What’s the Future for Christian School Education

Happy New Year! Monday January 5, 2015…Back to School!!!!

As a life-long educator the Christmas Holiday break is a wonderful and often needed break in the school year. The first day back the second semester does not quite carry the same excitement as the beginning of the year, but the break sure helps refocus and provide strength for the second half.

I have been in Christian Education for nearly 40 years. I have watched the movement begin and mature. I met over the holidays with a dear friend that is a pioneer in the Christian Education world and he made a challenging statement to me. He said, “I believe Christian Education is at a critical crossroads moving into the future.” I have pondered what he meant as the new semester approaches.

The Christian Education movement surged in the 1970s as a response to the onslaught by the culture to silence the followers of Jesus. Prayer was removed from schools in the 1960s. The sexual Revolution abandoned values that destroy the family model. Abortion on demand in 1973 now perpetually decreases the sanctity of human life. The answer in the 70s was to move away andnmaintain the core values of morality and truth. The movement surged at an incredible rate for education standards. With the growth came unforeseen challenges.

Church basements, abandoned public schools, and many homes became the facilities for the growing movement. Growth was rapid across the country. With growth came criticism from the establishment. The new movement was seen as second rate. Incapable teachers that couldn’t cut it in the real world moved into third rate facilities with fourth rate programs all in the name of separation. The early pioneers dismissed lesser pay for academic freedom and the movement prospered.

Nearly a half century later, the movement is recognized as a valid, legitimate, and powerful alternative in the culture. The pioneers have a sense of satisfaction and have left a substantial legacy. However, the movement is at a cross roads. As the years have ticked away, there have been unintended consequences. The desire to attain legitimacy in the education world has come with a price. Today you can find hundreds of private schools that began in the 70s that have developed comparable facilities to the public school world. You will find test scores that are over and above public school counterparts. In a word, the Christian School world is legitimate. But, there has also been a sacrifice on balance.

The Christian School world has lost the perception game. It is either forgetting or dismissing the vision of the movement in exchange for acceptance; in short, the hearts of the children. Individually, each successful institution would publically deny the assertion, but the perception exists. “Those Christian Schools aren’t any different than the public schools. They just have the freedom to keep out the unwanted kids.” Facilities, athletic programs, academic prowess were legitimately achieved over the years, while the heart of the movement was diminished and in a twist sent back to the basement.

Three hundred Christian schools closed their doors this year and that number is expected to rise with financial constraints the leading factor. In the same time period cultural deterioration grows at break neck speed and totally dominates the world of secular education. The movement is losing ground quickly. What can be done?

In my humble opinion, the movement must return to a vision for the hearts of children. The reason for Christian Education is to establish and maintain the foundation of the truth that God is the Creator of all life, and Jesus is the pathway to God through his death and resurrection. That truth must never be diminished in lieu of programming to accomplish conformity.

The institution of the church was lukewarm toward the Christian Education movement at the outset. Today that complacency remains unchanged. In 1930 former Baptist minister and signatory of the Humanist Manifesto commented: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching. “ Charles Francis Potter 1930

Potter was addressing Sunday Schools…in 1930. When the Christian Education movement moved away from the public arena, it was an intentional move away from humanism. The “church” did not embrace it at the time in general and today has refused to embrace it despite the complete breakdown of culture and secular education.

If every church in this country would consider establishing a Christian Education program within their community, we could equip countless hearts for the battle we are losing. You will not reform the public school. I am tired of hearing, “our children are to be salt and light in the public education system”. They are children. They are in a war against adults with years of training and no one is allowed a voice in the system to speak or promote the truth. That is not effective salt and light.

A K-6 program in every church is not cost prohibitive. It utilizes facilities. It establishes community daily. It provides a revenue stream. It prepares the hearts of children in conjunction with families in a safe environment. It allows those children a chance to step into the world with hope and courage. While Junior High, High School and College may be outside the realm of financial possibilities we can do something that will give our children a fighting chance to counter secular education’s five day a week program of humanistic teaching.

The “church” must embrace the responsibility of raising up children in the way they should go…and now. It may already be too late.

About Bill Harbeck

Founder and Director of Holding on to Hope Ministries. A non-profit work that helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse unveil their past and begin the healing process. Author of the book Shattered; One Man's Journey from Childhood Sexual Abuse
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