frequently asked questions
See You at the Pole™ is a global movement of prayer which is student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led. It revolves around students praying together on the fourth Wednesday in September, usually before school and usually at the school's flag pole. It involves student in elementary schools, middle/junior high schools, high schools, and colleges/universities across the globe. Adults often pray in support of the students on campus by gathering nearby, at their places of work or worship, or at city halls.
In 1990 when youth ministers in Texas first challenged young people to meet on a common day to launch their school year in prayer, one of the concerns what how to help those who wanted to pray together find each other. It was noted that virtually every school has a flagpole, and the flagpole provided an easy-to-identify place to gather. Also, one issue that the teenagers were praying about was the spiritual health of their country and their leaders, in obedience to 1 Timothy 2:1–2. Hence, the location and name of the event!
See You at the Pole™ was inspired by the initiative of students in one youth group in Burleson, Texas, early in 1990. The teenagers felt led to go and pray at night at several area schools during a weekend youth group retreat. They had a profound time of prayer, and their experience was shared with thousands of other youth from across Texas in the form of a challenge in June 1990 at a large conference. More than 45,000 students on 1,200 campuses in Texas and three other states were documented at the first See You at the Pole™ in September of that year. The movement continued to grow nationally and internationally from 1991 on. For more information, read the See You at the Pole™ history.
The answer to this question is a firm "Yes!" The right of students to gather and pray outside of instructional time—while at school—is clearly a Constitutionally protected form of free speech. This has been affirmed in regard to "Equal Access Clubs" by the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Westside Community Schools v. Mergens. And in 1995, President Bill Clinton directed then-Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, to prepare guidelines for what the government deemed "appropriate religious expression on school grounds." These guidelines were issued and upheld by the government several times since. In them, See You at the Pole™ is specifically named as legal, appropriate, and protected:
"Students may also participate in before or after school events with religious content, such as "see you at the flag pole" gatherings, on the same terms as they may participate in other noncurriculum activities on school premises. School officials may neither discourage nor encourage participation in such an event."It should be noted that among the legal groups which affirmed the legality of See You at the Pole™ by drafting the USDOE guidelines were the Christian Legal Society, American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, National Council of Churches, National Association of Evangelicals, and People for the American Way, as well as six others. For a complete list of the Drafting Committee and Endorsing Organizations, contact the National Network of Youth Ministries or call (858) 451-1111.
If students who are praying are told by someone from the administration (or otherwise in authority at the school) to stop praying during See You at the Pole™, we recommend that you obey that authority and move your prayer time off campus. See You at the Pole™ is about praying, not arguing about your legal rights. You may want to bring a parent, youth worker, or other adult with you to speak to the authority later. If necessary, you may want to contact a legal group who can clarify your rights for the school official.
Students of all ages—as young as preschool and elementary age through students on college and university campuses—have been the primary participants of See You at the Pole™. The largest groups have been at middle/junior high schools and high schools. Teachers and administrators have prayed for students at the same time in their own groups. We have had reports of adults meeting at retirement homes, military bases, corporate headquarters for multinational corporations, and elsewhere on six continents to participate in See You at the Pole™. Clearly, we believe God is honored by united prayer for people and the world He created and loves.
A second part of this question is, "Who should participate on school grounds?" There are at least two aspects to the answer to this question—bear with us!
On the one hand, it is plain that God has honored the initiative of students who are concerned for their school to initiate, plan, and lead See You at the Pole™. This is all about young people, desperate for God, inviting Him to intervene and make "His kingdom come" among their friends, in their communities, and in our nation. We need to honor how God has led the movement to grow. The laws of the land also protect the legal rights of students to express their faith without adult control. While concerned adults should support students by praying for them, we recommend that they do not actively participate, and especially not lead, See You at the Pole™ gatherings on school grounds.
The other side of this issue is whether adults—including school employees—have a legal right to pray with students at See You at the Pole™, since the prayer time meets outside instructional time. The American Center for Law and Justice wrote this legal opinion about adult participation:
Can parents, and/or adults, participate in events such as See You at the Pole™?
Yes, with reservations. Schools have policies concerning visitors on campus. As long as those policies are not discriminatory against religious people they should be complied with. For example, most school officials require that visitors check in before they enter the campus. Even though See You at the Pole™ is before school and usually outside, it is important for adults, even parents, to follow the policies set up by school officials. School officials have a legitimate interest in knowing who is on their campus at any given time. Because of the early hour of See You at the Pole™, it may be necessary for you to notify school officials the day before. If school officials permit visitors they should also permit you to enter the campus and participate in See You at the Pole™.
Can teachers and administrators participate in events such as See You at the Pole™?
