In the fall of 2016, it was reported by the National Center for Education Statistics that approximately 50.4 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools. About 35.4 million were in prekindergarten through the eighth grade, and 15 million ninth through twelfth graders (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372). This is astounding because it’s about 16% of the United States’ population. In fact, if you were to start a brand new country with those students it would rank in the top 30 most populated countries in the world. It is my firm belief this is the greatest mission field in the United States of America.
In today’s changing world it is easy to get discouraged as it seems the next generation of Christians are falling away faster then any other generation before them. Statistics tell us that an alarming 70% of young people are leaving or don’t attend church regularly after age 18-22. But I believe that this up and coming generation has a great opportunity to “Turn the world upside down”. Continue reading
It may seem that the average Christian student doesn’t make a difference in their school to influence others for Christ. I have often wondered that perhaps the reason it seems that way is because most students aren’t challenged to make a difference in their schools. Over the past 5 years I have started growing in my vision of what the Lord can do through a true student lead movement in the realm of schools, church, and local communities.
Something Needed to Change!
Last year (2014) I saw the Lord begin doing a work in my own heart in challenging the teens of our church to be a godly witness in their schools and with their friends. Most of the teens I teach are in public school, a few are taught in Christian School and home schooled. I put away the Sunday School curriculum, put away the student booklets, and decided instead of giving them a pre-made template of “Biblical advice”, that I needed to have a more personal and engaging time of teaching with them. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these books, in fact I think that much of the material is great, but a light bulb went off in my head when I saw that my students weren’t interacting, weren’t engaged, and after a few weeks of expounding on the same subject matter weren’t interested. You can only teach “How to find the will of God” for so many weeks before you lose a teenager’s interest. Something needed to change!
I know it has been a few weeks since I have posted. I thought that I was going to be able to spend some extra time during Fall Break to write future articles, but that didn’t happen. Then I started writing this article last week, had completely typed out what I thought I wanted to say, only to realize it really wasn’t what God wanted me to say or how He wanted me to say it. So, now, here are my thought on the passion I have gained for public schools.
At a very early age I felt like God had set me apart to do some kind of work in the realm of missions. In fact you may or may not know that my wife and I had planned on being missionaries in Newfoundland, Canada. We were trying to raise funds for nearly a year, before the Lord gave us a sudden change of direction. When the Lord brought that change it was a good thing. It was a time that God needed to teach us some very important lessons. I became the youth pastor of a church in South Carolina and it was there that I first began to have some real interaction with Public School students. The youth group I started to lead was largely made up of students who went to the public schools, the breakdown was something like 30/10 public to Christian school teens. Most of these teens were in homes of families who came to church with them, with a few who came with friends. But this youth group was a lot different that any of the youth groups in which I attended as a teen. The youth groups I had been in had always been the opposite, 90% of the kids I grew up with were in some sort of Christian education. While the breakdown was a lot different from what I knew, the teens weren’t any different than what I had seen in my own youth groups. They were teens who were seeking direction, seeking identity, and seeking for God.
Those were the starting years of my life in ministry. Even though it has been almost 4 years since I have left that ministry, I still keep up with many of the youth who were in that group. I am proud to see many of them going on to serve the Lord, some are pursuing ministry, others are looking at the medical field or other careers, and others still may not be sure what God wants them to do, but it thrills my heart to see many of them still serving the Lord with their whole heart. My heart for public schools started with this youth group and has continued since. Now just so you don’t get the wrong picture, this doesn’t mean that I like public school kids any more than the Christian/ Home School kids, I just have gained a heartbeat for helping those in the public schools.
Since leaving South Carolina and moving to Georgia, the Lord has really multiplied that burden more for the public schools. When coming to the church we currently serve at, I knew that I would have to become a bi-vocational youth pastor. I didn’t know what kind of job I would be able to get. I applied at a bunch of different places, but made it clear that I wouldn’t be available most weekends or on Wednesday nights, after all a youth pastors busiest times is on the weekends, and I certainly didn’t want to miss teaching the teens on Wednesdays. This didn’t make for a lot of job opportunities. Then someone mentioned I ought to consider substitute teaching for the local public schools. So I took the class, had my background check run, and got onto the substitute list. Once my name was approved and teachers knew I would be available to teach, the phone started ringing and I started substituting a few days every week. Now I have been substituting for 3 years.
