How are we educating the next generation?


Parents should train their children in accordance with God’s word.

In particular it places the responsibility on fathers: ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6.4). This training is to be ongoing: ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6.4-7).

A vital question

In response to these biblical commands some Christian parents have chosen to home educate their children. Today there is an increasing amount of Christian curricular material available to support them. Home educating families meet together sometimes to participate in activities and events.

However, the majority of Christian parents in the UK choose to send their children to school. The question for them is: How is my children’s school helping me to fulfil my God-given responsibility to train them in the ways of the Lord?

It is a vital question since most children will spend a total of around 18,000 hours in school (30 hours per week, 40 weeks per year for up to 15 years).

Influences on children

Let’s consider three important influences on children who are brought up in Christian families: home, school and church.

Christian parents should be teaching their children the same biblical truths at home as they hear at church. Imagine a two-stranded cord to represent this.

But what are your children being taught at school? Imagine the red cord representing the influence of your children’s school. Does your children’s school pull against your home and church?

Secular schools promote the mind of man as supreme and man’s good and development as the goal of education. Christian parents must work hard to remedy this secular teaching their children are receiving. Otherwise there is a danger of everything unravelling.

A different type of school

Consider a school where God is supreme and his word is central to all areas of curriculum and practice, where the goal of education is the glory of God. A Christian school supports Christian parents in teaching about God and the world from a biblical perspective. For children from a Christian family the school’s teaching strengthens that of the home and church: ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4.12).

Most Christian schools also welcome children from non-Christian families so these pupils also have the wonderful privilege of a ChristÐcentred education.

So what does a Christian school look like?

* It teaches children God’s word and depends on the work of the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.
* It teaches a curriculum based on God’s work in his world: his perfect creation, the effects of man’s fall into sin, the results of Christ’s redemption and the future return of Christ as saviour and judge.
* It employs Christian teachers, in the same way as a church would only have Christians teaching in Sunday school.
* It trains children to think and question, it challenges them to compare secular thinking with biblical principles: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12.2).
* It welcomes children from both Christian and non-Christian families.
* It encourages parents to participate fully in the life of the school.

Opportunity and opposition

We should be grateful to God that in the past Christians have been at the forefront of education in the UK; churches set up schools and some of these remain faithful to biblical truth today. However, in the last century the majority of schools have fallen into secular control. Thankfully there are still some opportunities today to develop schools with a Christian ethos, such as through the ‘Free Schools’ movement.

During the last 40 years churches and groups of parents have set up independent Christian schools. There are now about 100 such schools around the UK. To maintain their freedom to teach a curriculum based on biblical truth, these schools do not accept government funding.

Consequently they usually charge fees which are generally kept as low as possible to ensure that any parent who wants their children to attend can afford them. Sacrifices are made by parents and teachers, who often work for much lower wages than they could earn in a secular school.

Research has shown that the great majority of teenage pupils in Christian schools profess a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Boys express the same kind of faith and level of faith as girls and the older teenagers are as clearly Christian as those who are younger. These results contrast starkly with other studies which have all shown a sharp decline in religious belief through teenage years and that boys are less ‘religious’ than girls. Early results from ongoing research projects indicate that many, possibly almost all, of the former pupils from these new Christian schools retain their Christian faith as they move on in life.1

The battle is fierce and schools which proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of all are often under attack. It is not surprising that humanists and secularists are opposed to these schools, since their agenda is to secure a totally secular education system. Much prayer is needed for the preservation and growth of Christian schools.

Personal experience

I taught for 20 years in secular schools and was involved with running Christian Unions, taking assemblies and setting up a prayer group for parents and teachers. However, I began to question myself: ‘How does my Christian faith affect the way I teach?’ I started to use some of the Charis materials2 which opened my eyes to the opportunity to bring biblical truth into my maths lessons.

Once my appetite was whetted, I wanted more freedom to proclaim the whole truth of God. This led me to Emmanuel Christian School in Oxford where I worked for ten years, the last six of which I was the Head Teacher. What a wonderful privilege it was to declare the wonders of our Lord Jesus Christ to children from both Christian and non-Christian homes and to see them responding to these truths.

For the last two years I have taught in secular schools while I have been working to set up Trinity Christian School in Reading.3 Initially, this school will cater for children aged 5-7, but will aim in the future to develop into a full primary and secondary school. We are praying that the Lord will take us successfully through the registration process and provide a teacher and enough pupils and finance so that we can open this September.

Future for Christian schools

There are Christian schools all across the UK which aim to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.4 Many of these schools are thriving and need more space, whereas others struggle to keep going. All of these schools depend on the Lord for his provision.

However, compared with many countries around the world the UK lags behind in Christian schooling, we need more such schools! As we see Christian freedoms being eroded in our country, we wonder how much longer we will be able to run Christian schools which teach the whole counsel of God.

Whether you agree with my approach or not, please pray that the Lord will protect and prosper these schools which aim to ‘Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it’ (Proverbs 22.7).

Footnotes

1. Sylvia G. Baker (2010), ‘An Investigation of the new Independent Christian Schools: what kind of citizens are they producing?’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Warwick.
2. See http://www.johnshortt.org/Pages/Charis.aspx
3. See http://www.trinitychristianschool.org.uk
4. See http://www.christianschoolstrust.co.uk and http://www.christianeducationeurope.org

Jean Dandy

This article was first published in the September 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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