In our society parents are expected to consider so many important factors when choosing a school for their children.
Location and transport are obvious ones. Are there opportunities for sport, or creative expression in drama, music, art. Can a school be too big or too small? What are the class sizes, teacher qualifications, facilities and use of technology? Is there a caring atmosphere? What are the costs including uniforms, camps and excursions? Are there enough electives? Will my child do well enough academically for university and career choices? Will they make good friends?
These are all important considerations. Yet the founders of many Christian schools felt these were not the most important factors. They opened their Bibles…
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
Letting their children be conformed to this society’s patterns of life through school was not something these parents wanted. They understood the powerful role schools have. Schools help children decide what is and is not important. At home these parents taught their children their beliefs, values, and how they saw the world around them. Yet this was on occasions being undermined in the classrooms.
Most of all Christian parents were concerned they were not fulfilling their responsibility to raise their children. Instead they were entrusting their children into the care of people who saw life and the world very differently.
The founders chose to create new communities of partnership between parents and Christian teachers. They desired a partnership where Jesus Christ, God, and the Bible, as well as their own role as parents, would be honoured.
They wanted their children to both recognise and discover God in every aspect of life. Christianity for them was not something limited to Sundays, the home or church. It impacted every area of their life.
When asked “why have Christian schools” the simple answer was, and still is, we want our children to be taught the truth. Apostle John said of his spiritual children,”I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4 ?
What do Christian Schools see as the purpose of education?
School is an accepted, in fact expected, part of our modern society. We assume it is a good thing. Access to education is now seen as a right not a privilege. Before choosing a school, Christian parents should take a step back and ask a more important question – “what is the purpose of education?”
For many parents the often unstated goal of a school education is to prepare their child for a career. Going to university is often seen as the doorway to this. The purpose of education can then become simply the creating of future employees and employers. Believing this some parents may adopt a consumer mentality in choosing a school. They shop around for the best value based on the school’s academic reputation on providing access to university. The Bible has a radically different purpose for life than is taught in most schools.
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10
In light of this the purpose of education could be to help children understand their God given gifts and abilities so as to serve Him and others in society.
An education which denies God, or seeks to diminish His importance misses this “chief aim”. Instead it often focuses on the personal success of the individual. The definition of success is often vague. For some success is defined by what we have attained to or acquired. One of God’s definitions of success is found in Matthew 25:23. Here Jesus says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!” when speaking of a man who wisely used the talents God had given him.
What is it we really want for our children as a result of their years of education? Is it to be happy, have friends, a job and to travel? The most common desire for Christian parents is that their children will make good choices in life. To choose satisfying work, good friends, to share, to treat others like they wish to be treated. Ultimately it is to choose to follow Jesus and serve God and others with their gifts and abilities. A child’s education is more than imparting knowledge. It is to impart wisdom to make wise choices in life.
“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” Deuteronomy 30:19
In James 3 the Bible contrasts two types of wisdom. One is earthly wisdom which is described as unspiritual and demonic. The other is wisdom from above, which is described as …pure; then peace-loving, gentle, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:15-17)
A Christian school is by no means perfect, but is seeking to impart a godly wisdom for life. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) The foundation upon which an educational system is based is therefore important.
As parents we need to be confident our children will receive in school a wisdom which is worth having and that lines up with the Word of God.
The Role of Parents
Who is responsible for your children?
Christian schooling is often seen as a contentious issue among Christians. Yet most would agree the Bible teaches that parents are responsible for raising and educating their children.
Whether Christian parents choose home schooling, secular, private or Christian schools this responsibility remains. The Bible says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
The Barna Group* reported that 85% of parents do believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters. Yet few spend any time interacting with their children on spiritual matters. Most expect t heir church to do it.
In many ways parents are like spiritual shepherds to their own children. Like a shepherd, parents care for, lead and protect their children. How we choose to raise our children, and who we engage to help us, provides an example for our children to follow.
When parents enlist the help of others to assist them, be they teachers, sport coaches, Sunday School teachers or even piano instructors they don’t lose their responsibility. It is ultimately up to parents to decide who will be their child’s teacher.
It is unreasonable to expect teachers in secular, or even many private schools, to teach our children biblical truth. Even Christian teachers may be discouraged or prevented from doing so in these classrooms. Religious belief is treated as being separate to the rest of life.
Christian schools are not a way to escape from other education systems, nor take over the task of home or church. Christian schools are an expression of Christian parents attempting to fulfil their responsibility to raise and train their children in a godly manner. They do this by co-operating with, or teaming up with, other like minded parents.
Christian schools help parents to train the next generation to understand the real world as God designed it. Their hope is that children will discover their place in God’s great story, learn how to serve others and be better prepared for life. In Christian schools parents can do together what they feel they cannot do alone. They remain active and willing participants rather than merely consumers of an educational service.