My heart for missions work has never died. I didn’t know exactly why the Lord gave me such a heart for missions if He wasn’t going to let us go to a foreign mission field, but after 3 years of substitute teaching, I have finally found the mission field God has been preparing for me. The Lord can do amazing things in the public schools and to many times Christians distance themselves from this establishment. No doubt this education system is not right for every Christian child. Some would say it isn’t fit for any Christian, period, but is a school any worse than the rest of the world system children are exposed to through living life every day?
It takes special people, both teachers and children, to be called into this vast mission field, just as it takes a special calling for someone to board a plane and fly half way around the world to reach a people whose language they don’t speak, and whose culture is completely foreign to them. But God still calls them. Is there dangers within the walls of a public school? Yes, no doubt there is, just as there are dangers that lurk on every corner of life. This is the reason why we must seek God’s face for grace and guidance every day. Just because a Christian child is raised in a Christian home, doing Christian schooling, and attending a Christian church does not mean that they are exempt from falling away from the principles taught in your home. Just because a Christian child is taught in a public school, is faced with the difficulties there, and will have their faith challenged does not make them a sure candidate to fail as a child of God. This issue is not as black and white as some would like to make it seem. In a perfect world all Christian children would never stray, especially those who were brought up with all things “Christian”, but we live in a fallen world, a world where good families see their children choose by their own free will to reject God. These were homes that tried to give direction, cared about the discipline of their children, and cared about the spiritual well-being of their children.
Imagine the millions of children who face life with no direction, with no one who cares about their discipline, about their spiritual well-being. This is a large majority of children who attend the public school. No one to love them, screaming for attention, yet Christians want to stay away from them. Let them rot, let them die, let them spend a Christ-less eternity in Hell, because of how wicked the school system is. Do we tell missionaries not to go to dangerous countries? Do we stop missionaries and say, “Don’t you know how wicked that country is? Don’t go to that country because their government is evil! Don’t go to this country because your children will be exposed to things that aren’t Biblical! They might be influenced by that country and those people!”? NO! But we will tell a Christian they are in sin for sending their child to a public school. We might even tell an adult that they are in sin for teaching in one of those “God forsaken” schools. But the only reason they are “God forsaken” is because Christians have abandoned them, Christians have shunned them, Christians have put them on the “leprosy” list and cry “DON’T TOUCH THEM! DON’T GO NEAR THEM! UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!”. But last I checked in my Bible, Christ came to heal the lepers, and He called us to be like Him.
Some would say the best way to reach those in the public schools is by driving church buses and picking them up from their homes, finding them on visitation, and inviting them to church. These are great methods! But how many millions fall through the cracks of this strategy? Who will invite them if no Christians are called to reach them in the school halls? Who will be the Light to them, if we snub every Christian child and teacher out of the system? No one! But thank the Lord not every Christian has bought into the lie that Christians do not have a place in the public schools. Thank God that there are Christian students and teachers who still have an open door to win others to Christ and who have answered the call to be missionaries to this great mission field. Thank the Lord that he still gives youth pastors, like myself, the opportunity to not only substitute teach in the school, but to also be able to teach Bible classes in the school on a regular basis. Thank the Lord that He still has people preaching His Word and the free gift of salvation through programs like the FCA and Children’s Bible Clubs. God said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14). Praise God for his love for these children, and for those who He has and who He will raise up to continue to be that shining Light into the Public schools.
The doors of opportunity are closing quickly on being able to get the Gospel in the public school systems. Christians should flood those doors as much as possible before the doors completely shut.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Psalm 32:8
There are certain situations in my life that I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was in the right place at the right time . . . in public school. Over the years, I questioned my parent’s decision because I heard pastors and teachers speak so strongly about the subject. Then I looked back over my life.
I made lifelong friendships which affected me in a very positive way. Contrary to popular, conservative Christian beliefs, these friends have taught me to be a better human being. I have often found that my unchurched friends are more gracious, more forgiving, and generous than I have ever been or many Christians I have met. I would have never met them had I not gone to public school and been able to invite them to teen activities at my church. Many times when I knew my friends were talking about something of which I would disapprove, they stopped as I walked up to the group without even having to say anything. They never made fun of me for the way I dressed or my standards. In fact, many times they mentioned they respected me for living as I did.
Witnessing to friends might be expected, but I also was able to share my faith with teachers. A few teachers were atheists. They actually wanted to know what I thought. I even gave my science teacher tracts and she read them. Had I not been there, who would have given the tracts to her? They were about Creation. I was never given failing grades or graded more harshly because of my faith.
