I’m getting ready to enter my ninth year in Christian education. I spent the first seven of those years as a teacher in both part-time and full-time capacities, and in the last year I’ve served as an administrator. While I’m enthusiastic about Christian education, especially given our current cultural climate, I haven’t always been so. My biggest concern is that I didn’t want to shelter my children from the world, and in doing so, train them poorly to go out into the world. I want them to think and act like missionaries wherever they go. I want them to be prepared to faithfully, and successfully, navigate an increasingly post-Christian, post-modern culture. My thinking was that if I homeschool them or send them to a Christian school, once they graduate, they’ll be frail, cowardly, socially awkward Christians. I thought, If I want my children to be prepared to be “salt and light” in a post-Christian culture, then that meant getting trained in the gauntlet of public school. Afterall, I survived public school as a Christian, and I’m doing fine!
But a few things changed my perspective on Christian education. It’s now well established that each subsequent generation in America is becoming less and less Christian, and this trend will probably continue into the foreseeable future. Aaron Renn (https://aaronrenn.substack.com/p/newsletter-13-the-lost-world-of-american?s=r) writes that in the years since 2014, our culture has experienced a shift in which Christianity and Christian values are no longer viewed as positive or even neutral, but negative. Christian norms and mores are now held in derision. It is now increasingly difficult to speak in distinctly Christian ways in the public sphere without inviting scorn.
Additionally, several years ago I was substitute teaching in the local high school, and I noticed there was a marked increase in the crassness and vulgarity of the students as compared to my own schooling over twenty years ago. Even now, there’s CRT, transgenderism, and a whole host of additional assaults to the biblical worldview. Furthermore, when I reflect on my time in public school, the word “survive” is the best I can do. It was an exceedingly difficult time, especially in high school. I suffered intense loneliness as I lived out my faith. I eventually started to compromise as I attempted to fit in, trying to find a “third way” between faithful discipleship and pursuit of the world. In my attempt to chase after happiness, I only complicated my misery. I don’t want my children simply “surviving” during their most vulnerable years. I want them to thrive, emotionally and spiritually.
I don’t think the solution to these challenges is a complete retreat from the world, but rather what I call a “strategic retreat.” As Christians, a total and complete retreat is not an option. A total retreat ignores Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. A total retreat means forgetting about the unreached peoples of the world. A total retreat, says “We’ve lost.” Yes, the battle rages, but the victory was won through the death and resurrection of our Lord. On the other hand, a strategic retreat says “The battle is tough, but we know the Lord has given us victory. Let’s gather, read the Scriptures, sanctify our hearts, and ask the Lord to give us wisdom to navigate this new situation.” A strategic retreat means we pull away to re-engage. A strategic retreat will be necessary so that we may continue to serve as “salt and light” in our communities.
Christian education for your children is part of this strategic retreat. This means removing your children out of the public schools. Yes, it’s to protect them. We shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed by this. It’s our job to protect them. But it’s even more than that. It’s about investing in their discipleship and doing all that you can to train them for faithfulness before they leave the house.
Your children will spend nearly 35-40 hours or more a week under the influence of teachers, coaches, and school administrators during their most vulnerable years. That’s a huge amount of time that our children are being discipled into something. It could be progressivism, secularism, moral therapeutic deism, or some combination of unbiblical worldviews. You can count on this: there’s no such thing as a value-neutral education. If they aren’t being pointed toward Christ, then they are certainly being pulled away.
As Christian parents, training our children to be followers of Jesus is serious business. In my denomination (Southern Baptist Convention), we talk a lot of about fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We pray, give, and send missionaries, to make disciples of the nations. There will always be some that will experience the extraordinary call to serve cross-culturally, but the Great Commission is largely fulfilled through ordinary family discipleship. That means parents bear the primary responsibility to train our children to follow Jesus. And perhaps this means investing in Christian education.