This is perhaps the most complicated of all the issues we have dealt with. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that teachers do not shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse gate. Since that time, however, courts have been reluctant if not resistant to state what rights teachers have on campus. The problem is on e of endorsement. Teachers are authority figures on their school campuses. They have specific official responsibilities; because of those responsibilities, students often view teachers as agents of the state. What this means is that students view teachers as government officials. Therefore, when a teacher participates in events such as See You at the Pole™, it is possible for student to confuse a teacher or administrator's personal speech with their official speech.
In order to determine if a teacher has a right to participate in events such as See You at the Pole™ then, we must evaluate several areas. At what time of day is the event occurring? If it is during what is known as "noncontract time," it is possible that the teacher could participate without violating the constitution. What role is the teacher or administrator attempting to take in the event? If the teacher is merely showing up to observe the event, it could be constitutional.
On the other hand, if the teacher is leading the prayer, or participating in the prayer, it could violate the constitution. If you need more information or have further questions about legal issues related to participating on campus, contact The American Center for Law and Justice or one of these other public law interest groups.
There is no sponsor for See You at the Pole™. The students at each school initiate and lead this event. A student-led Christian club, Equal Access club, or other recognized organization on campus may choose to make See You at the Pole™ an "official activity" of their club.
At the same time, it is important for concerned adults to support and encourage the student leaders of See You at the Pole™. Many have stepped up to do so. A diverse mix of approximately 100 church denominations, nonprofit ministries, and other organizations are listed as "Supporting Ministries" who promote, endorse, or otherwise support See You at the Pole™.
Among these groups, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, with headquarters in Dallas, Texas. owns the trademark for the See You at the Pole™ name and event. Student Discipleship Ministries in Burleson, Texas, creates and distributes the promotional materials, videos, etc. The San Diego-based National Network of Youth Ministries coordinates the promotion and media relations.
In keeping with the student-led nature of See You at the Pole™, it is important for students to prayerfully plan how they will use the time during their See You at the Pole™ gathering. In fact, the event itself was born in a time of prayer by one youth group that dared to follow God's leading to pray for their schools.
Many gatherings have included student-led worship, Bible reading, prayer in large ad small groups, and even a message by a student leader. Most have placed a high value on participation by those attending. Some have decided that 7 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday in September did not work best for them—Australian youth meet in May, which is the beginning of their fall term, and others choose a more convenient time, according to what works best for them. Whenever you meet, be sure to let others know!
If for some reason your campus is closed on the fourth Wednesday in September, you might decide to gather anyway. But students have scheduled their See You at the Pole™ gatherings the day before or after most U.S. students meet to pray. Some groups have rescheduled a week—or even a month—later because of hurricanes!
Most groups leading See You at the Pole™ on their campus invite others by word of mouth, through their church youth groups, or by creating simple flyers to give other students with details of the event on them.
Some groups have been more aggressive about informing newspapers, secular or religious radio stations, and community churches about the event. See a sample Media Alert.
The amount of publicity that your group is permitted to do on campus may be limited by your group's status as a club and the permission of the administration. For example, the federal Equal Access Act requires that all sanctioned clubs receive equal access to hang posters, make announcements, or use other means to publicize their events. If See You at the Pole™ is an official activity of a sanctioned club, for example, you should therefore be allowed to publicize it in the same way as a ski club could promote a ski trip or club meeting.
If See You at the Pole™ is being organized "informally" by students who just want to pray, however, the administration may limit your access to word of mouth or off-campus promotion.
If you feel your rights to free access are being unfairly restricted, you may want to contact a public interest legal group who can help you sort this out. (Many of these legal resources have offered their services free of charge.)
See You at the Pole™ artwork and logos can be downloaded from "Stuff for Free" section of store on this web site as materials become available. This material is copyrighted but may be used for noncommercial publicity if not for sale and if it is not altered except for size. If you have questions about your use of this material, please contact us at the See You at the Pole™ Resource Office in Texas at (817) 447-6900.
Please note that there is quite a bit of information posted in the Press section of See You at the Pole™ web site, including a Media Alert and high-resolution photos and stories from last year's event. Whether you are writing for a school paper or daily newspaper, please contact Doug Clark via email at dclark (at) nnym.org or phone 858-395-6451. He would be glad to assist you in finding local contacts, those who may have participated before or are planning to be involved this year, and other information.
Radio stations can also get Public Service Announcements via download or by faxing a request on station letterhead to 817- 295-6500. Doug can also assist you by providing on-air interviews or finding contacts in your community to do so.
Many students feel the same way. Reports come to us of the delight in discovering "there are many at my school who love God the way I do!" This has prompted them to initiate prayer times for their campus every day, weekly, monthly, and on other special occasions such as the National Day of Prayer (the first Thursday in May). Young people have started Christian clubs, Bible studies, or found other ways to function as the body of Christ at their school.
If you are interested in exploring additional steps, resources are available from your church, denomination, ministry or by visiting the Campus Alliance.
