How important is Christian education for our children? For my parents, it was incredibly important. When I started kindergarten, my parents enrolled me in one of only two Christian schools in the entire area. Fortunately, that school was close to home and affordable. Unfortunately, it had a host of problems which forced it to close when I was beginning the third grade. There was a public school one block from our house, but my parents chose to enroll us in the only other Christian school available, 18 miles across town.
Our only way to get to school was public transportation. It took nearly two hours of riding and waiting for the next bus to travel clear across town, meaning that we had to be at the bus stop before daylight during the winter months. My mother spent the majority of her morning, five days each week, taking us to school and then getting us back home.
I look back now on her dedication and marvel at how passionately she believed in Christian education. I heard her philosophy over and over across the years. She would say, “I only get one chance to raise you boys and I don’t intend to take five of the best hours of the day and put you in the hands of someone who does not live by Christian values. I am not going to surround you with classmates who make fun of what you believe and try to get you to do what we believe is wrong.” She continued, “You boys are the only thing in this world I can take to heaven with me and I intend to take you!”
In those days, not many people saw the need of Christian education as clearly as my parents did, but as time went on, that changed drastically. Edicts from the Supreme Court banned the Bible and prayer from public schools and soon Christian schools were opening everywhere. Those early days were passionate! There were rallies and speeches ? there were even arrests and lawsuits ? but eventually the courts of our land verified the right of Christian parents to educate their children according to the dictates of their conscience.
Across the years however, the many challenges of operating Christian Schools seems to have worn us down and our passionate commitment to Christian education has cooled significantly. Now, instead of everyone having a Christian School or planning to start one, schools are quietly closing everywhere. Every single year when our Student Recruiter is preparing for his annual school visits, I hear the same mantra – this school has closed, that one plans to close next year, and several others are so small they don’t know how much longer they can continue to operate.
I am very, very concerned about this trend because the decisions we are making today will profoundly affect us for years to come. Here are four principles I believe will help to guide us in making right decisions for ourselves and for our families.
PRINCIPLE #1 – Education Is A Personal Responsibility
As parents, we have been instructed by God to train our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Childhood is a time of prodigious growth, development, and learning. The human brain is specifically designed by God to receive and accommodate massive amounts of information during this period. A child learns more in the first 12 years of his life than he learns in all the rest of his lifetime put together. That makes education incredibly important.
PRINCIPLE #2 – Children Are Incredibly Valuable
Your children are more valuable than anything else in your life! That is not just my opinion, God tells us that children are a treasure from the Lord (Psalms 127:3). When we leave this world through the narrow door of death, we will leave behind everything we possess, except our children. We can take them to heaven with us.
Because our children are so valuable, we all want them to succeed, excel, and reach their full potential. It is important at this point, however, to realize that from God’s perspective, the only true success is spiritual success. He said if we could gain this whole world but lose our soul, we have lost everything (Matthew 16:26). God will not be impressed with any list of accomplishments that does not include a strong, clear relationship with him. Your child’s faith is more important than ANY prestigious school or ANY career!
PRINCIPLE #3 – Associations Are Very Important
A wise man once said – you will eventually become like the people you make your friends and those with whom you choose to associate. Long before he imparted that wisdom, Scripture warned us not to learn the ways of the heathen (Jeremiah 10:2), and to have no fellowship with the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
Everything about our culture exerts enormous pressure upon all of us to think like the world thinks. God, on the other hand, specifically challenges us to think like he thinks (Philippians 2:5) and not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). When a child or young person is placed in an environment which is literally saturated with the thinking, philosophy, and values of this world for five to six of the best hours of every day, we should not be surprised when they learn to think just like the world thinks! The daily associations your child or young person has will powerfully impact the person they become!
PRINCIPLE #4 – Excellence Glorifies God
Dr. Steve Herron, the founder of Hobe Sound Bible College, was a very wise and godly man. One of his favorite sayings was: “Holy shoddy is still shoddy!” Unfortunately, some people who have realized their responsibility and understand the value of their children have not followed through with the structure, discipline, and accountability necessary to fulfill their responsibility with excellence. To be honest, the reason some schools have been forced to close is that they were so carelessly run that no one wanted to send their children there. Homeschooling has sometimes received a “black eye” because some parents were so careless that they raised children who were functionally illiterate.
Happily that does not need to be the case. There are still many outstanding Christian schools and many homeschool families who are still doing a wonderful job of training their children. Thanks to organizations like RENEWANATION, there is a vast array of material and services available to assist both traditional schools and homeschools in their educational endeavors. There are accountability programs which will measure the success of our efforts, highlight areas which need to be strengthened, and direct us to resources which will help strengthen those weak points. In short, “Holy” does not need to be shoddy and “Holy excellence” brings glory to God!
By P. Daniel Stetler