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;” Deuteronomy 4:9
Teachers and Their Influence
The Importance of Christian Teachers
Who is influencing your child? A child’s early years lay a spiritual foundation for life. In our modern society many things will influence your child. The Barna Group study found parents were still the major influencers of children. This position was however now being shared with media and laws.
School came in at the second level. The 1,200 hours spent each year in school over roughly 12 years are seen as very influential.
Christians may be surprised that church was further down the list. The 100 hours or so a year in church can be very significant, yet other influences are seen as greater. Your child’s teachers will have a significant influence.
Jesus said, “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” Luke 6:40
Teachers are significant role models. Your child will imitate, or become like, their teachers. As parents it is important we help ensure our children have suitable role models. The Apostle Paul himself encourages us to “follow me as I am also of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
In selecting a school parents are choosing who they will partner with for the education of their child. Education is more than gaining knowledge about the world around us. It is learning how to respond to and live out that knowledge. Different teachers do have very different understandings of what is important in life. The Apostle Paul highlights the foundational differences between Christians and non-Christians when he asks the question, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
Paul urges Christians to not “be yoked” together with unbelievers. He urges us to still be in the world yet to avoid situations where we are obliged to follow, or adopt the values of unbelievers. Non-Christian teachers can be dedicated and passionate yet they cannot lead our children into biblical truth about our world and their place in it. Jesus also points out the obvious: Can a blind man lead a blind man? Won’t they both fall into a pit? Luke 6:38
In Christian schools parents, teachers and church members can work together to positively influence children. Other parents in the Christian school community will generally share a similar view of the world. They will become additional role models to your children. This sense of community and common values can make the role of parenting much easier. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Choosing a school which employs practicing Christians as teachers gives parents a greater say in who will be a role model for their children. Christian teachers are not perfect. Nor do they have all the answers. Yet they are part of a wider Christian community working together with, and on behalf of, parents.
The Question of Salt & Light
Shouldn’t children be salt and light in the community?
One of the most common concerns raised by Christian parents is that removing children out of secular schools would make them less effective witnesses in the wider community. They ask how can children be salt and light in the world if they are in a Christian school? Let us look at the scriptures for answers.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matthew 5:13 Jesus described us as salt. We are to preserve, flavour, enhance and have an impact on our society. Yet in the same scripture Jesus explains salt can lose its saltiness. Our salty influence in society can be diminished. If this occurs we are described as “good for nothing”.
As Christians our role is to reform the world around us by winning souls to Christ and discipling them to live for Christ. We are called to be in the world but not of it. Being salt and light is a lifelong calling.
A significant role of school is helping prepare children for all of life. The 12 or so years spent at school is relatively short when compared with an average life span.
The thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and outlook on life formed during school years can last a lifetime. The vision of Christian schools is not separation from non Christians. Rather it is about preparation to live life in such a way as to be salt and light wherever and whatever children choose to do.
As parents a more significant question we must ask ourselves is whether it is healthy to use our children as a means of creating evangelistic opportunities for us. Deliberately immersing a child into an educational culture which denies the existence of God and Jesus’ central role in history should not be treated lightly.
We will all have to give God an account of what we did in our lives. For parents this will naturally include how we raised our children. Jesus had this warning regarding our treatment of children
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” Mark 9:42
Parents need to understand that putting their children under the daily influence of teachers who have a fundamentally different way of seeing life can influence them for life. Fortunately families who choose a Christian school are still part of the wider society. They can still make friends and influence others whether through sport, child activities, neighbours or a variety of other ways.
In the Bible children are seen as a blessing. We have one opportunity to raise our children. These years will pass quickly. Christian Schools can help parents in their role.
Isn’t Education Neutral
Every education curriculum is based on a belief system
What we believe about education is important. A common belief is that education is neutral. How to read, write or calculate doesn’t immediately appear to require any beliefs, a sense of right or wrong or impact upon how we relate to others.
Over time the emphasis of education changes. Certain subjects are considered more valuable than others. Deciding whether music is more important than art, drama, science or languages will determine how much time and resources are allocated to it.
Every education curriculum is based on a belief system. We seek to educate others about what we believe is most important for life. In the same way by not teaching some things we are implying these are not important. As society’s beliefs change so do the subjects being offered.
Education is the product of the beliefs of those who have written the current curriculum as well as those delivering it. The beliefs expressed in a secular school may initially appear tolerant and accepting of all ideas. In practice however they actively diminish or deny God’s role and plan in history, the present and the future.
The teaching of values and ethics isn’t limited to Christian schools. Values are learnt predominantly in families. All schools teach and demonstrate values and ethics. These values are our beliefs, our codes of conduct, our standards of right and wrong.
Secular schools claim to teach the values that are considered the basis of our laws and customs and how we treat others in our society. As parents the important question to ask is what are these values now based on. Are values decided by the majority? Are there any absolutes? Are values subjective and changing over time? Who determines what is important and what is not?
