As a pastor I often have the opportunity to sit and discuss marriage issues with couples. Many times I sit with two wonderful and talented people with a long history who have duplicated themselves in a couple of children. Despite having much in common and many reasons to stay together, too often the challenges they are facing lead them to consider divorce. Many times those who have the greatest reason to stay in relationship, do not.
I have also been perplexed at another “marriage made in heaven” that is not working out very well: the local church and the local Christian school. They have a long history together. Throughout the course of church history, it was the local church supporting parents who would provide Christ- centered education for their children. About 40 years ago a boom in Christian education took place as local churches began to start Christian schools. The fruit of this effort has been very significant as millions of students were given a biblical worldview through these schools.
However, today it seems that the local church is not nearly as interested in being a part of week-day Christian education. Although we have our weekly bible story/snack-time which lasts for an hour or so, in many cases the church has sought for and been granted a divorce from week-day discipleship of children.
As a pastor, I am aware of some of the reasons why we stay away from week-day education.
It is easier to allow the public schools to educate our children.
This cost us nothing. The facilities are adequate. The extra- curricular activities are plentiful, and it seemingly allows us to focus on our local church ministries. Furthermore, it has become mainstream in the church to be in a committed relationship with the public school. This relationship with the public school creates another challenge for us as pastors.
Our parishioners are often involved in the public school.
Here is the dilemma. Many of our parishioners are teachers, principals, superintendents or parents in the local public school. Although many of these are serious Christians who are being used by God to hold back the decay and shine the light of Christ in a dark place, they often feel threatened when we speak in favor of or try to support Christian education. Regrettably, the sensitivity of this issue causes many pastors to stay away from week-day Christian education.
We don’t know where to start.
For many it is easy to remain uninvolved in Christian education simply because we have no idea how to get involved with it. We don’t have the facilities to start a school. The kids in our church seem happy in public school and the only Christian school is run by another church. Sadly, it is not usually the practice of most churches to support another church’s ministry.
For these reasons and many more, we stay uninvolved. We keep to ourselves and hope that the hundreds of children for whom we are spiritually responsible catch God’s view of this world and develop a personal relationship with him through a bible story, a sermon, a song or a summer camp. Statistics tell us we are failing.
I have lived these realities in my personal life and have dealt with these complex situations in the churches I have pastored. I am writing today to encourage pastors to once again court the long lost companion of the Church: weekday Christian worldview education.
You may be thinking, but where do I begin?
It begins when we understand our responsibility to disciple children.
Second only to parents, the local church bears the responsibility for providing a strong biblical foundation for children. When we see it as our responsibility to insure that the children in our ministry love and know God it will change our view of week-day education.
We must understand the power of week-day education.
An average church-going child spends approximately 104 hours a year at church and 1,400 hours in school. There’s no question which of these will have the most influence in our child’s life. Our children’s week-day education should complement not contradict our efforts of discipleship on Sunday. There are many ways to get involved and strengthen the local efforts in our communities for week-day Christian education.
We can provide resources for local Christian schools.
Include it in your education budget. Scholarship a child from your church. Support and strengthen the homeschoolers in your church. Encourage your people to serve or volunteer. Speak of it often and positively from the pulpit. Open your facilities for programs or athletics.
Most of us cannot start a school, but we can help an existing school become a place where we can send the children of our church.
Start a school.
In some places the need, opportunity, and call of God is to start a new Christian school. Although an arduous task, the rewards are eternal and the benefits are immeasurable.
The benefits for pastors and churches to have a strong relationship with Christian schools are mutually fulfilling. It expands our ability to disciple the children and families of our church, impacting parents as well as children. It provides opportunities for ministry and service. It helps create a sense of community amongst believers. It unites churches and enables us to fulfill the Great Commission.
My advice for this fractured relationship is similar to the advice I would give to that couple sitting in my office. Sure you’ve had problems, but God has put you together. He has the grace to restore this relationship. And before you make the decision to divorce, consider your children.
Troy Keaton has been a successful pastor and leader for more than 20 years. Troy planted EastLake Community Church in 2006 in Moneta, Virginia and now leads a vibrant congrega- tion of more than 400 people. He lives in Hardy, VA with his lovely wife, Janel and their two boys. He is a recent father-of-the- bride and has another daughter in college.
This article originally appeared in The RENEWANATION Review, Volume 6 Issue 1. If you would like to become a member and receive a print edition of the magazine, please click here. If you would like to learn about other ways you can get involved, please click here.