clark explained, students involved in a Christian group on campus typically plan and lead the event.
The SYATP website offers resources for organizing a prayer event, and it helps students understand their rights. According to the site, the students are praying outside of school hours, so the prayer time does not interfere with academic instruction.
Clark said that he believes the prayer movement is “building momentum,” as he has noticed an increase in the number of people requesting resources, both this year and last year. He also told CP that youth groups, various denominations and organizations such as Youth for Christ are helping to spread the word about the event.
“I think I can confidently say that there will be students praying in all 50 states,” he said.