I am sure you have been or will be confronted at some point in your ministry with a parent who will ask, “Pastor, how should I educate my children?” Will you respond with advice from your past? Will you avoid conflict by simply pointing them to the school down the street? It is my hope that you will direct each and every one to God’s Word and remind parents that this discussion is quite possibly the most significant choice they will make for their children.
As a Christian parent we are to lead our children to the Lord and guide them as they transition into adulthood. As one considers Deuteronomy 6, we are presented with one central goal; when that child receives a diploma and leaves home, we should make sure we have done everything possible in order to help that child understand and fully embrace Christ and a Christian worldview. I believe this is the task to which the Lord calls each parent. Through this lens, we are left with one conclusion that we must all realize: Whether our child attends a public school, a Christian school, or is homeschooled we should realize that, ultimately, every dad and mom is a homeschooling teacher! The primary educational institution for your child to be “schooled” is in the home. How will you respond to your biblical mandate?
So the key question becomes: With whom will we partner? Perhaps your responses to these seven questions will help you discern how best to educate your sons or daughters:
1. Doesn’t God expect Christian children to attend public school where He wants them to witness to unsaved classmates?
A frequently used analogy is the comparison of training troops for war, an apt one in light of the Apostle Paul’s admonition to prepare ourselves for battle. What if the United States would gather its best eighteen-year-olds together and send them to Russia to be trained for four years in the very best military schools in that nation? Could we then confidently commission them four years later to be U. S. Marines, soldiers who are ready to fight and die in accordance with their training? We need to consider if the public schools around us are places that will reinforce or take away from the worldview and values you desire to see taught to your children. You should monitor this from year-to-year if you choose to place your child in a public school. Guarding the hearts and minds of your children is more important than placing your children in the right school.
2. If we focus on the training of our children and decide to remove them from secular schools, are we not abandoning the unsaved children left behind?
Absolutely not! We must approach this arena as we do any mission field. Certainly there are Christian teachers who have a special call to teach in public schools. I would encourage churches to hire a youth leader who has as his number one responsibility the outreach into secular schools. Many churches are involved with successful after-school tutoring programs. Special occasions should be set aside for the commissioning of all those who serve Christ in this way. Christians must not abandon public schools! But I will not give them my children! God has entrusted them to me.
3. Aren’t Christians removing their children from reality?
God’s truth and His instruction found in the Bible are the realities Christians must pursue. Anything that opposes these is deception. Our children must grow in an environment that presents a Christian worldview of God’s one and only reality.
4. Aren’t Christian schools like “hot houses,” sheltering kids from harsh or unpleasant experiences?
Many Christian school leaders simply point to the strong advantages of a special plant raised in the nurturing environment of a greenhouse. Such a setting does not shelter kids but provides the much-needed opportunity for the development of a strong, unshakable root system to be established so that once the plant is placed in a hostile setting, it will be healthy enough to survive.
5. Will my child have the opportunity to know and witness to non-Christians?
This can be approached in a number of ways. First, few Christian schools would claim that every one of their students are saved. Most will admit students who are unsaved or unchurched as long as they have a positive attitude. Beyond the interaction they have with their classmates, students have weekly opportunities to witness to others their own age at school athletic events with other schools, at church-sponsored events, at community recreational activities, as well as to kids in their own neighborhoods.
6. If public school was good enough for past generations, why is it not acceptable today?
This is perhaps at the core of most people’s objections and easily the most volatile. Many parents and church leaders today look back to their high-school days with rich nostalgia. My strong urging to every adult who has been gone longer than five years is to go back and investigate for himself/herself. Make sure your public school still allows for children of faith to live and express their faith. Make sure they are antagonistic or have an agenda to lure children away from their faith and into the newly accepted norms of society.
7. Aren’t some Christian teenagers successful in public school?
Without a doubt. I am reminded of Daniel and his three friends standing firm in the face of opposition in a hostile land. These young men were ready for the challenges to their faith. In much the same way Esther was confronted with the challenge of standing against a culture that opposed her Lord. My response is, “If your child is a Daniel or an Esther, then he or she may be ready if he or she believes God is leading that way.”
As we respond to the question “Pastor, how should I educate my children?” we must exhort every parent to take seriously the biblical mandate to be a homeschool teacher. We must challenge the parents of young children to start their training with a godly foundation. As they select who will partner with them, we must warn parents not to allow their children, their heritage, to be taken captive. Will you fight for your children while you train them to be warriors for Christ?