Safe at School: But Which One?
A prayer request came into the office the other day. It was from a mom requesting prayer for her two young school-age daughters that they would not be influenced by secular teachings and that they would be influential for Jesus Christ- instead of being taken in by the world- at school. There was nothing unusual about this request, except it got me to thinking… Thinking that school is so much more than what we think of when we hear the word “education”- particularly for a family of faith. I frequently find myself in conversations with other church moms discussing “school” but the conversation rarely revolves around grades, it usually goes down the path of discussing the school environment- the physical and spiritual “safety” of the students.
We all want physical safety for our children
We take great care in selecting healthy lunches for our children to pack. Perhaps we go through the carpool line and volunteer occasionally at our children’s schools- but for seven or so hours a day we simply have to trust that our kids are physically safe inside the walls of their school building. I once took my Kindergartener to visit a play in the auditorium and was shocked to find a fight going on in the school cafeteria and three police cars in front of the building. These situations make us fear for our kids’ wellbeing.
School shootings have spurred new control laws, fresh discussions about mental health, and better security at schools. But the increased security only serves as a reminder that there is something to be afraid of and little Johnny gets suspended for bringing a pocketknife to cut the apple his loving mom sent him for lunch.
The safety that we desire cannot be guaranteed anywhere- whether our children are homeschooled or spend the day at private or public school- but prayer can make a difference. In her book The Power of a Praying Parent Stormie OMartian writes:
Being a praying parent doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to your children or that they will never experience pain. They will, because pain is a part of life in this fallen world. But the Bible assures us that our prayers play a vital part in keeping trouble from them. And when a painful thing does happen, they will be protected in the midst of it so it will be to their betterment and not their destruction.
We all want our children to be morally safe and spiritually strong- at school
A friend told me that she believed too many parents were running from the world (by taking their kids out of public school) instead of living in the world and letting their kids be a light for Jesus. She brought up that we are to be in the world to lead them to Christ- a concept found many places in the Bible including John 17 where Jesus prays, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” At the same time I mentioned, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33.) There is a tension there and for years Christian parents have been trying to find that happy medium.
From that discussion I was challenged to really probe my heart about what I believe about children and their role as faith ambassadors in the school. Here are several questions I considered:
*Is a child simply at school to learn? (Is the school a proper place for proselytizing?)
*Are elementary school age children even capable of witnessing and is that a role we should place on them?
* What if I do not have assurance of my own child’s salvation- do I put him in a different school environment until I am certain of their own spiritual condition?
* If my child has a strong, bold personality would it be better to allow him the opportunity to be a light at public school? What if my Christian child seems easily swayed by the crowd?
*What if the Christian school has a bad reputation (for being the last resort for outlaws, or rich snooty students) yet has incredible, Christ-honoring teaching in the classroom? Is this a good place to nurture my child’s faith?
*Is our family disobeying the Great Commission if our children do not have interaction with non-Christian children?
As a child I grew up in a church with noted “factions” with strong viewpoints on how we should educate our children. There was the principal of the Christian school who thought all good Christians should send their children there; the pioneering homeschool family (who homeschooled when homeschooling wasn’t cool) and the public school families who felt their children needed to evangelize students at their schools. Honestly they were all sincere in their beliefs, but the situation left me frustrated… Frustrated that they wouldn’t see the other’s point of view and consider the remote possibility they were ALL correct.
A child who is not strong in their faith cannot be an ambassador in the public schools because that child has not internalized the Gospel themselves. However, a child who has a strong faith in Jesus Christ can turn the world upside down for Christ in his public school. Children, based on their personalities and learning styles, thrive in different environments. Parents may choose a combination of public, homeschool and Christian school based on their children’s individual personalities and faith journeys. Really in the end we all want the same thing… children who grow in faith and passionately serve Jesus Christ.