Question: "What is See You at the Pole (SYATP)?"
Answer: See You at the Pole (SYATP) is an annual event in which Christian students gather for prayer at their school’s flagpole to pray for their families, friends, churches, and communities. See You at the Pole is typically held on the fourth Wednesday of September, before or after school hours. Pastors, parents, or other adults may lend support to the students’ efforts; however, the SYATP organization discourages adults from taking leadership. The goal is for See You at the Pole to be a 100 percent student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led event. Legally, schools in America may neither encourage nor discourage students’ participation in SYATP. Local churches and youth ministries sometimes hold a follow-up “SYATP Rally” (often called “Saw You at the Pole” or “See You After the Pole”) that evening; those rallies might include worship music, speakers, dramas, and prayer-focused elements.
See You at the Pole grew from the initiative of a youth group in Texas in early 1990. During a ministry retreat, the teens were led to pray at and for several local schools. They shared the story of their profound experience at a youth conference that summer, impacting thousands of other students. In September 1990, more than 56,000 teens on 1,200 campuses participated in the first See You at the Pole event. The movement has continued to grow and is now an international event, taking place in many countries around the world.
Christian opponents of See You at the Pole often cite Matthew 6:5–6 as an argument against public prayer. In this passage, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Upon the face of it, this would seem a fair argument; however, the context of Matthew 6 suggests that Jesus is teaching about the attitude and motivation behind righteous acts such as helping the needy, prayer, and fasting. If one does such things for prideful recognition, then the acts are rendered useless in the eyes of God (Matthew 6:1b). See You at the Pole events are not intended to be a show of piety but to encourage unity and provide a central, easily accessible place for Christian students to gather for prayer.
Some American opponents of See You at the Pole claim that the event is unconstitutional. According to the United States Department of Education’s guidelines for “appropriate religious expression on school grounds,” student-organized religious events are a Constitutionally protected form of free speech. While SYATP is legal in the U.S., the organization recommends for students to move their prayer gathering off campus if they are approached by school administrators/authorities and asked to leave, because “See You at the Pole is about praying, not arguing about your legal rights” (www.syatp.com).
The decision of whether or not to participate in See You at the Pole is between each student and God. No matter if the student attends public school, private school, charter school, or homeschool, he or she can choose to gather with other believers to pray on SYATP day or any other day. Meeting other Christians at school can help students encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and inspire each other to love more and give more to their community (Hebrews 10:24). Corporate prayer is a biblical practice (Matthew 18:19–20; Acts 2:42) and can be extremely helpful in connecting like-minded Christian students of varying grade levels. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, and when believers are unified in worship and prayer, no matter when or where, their faith will be edified (John 17:22–23).