If a biblical worldview is not deliberately integrated into education then a humanistic foundation is usually laid. In humanism man, rather than God, is considered to be of primary importance. Where a school’s basis for values and ethics is inconsistent with those being taught at home conflict can arise. In contrast where teachers and parents share the same values, rather than undermining each another, they can provide a greater consistency for a child.
What a teacher believes is often considered irrelevant to what they do in the classroom. This stems from a belief that the teacher and the subject are separate and the knowledge they impart is neutral. However much of education is relational. A teacher’s beliefs will influence and shape how and what they choose to teach in a classroom – even within a set curriculum. The Bible urges us, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do is a very broad statement. It includes education. What a Christian teacher does – in whatever subject – can give glory to God. Likewise whatever subjects a child may study, or careers they choose they can also give glory to God in it. This attaches a significant value, or meaning, to all of life’s activities. It is no longer neutral. If God is interested in all of life then a Christian education requires a biblical point of view through the whole curriculum. Merely adding a few courses in religion, or a Bible study or chapel services, does not make a school Christian.
Is This the Real World
Do Christian schools remove children from the real world?
Some parents feel Christian schools place children in an artificial hothouse. They claim children are not well prepared to live in a society where most people are non-Christian.
The Bible says of Jesus, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Colossians 1:16-17
We believe life is not an accident or coincidence. As Christians we understand we are created in God’s image. Any education system which ignores God and Jesus also denies the Bible’s claims of reality. In its place another view of reality is presented.
Christian parents partnering with Christian teachers can help children discover and understand the truth about the world around them. Rather than removing children from the real world Christian schools help them see it clearly. The very first sentence of the Bible is “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
That God is the Creator is a basic belief for Christians. What we believe about God, Jesus Christ and the origins of life do influence how we act on a daily basis. These beliefs will also have a dramatic impact on how a school conducts itself. The beliefs of school leaders determine what priorities are set, what is important and therefore what should be measured and reported on.
Secular education believes history and the world around us can be understood without reference to God or the Bible. By leaving these out curriculums don’t become neutral but essentially anti-God.
Families are the first place children learn about the world around them. Schools then help children understand more about the world. In the early years families and schools can be likened to providing a hothouse environment for children. Consider the purpose of a hothouse or glass house. It is to nurture plants while they are young. A hothouse provides an environment where the conditions, watering and nutrition can be better managed. The hothouse is designed to grow healthier plants faster. When removed from the hothouse these plants are better able to thrive in all environments.
In the home parents can help control what is taught, how much and by whom. The home and family life gives a child a framework of reality. Parents naturally want to protect, nurture, feed and strengthen their children. Over time parents expose their children to more age appropriate ideas and experiences. In the same way Christian schools seek to work with parents as an extension of the family home. Rather than providing a different, or even inconsistent, environment Christian schools aim to reinforce what is taught at home. It is up to parents to decide which hothouse environment they desire for their children outside of the home. Do we believe this is God’s world? If so a supportive hothouse environment where God and Jesus Christ are seen as relevant to daily life can help prepare a child for the realities of life
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:15
Counting the Cost
Why pay for education?
Education for every child is a modern concept. We now think of it as a right. Yet the provision and funding of education is debated around the world.
The models of funding have changed many times over the last 150 years. Historically, education for most was provided by parents. At times it has depended more on churches. More recently it has been considered a government responsibility.
However God has given to parents the primary responsibility for the nurture and care of their children. This responsibility has not changed over time. It has also not been delegated to government, the church or even teachers.
If we do believe parents have responsibilities for raising children then parents also need to have choices. They should have options of where and what their children will be taught. Christian schools give parents a choice.
Some Christians question paying school fees when they are paying taxes to fund government schools. Christian schools may even be accused of undermining the government education system and duplicating facilities. The Bible takes a different view, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
Jesus saw it as a natural response to give to what we believe is important. What we are willing to allocate treasure, or finances, towards demonstrates where our hearts are. If providing an education which reflects a parent’s beliefs and supports their role is considered important then they will work out ways to make it a priority.
When questioned about taxes Jesus’ reply was simple, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21
He taught that paying taxes did not stop an individual from doing what God wanted them to do. They were not to be considered mutually exclusive.
Parents do need to carefully consider the financial cost of education if they choose a Christian school. It will come down to setting priorities. The apostle Paul taught, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” 1 Corinthians 10:23
Paul faced choices. He felt some decisions were better than others. As a parent you face the choice of ‘which school should I send my child to?’ In our society children will learn the basics of education whichever school they attend. However not all they learn may be beneficial or constructive.
We can be thankful we do have a choice. Like all choices we make, it is one for which we will be accountable to God. Our choices can have short-term, long-term and eternal consequences. Whatever you decide, we hope and pray that we have been helpful in your choosing the right biblical school for your child.