By Jeff Keaton – Founder, CEO & President of Renewanation
What would your church and pastor do if the superintendent of your local public school district walked in and said, “We want to turn the leadership of our public schools over to your church. You can teach anything you think is necessary to provide children a quality education. By the way, the government will fully fund the schools.” How would your church leadership team respond? You may be thinking that will never happen, but in some places in America, it is essentially happening.
A headmaster of a Christian school in Florida approached me with a real dilemma. The school he leads was once a safe, Christian school primarily servicing churched kids. In some distress, he described his school as a now thriving inner-city school with more than enough funds to operate but with very few children from Christian homes. In essence, he said they have almost become a “public school,” but they are allowed to teach biblical truth every day.
He went on to tell me that his school had changed as a direct result of the Florida scholarship tax credit program. This program allows businesses to give part of their taxes to scholarship programs that fund student scholarships to private schools. In Florida alone, close to 70,000 students now attend Christian schools as a result of these scholarships!
After listening to this headmaster’s story, I looked at him and said, “Your mission has just changed.” I advised him that the new mission of his school was to evangelize and disciple his students and their parents. I challenged him to embrace this phenomenal opportunity God had opened up. I then asked him the question I posed to you at the opening of this article: “What would your church have done if the district superintendent offered control of your local public schools?” I then expressed to him that is basically what has happened at his school, and they must not miss this amazing opportunity.
Since I meet so many pastors and church leaders who seem to believe that K-12 education is not a part of their church’s mission, let me ask this question. Is discipling children a part of the mission of the church? The obvious answer is an emphatic yes! On this, we can all agree. However, too many churches are locked into old thinking that says we must keep a divide between the church and K-12 weekday education. Let me remind you that the church has children for only a fraction of the time a school has them each week. However, when a child attends a school that teaches from a biblical perspective, the church essentially has the child all week.
Recently, I came across an author I was unfamiliar with. Rod Dreher recently published a book entitled The Benedict Model. As best I can tell, Rod is heavily influenced by the Catholic tradition but makes a tremendous argument for the church’s involvement in K-12 education. Rod says, “The future of Christianity in the post-Christian West hangs in the balance. If the faith is going to survive within churches and communities, then Christians are going to have to become far more serious and intentional about education.” 1 He quotes Professor Michael Hanby’s statement that “education has to be at the core of Christian survival—as it always was.”
Rod continues, “For serious Christian parents, education cannot be simply a matter of building their child’s transcript to boost her chance of making it into the Ivy League. If this is the model your family follows (perhaps with a sprinkle of God on top for seasoning), you will be hard pressed to form counter-cultural Christian adults capable of resisting the disorders of our time.”
He adds, “To compartmentalize education, separating it from the life of the church, is to create a false distinction. Building schools that can educate properly will require churches, parents, peer groups, and fellow traveler Christians to work together. It will be costly, but it will be worth it.”
Thankfully, we see pockets of awakening as we travel the country. Pastors and church leaders who were once strongly against investing in K-12 schools are starting to see the impact they can have on a child’s life through weekday education. They are beginning to realize that weekday Christian education provides the greatest opportunity, outside of the home, to win the hearts and minds of children.
I recently spoke in Baton Rouge, LA and was blessed to meet the pastor of a booming mega-church who has caught the vision for Christian education. After 14 public school teachers approached him and asked if they could start a Christian school, he began to get serious about education. He agreed to help them, and only three years later, they will soon have more than 1,000 students developing a biblical worldview through their schools.
If we are going to save our current and future generations, there must be a paradigm shift in the church. We must make the salvation and discipleship of our children our highest and greatest goal. We can no longer afford to send our children to non-Christian schools and expect to produce young men and women who embrace a biblical worldview. We lost the vast majority of millennials to secularism, and we simply cannot afford to continue “business as usual” if we hope to save this generation.
God has raised up Renewanation to awaken the church to the importance of giving children a biblical worldview. We refuse to accept as normal the loss of 65-80% of our evangelical children. If God has stirred your heart to get involved in the work of rescuing our children from the lies of secularism, please contact us and let us know how we can be of service to you.
Jeff Keaton has been a successful pastor, church and school planter, and ministry entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of Renewanation, Jeff now works across the United States and Canada to help awaken the church to the great need to give every child a biblical worldview. Jeff is married to his high school sweetheart, Michele, and has two daughters and a son-in-law: Julianna, Andrew, and Heidi. He is the author of The Life of Radical Faith. Visit his website at jeffkeaton.net.
This article originally appeared in The Renewanation Review® magazine. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here by permission of Renewanation. For more information regarding Renewanation, visit renewanation.org.
1. Rod Dreher, “Rod Dreher: A strategy for Christians in a post-Christian world,” FoxNews.com, last modified March 13, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/13/rod-dreher-wake-up-call-for-christians-before-coming-dark-age.html.