We encourage you to turn in a report about your See You at the Pole™ gathering via the Internet. These stories may be shared with others in one of our See You at the Pole™ National Reports after the event, as well as other publications. We also appreciate receiving pictures and video of your gathering.
Churches throughout the nation are seeking to support Christian students as they step up up to be leaders at their schools. There are a number of prayer strategies churches are using to support teenagers.
Many churches set aside the weekend before See You at the Pole™ to identify and pray for Christian teachers and students in their worship services. Some call this "Campus Challenge Sunday." Visit Pray for Schools for more information..
Many adults have "prayed ahead" by participating in Campus Prayer Journeys, meeting to walk and pray at "every elementary, secondary, and collegiate campus in the United States and Canada" on the night before See You at the Pole™.
You can go on "prayer drives" in your city, praying for schools as you drive past them. Alternatively, you can pray for schools as you drive past them during your daily routine.
Moms in Prayer is an international ministry of mothers meeting an hour a week to pray for the schools their children attend.
There is nothing more important to the people and ministries supporting See You at the Pole™ than to be obedient to God's will and consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
Of the few comments of concern about public prayer and See You at the Pole™ we have received, most focus on the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6, quoting Jesus Christ:
 "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Some have said of this passage, "Jesus is saying here that prayer should be a private matter between God and the one praying." We would respectfully disagree that this is the concern of what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 6.
Jesus clearly seems to say that the MOTIVE of those He condemns in this passage is "that they may be seen of men." One should be extremely cautious about judging the motives of teenagers who pray at See You at the Pole™ is "for show," even though it is in public. To the contrary, one of the stories from a past year was this eyewitness account of a young girl in Massachusetts:
At an elementary school near Boston, a little girl was at her school's flagpole all by herself. After some time, her principal went out to where she was and asked her, "What are you doing?"The girl replied, "I'm here for meet me at the pole.""But there's no one else here, " the principal pointed out."Oh, no," the girl protested, "I'm here to meet God."
The young girl "got it"! Her testimony was that she was praying to meet with God, not "to be seen of men." And yet her prayer was public.
It should be pointed out that any public prayer runs the risk of being "for show" or a "display of righteousness" that falls within the condemnation of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus Himself prayed in public. So did the Apostle Paul and others. Any student of God's Word could cite specific references. A careful review of the Scripture would not lead one to the conclusion that public prayer in and of itself is unbiblical. Would anyone condemn Rick Warren for leading prayer at the inauguration of a president? Or the chaplain of the Senate for opening a session in prayer, even though it may be broadcast on C-SPAN?
In the words and context of what Jesus said, does it not seem clear that he is condemning an attitude of the HEART, not prayer in public as a whole?
We would be the first to echo that condemnation. We don't believe God would be at all pleased if someone prayed with a proud heart. We encourage all those who participate in See You at the Pole™ to do so in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13b).
We also believe God does not want See You at the Pole™ to end with a one-day event, but to be used as a springboard for students to unite together to bless and pray for their school. For more information, please read the answer above to "We don't want this to end! What can we do after See You at the Pole™?"
Prior to 1998, there was not a specific theme verse or theme. However, Joshua 6:16, "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!" was emphasized encouraging students to shout to the Lord in prayer for victory of the negative influences on their campuses. The verses and themes beginning with 1998 have been:
1998—For Such a Time as This
And who now but you have come to royal position for such a time as this?Esther 4:14b
1999—We Bow Down
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from who his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14–21
2000—A Generation Seeking God
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Psalm 24:3–6
2001—Desperate for God
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
2002—Burst. Quake. Tremble.
Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As the fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! Isaiah 64:1–2 *
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and they said, "The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God." 1 Kings 18:38–39
2004—call 2 me
"Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3 #
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Psalm 24:3–4
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
2007—gather. unite. pray. come together
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20–24
2008—Speak for Your Servant is Listening!
"Speak for your servant is listening!" 1 Samuel 3:10
2009—engage "Go and pray . . ."
2 Kings 22:13a
"Our Father in Heaven, reveal Who You are." Matthew 6:9–132011—converge
"Wherever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you." Matthew 18:20 †
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father . . ." Ephesians 3:14–16%
"If we pray, seek, turn; then God hears, forgives, heals." 2 Chronicles 7:14
2014—Never Stop Praying
“Never stop praying, especially for others.” Ephesians 6:18†
“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer.” Acts 1:14‡
2016—We Cry Out
A generation seeking Him! Psalms 24:3-6‡
2017—Fix Our Eyes
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus! Hebrews 12:2
"I fall on my knees before the Father." Ephesians 3:142019—If ...
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
2020—Return Restore Revive
"Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses." 2 Kings 23:25
"Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet." James 4:10
"Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive . . . pray!" Romans 12:11-12
All verses NIV unless noted. *New Living Translation. #New American Standard Bible. †Contemporary English Version. %King James Version ‡New Living Translation.