Hundreds of thousands of Christian students nationwide were encouraged to bring their Bibles to school on Thursday as part of a Christian advocacy organization's annual Bring Your Bible to School Day.
Focus on the Family spearheaded its eighth annual Bring Your Bible to School Day as students were emboldened to share the word of God with their classmates.
The purpose of the occasion is to have students "read and treasure Scripture as God's Holy Word, to encourage others with the hope we have in Christ Jesus, and to celebrate our religious freedoms in the United States."
"This annual campaign empowers Christian students of all ages to speak God's grace and truth into the culture around them, starting with two simple steps — bringing their Bibles to school and sharing what God's word means to them," Focus on the Family Program Manager Bret Eckelberry said in a statement.
"It opens doors for students to talk to their friends about the gospel. It connects them with other believers in their school. And it allows them to celebrate their religious freedoms in the United States."
Focus on the Family's Vice President of Parenting and Youth Danny Huerta told The Christian Post that it was too early to say whether participation in this year's event surpassed the more than 514,000 students who participated last year.
However, he noted that this year's registration totals "surpassed last year's registration numbers."
"Our eventual goal is to get 1 million kids bringing their Bible to school or more," he added. "It's basically just a starting point … for kids to maybe start Bible studies in their school, [or] pray together in their school."
Huerta said that while the bulk of participants in Bring Your Bible to School Day are high school students or junior high school students, students can participate "all through college."
He emphasized that students have "the freedom to bring their Bible to school in a public school setting as long as they're not disruptive in the school." Huerta said lunch, recess as well as before and after school are appropriate times for students to share the word of God with others.
In the past, students attempting to participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day have faced headwinds from school staff despite their established right to do so.
Huerta told CP that the religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom "has been a resource that we have pointed parents to … and/or students that have faced that adversity."
He stressed that as long as Bring Your Bible to School Day at a particular school is student-led, "a teacher can participate in it and a principal can participate in it."
Huerta expressed hope that the annual day can unify American students at a time that has become very divisive.
"We've really been focused even more so now on the opportunity to offer hope, to invite peers and students into conversation about God's word and about their faith and just standing courageously and with love and hope," Huerta said.
"This is more about … [standing] united and pray[ing] for one another and lov[ing] our school, pray[ing] for our school, pray[ing] for our nation … engag[ing] in God's word so that we're guided and seek wisdom."
He said the goal is "much more unity and love and hope rather than where the world is at right now."
"It's about inviting people into something that is very loving, which is a relationship with their Heavenly Father and with God's word," Huerta added.
As the coronavirus pandemic significantly changed the aspects of day-to-day life in the U.S. and around the world last year, Focus on the Family saw a new opportunity to engage with homeschool students.
"It gave us an opportunity to remind homeschool students that 'Hey, you can also participate, go on social media, intentionally engage with God's word throughout the day [and] share your favorite scriptures," he said.
"As a homeschooled student, as a private school student, it's so important to also participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day. And so through the pandemic … we did a full online Bring Your Bible to School Day where kids shared [pictures] of themselves with the Bible," he recalled.
While Bring Your Bible to School Day only happens once a year, the Bring Your Bible to School Day website has activities that can help children and their families remain engaged with the Bible all year long.
"When they sign up and register, they get Live Your Faith challenges once a month," he explained. "And so, it's a starting point … either as a family or as a friend group … to live out their faith."
Huerta sees Bring Your Bible to School Day and the "Live Your Faith" challenges as a way to create "contributors in God's Kingdom's story rather than consumers."
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org