I’ve always loved a new school year. I enjoy filling a backpack with new school supplies. But I really get excited about the fresh start every student receives on the first day back in the classroom. Fresh starts are a gift from God – and so is educational opportunity. Which is why my church kicks off each school year with a celebration: Education Sunday.

Thousands of churches across the U.S. will participate in Education Sunday on the first Sunday of September (September 4, 2016). Some churches will even stretch the special focus across the entire month. From prayer time for teachers and students to scholarship opportunities to special guest speakers and events, church leaders will be encouraging students to succeed at school. These pastors and parents long for children to learn to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. (Luke 10:27).

Spanish-speaking churches are quick to appreciate this focus on educational success. A recent Barna Research survey of American Hispanic adults revealed that education was one of the top two “most pressing challenges” for the Latino community, and first-generation immigrants were particularly concerned about their children’s education. This deeply held value explains why thousands of churches, across more than 30 states, focus on education for at least one Sunday every September.

In New York, Pastor Fernando Cabrera and his congregation at New Life Outreach International have seen Education Sunday bless their Bronx community. He explains: “Education Sunday caused us to experience the highest attendance ever on Labor Day and catapulted the church into a church growth momentum for the fall session. The children received book bags and supplies in a neighborhood now considered the poorest congregational district in America. They were able to receive what many could not have afforded on their own. It was a sight to see the surprised and smiling faces when they received the school supplies.”

In Denver, Education Sunday’s scholarship content made a difference for Ammi Adame, who attends The Potters House (La Casa del Alfarero). The son of immigrant parents and a first-generation college student, Ammi faced the challenge of paying for tuition and expensive textbooks. During an Education Sunday service, Ammi was told of a scholarship opportunity and immediately applied. He was thrilled to learn in November that he has won the scholarship.

In Austin, my home church (Life Church) we’ll be distributing one of the new resources available for Education Sunday, a handout produced by Scholastic. It offers parents “back to school” tips to implement at home with their children.

Hispanic churches offer a wealth of support for families and individuals to help them reach their God-given potential. Let’s include a focus on education as we minister to those in our congregations. By encouraging students and parents to prioritize academic achievement (from preschool to graduate school), we’re honoring the image of God in every student. We’re helping them dream of a future God has designed for them and for the blessing of their community and the world.

If you’d like to learn more about Education Sunday, visit www.faithandeducation.com.

Andrea Ramirez is Executive Director of Faith and Education Coalition, NHCLC.

[ This article is also available in español. ]