One class that I did have the privilege to take was Latin. It was a privilege to take Latin for four years from one of my very favorite teachers, Mrs. Phillips. She was one of the kindest, loveliest people you would ever meet and even years after I graduated she knew me by name when I saw her out in town. She had hundreds of students over her entire teaching career, but she knew me.
Latin is also a window into my husband’s language, Romanian. I rarely speak about my husband on my blog because he is a behind the scenes kind of guy. Our plan when we married was and always will be is to return to Romanian to start churches. When I went to Romania for my college internship, I immediately began recognizing words. Some Romanian words are direct carry overs from Latin. Romanian is the closest language which is spoken today and traceable to Latin. How many Christian schools offer Latin? My parents would have never been able to teach Latin to me if they homeschooled me. I would have never imagined going to Romania when I was in 8th grade and signing up for 9th grade classes!
Public school also prepared me for my first real job after graduating college. I became a sign language interpreter for a deaf student in a public school. I was not shocked or uncomfortable by my surroundings. Some might say, “You should never feel comfortable when you are among the Lost.” In this situation, it was exactly what was needed. I was not comfortable to sin. I was comfortable with the public school system. I jumped right into my role of interpreter without hesitation. My student was failed by the system and fell through the cracks. He was defensive towards my presence. I had to be firm and establish my roll. He later asked questions about God. I still pray for his salvation.
For a short time, I also worked in an elementary school as an aide to a hard of hearing student. Many of the teachers both at the high school and the elementary school were Christians. They asked after my health regularly and prayed for me. I loved working with those ladies.
I also had the opportunity to observe the education system in action. A few years later, I was given the opportunity to teach in a Christian school as a 6th grade teacher. I loved both experiences of interpreting and teaching. I miss all my students and rejoice when I hear of their successes.
My parents moved to Virginia in the early 80’s when my father received orders from the military to once again move. After joining a church which also had a Christian school, my parents decided to place my brother into the kindergarten class for the school year. Let’s face it, every school, every educational system, and every teacher has flaws. However, my parents immediately knew there was a problem. My brother as well as other students (we later found out who had this same teacher) struggled with learning problems. My parents removed my brother from the Christian school and placed him in our local public school for 1st grade.
It was the last decade or so of the Cold War, but military families experienced the Cold War in ways that most people do not realize. Our fathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles were constantly deployed. Mediterranean Cruises, Med Cruises, were common place for Navy families. My father was typically deployed for 9 months on a Med Cruise, came home for 2-3 weeks, and then left again for 1-2 months on a training exercise to GITMO Bay, the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Bermuda. During a 4 year rotation of Sea Duty, my mother was basically a single parent.
My brother could not have had a better elementary school principal. When his learning struggles became clear, Mr. Brown took my brother under his wing. Mr. Brown knew my brother by name. He knew my mother and I even though I was still at home and not yet enrolled in school. Mr. Brown even diagnosed my brother’s learning “problems.” My brother was gifted.
This elementary school principal referred my mother to a child psychologist and helped my family in a way no one else had previously done. Seeing my brother improve was all the thanks he needed.
Christians, conservative Christians, have this idea that public schools will change your child’s values, your child will just be a number amongst the crowd, and or your child will receive a substandard education. We did not. I will address some of those topics later. Were there problems? Absolutely. I am not going to lie or whitewash history. My point is this, there are wonderful public schools available and parents should not be made to feel like they are sinning by sending their child to public school. Their children should not be segregated from “good Christian school kids” either.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a person who sends your children to the public school, a private school, or is home schooled, prayer should be an important part of your day. Each night before I go to sleep and each morning before we leave to go to school I spend time praying for certain things. So here are a list of 9 things I pray for each school day:
1.Wisdom as a Parent of school age children
In general no matter what age your child is, seeking God’s wisdom is a must.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
2.For my children to make wise choices
No matter the age of my child I should be taking time to teach them to seek God’s face in all the choices that they make.
Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
3.For my children to remember instructions given to them
Each morning on our way to school I talk to my children about things they need to remember and work on for the day. During the first few weeks of school we talk about remembering to listen to the teachers and to pay attention. These times of instruction and instruction given in the home are a special time for our children to learn how to behave and what is expected of them.
Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
4.For my children to avoid troublemakers
No doubt troublemakers can be found most places that your children go, so it is important to teach them to guard themselves from them. One conversation that Aric and I have had lately on the way to school has been,
Me: Aric what should you do if someone asks you to do bad?
Aric: Tell them I can’t do it because it is bad.
Me: And then what should you do?
Aric: Tell my teacher.
Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
5.For my children to remember Who Created them and Who they should serve
Another conversation that Aric and I have been having on the way to school is: Who created everything, did dinosaurs live millions of years ago, how old is the earth, and did men come from monkeys.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
6.For my child tobe testimonies of Jesus Christ
I want my children to learn early in their lives that they have an opportunity influence others for Christ.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
7.For the teacher to be encouraged
One of the most underrated jobs in my book is that of a teacher. Parents treat them like jerks when their child gets in trouble. Parents act like their child is an angel and the teacher is the devil himself/herself. Being a teacher can be a very discouraging position.
Ecclesiastes 9:10Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
8.For the teacher to have patience
If you have a child or even a few children you know how hard it can be to be patient at times. Imagine the teacher there in the classroom with 20+ students all coming from different home lives with different standards. Some children may be well-behaved, while others may have no discipline whatsoever. It can be quite overwhelming for a teacher to face a classroom each day, so pray for your children’s teachers to have patience.
Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
9. For the teacher to teach with wisdom
Now some people might say, “how can you expect a Public School teacher to teach with wisdom when many of them probably aren’t Christians?”. Well those people probably don’t use that same logic when they ask prayer for Doctors to have wisdom when they are facing a health situation. Not all Doctors are Christians but we still ask for God to give them wisdom and we should pray that God give our children’s teachers wisdom as well.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Lord, there are many things that can be prayed for when it comes to having children in school. But above all we want you to be pleased and glorified in everything that we do. We need wisdom as parents. We need your guidance and direction when it comes to teaching our children. We also need you to work in our children’s lives to be a bright and shining testimony for you, no matter what type of school they go to. A-men
What are some things that you pray for when your children start their school day?
One of the areas some people like to argue for the reason a Christian should not be part of the Public Schools, is the limitations that teachers have in being able to share their faith openly in the classroom and the challenges that Christian students will face. While it is true that Christian teachers can not spend a large percentage of time speaking about the Lord, it does not mean that a Christian teacher will have no influence in the lives of their students. Just because a Christian student will be surrounded by students who do not have the same belief system, does not mean that they will never influence others for Christ. In fact I believe that there is Biblical evidence that sometimes silence is far better than speaking.The other morning I was reading my morning devotions and I came to a passage of scripture that to many would seem like a strange instruction given to us by the Lord. In context this passage of scripture is talking about a Christian wife’s responsibility to an unsaved husband and the importance of her testimony. But I believe we can take principles from this passage of scripture that apply to life in general. Here is the passage:
I Peter 3:1-2 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
In this passage of scripture, we have a Christian wife, and an unsaved husband. God has told that wife to be submissive to her husband even though he does not know Christ, and has chosen to reject the Word of God. Christian Public School teachers are required to be submissive to the rules of the governing body of the public school system, even though the rules in particular do not favor that of a Christian belief system, and by and large the Bible has been rejected by the schools as a whole.
The verses though do not give the instruction to simply to be submissive, but also that the wife is to live by example what the Word of God speaks. The word conversation is not so much the wife constantly telling her husband of his need of salvation, but the lifestyle the wife lives in front of her husband. The winning to Christ of her rejecting husband, is going to come by her godly example, her pure lifestyle, and the fear of the Lord. Christian Public School teachers must be conscious of their limitations when it comes to speaking of the Word of God. Christian students must be conscious of the constant attack they will face against their own belief systems. But if both the students and the teachers will live their lives that is godly and pure before their peers and pupils, many will come to inquire and know about the God of whom they serve. This is not just a tip to be applied to Public School though, but to life. If the conversation of your mouth is not reflected by the conversation of your life than you will not be able to have a true influence for Christ in the lives of those you are trying to reach.
Christian teachers in the realm of public schools is one of the most important things that our government education system needs. Christian students have a big impact on other students who may never hear of Christ outside the lives of those who surround them. So while I don’t believe the public school is the place for every Christian teacher or every Christian child, I do believe that the Lord has given some the call to be missionaries to the realm of government schooling. And while the Government tries to keep the name of Christ silent in their education system, sometimes “Silence Speaks Volumes”.