Why Christian Education Matters
It was Christmas morning, and I was 12 years old. Wrapping paper was scattered throughout the room, collateral damage from the frenzy of Christmas excitement. All that was left to open was a small white envelope with my name on it and instructions to “open in private” written in parentheses. I remember sitting alone in my room examining my father's handwriting that covered the pages, wondering how long it took him to write. It was immediately special to me. In this letter, my dad called me to begin preparation for manhood. He was commissioning me to take ownership of my preparation in becoming a man who desired to honor God with my life. Written in the letter was a father's blessing and a promise that he would walk beside me, pray for me, and pray for the woman that I would one day marry. He encouraged me to walk with God and to let His Word direct my paths, whatever the circumstance. That Christmas, my father's words initiated a new chapter in our relationship, and in my life. A chapter of preparation for how to walk with God in a broken world, and a calling to be sent into the world with a purpose.
Before and after that letter was written, my father has consistently communicated and modeled a biblical approach to preparing me for the world. Twenty-five years later, I still have the letter and an understanding of the power of intentional preparation for the world.
Three aspects are key to helping your children prepare for the world. You have to understand what it means to prepare them for “the world,” understand their purpose, and every Christian’s purpose, as set by God, and understand that perseverance will be involved in this.
First we must understand that “preparation for the world” is different from “protection from the world.” Protection from the world often measures success by what our children don’t do in the world. Students not cursing, not drinking, not doing drugs, etc., become the marks by which we, as parents, grade ourselves on raising our children. However, this is neither an adequate approach, nor a biblical one. The calling God has given to parents is to train up our children in biblical truth. We are to give them a firm foundation of faith and a biblical lens through which to view the world. That foundational truth starts with understanding that God’s ideal intentions for us in creation were twisted and broken by the sin of rebellion within us. God then shows us the lengths He has gone to redeem and restore our relationship with Him through Christ.
Essentially, we’ll never be able to protect our children from the world because the sin that courses through the world is the same sin that resides within us. So preparing our children to deal with the external temptations and sins of this world ultimately begins with them learning how to deal with the internal temptations and sins within themselves.
Be intentional to explain the reality of sin in our lives that leaves us with a continual need for Jesus as our only Savior.
Be intentional to empathize the brokenness in their own hearts, connecting it to the cause of the fundamental brokenness in the world.
Be intentional to equip them to interpret the world through the biblical lens of Scripture, as they become exposed to more of the world and its brokenness.
It is imperative that we clearly and continually articulate the child’s purpose in the world. Begin with the end in mind. Attempting to prepare your child for the world, without a clear understanding of their purpose in the world, will quickly lead to confusion and frustration. In Christ’s commission we find our ultimate purpose in this world; to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). This purpose is played out in classrooms, homes, businesses, churches, hospitals, and in a million more places, in a million different ways every day.
Psalm 127 compares your children to “arrows in the hands of a warrior.” With this image in mind, we understand that God’s purpose for your child is not to be protected from the world, but to penetrate the world for the glory of God. We are called to prayerfully prepare our children with a biblical foundation, point them to Christ's commission, and ultimately send them into a broken world to glorify God and make disciples of Christ. Wherever our children go, whatever they do, their purpose remains the same.
Be intentional to explain God’s purpose for their lives and how glorifying God is tied to everything they do.
- Be intentional to emphasize their calling to be ambassadors for Christ, sent into the world with a message of redemption and reconciliation to God.
- Be intentional to exemplify a culture penetrating life for your student to observe and learn from.
It is in Christ that we find our identity and purpose, which fuels perseverance. Too often, parents today focus the preparatory years on their child’s ability (sports, academics, performance, etc.) instead of their child’s identity (who they are in Christ). If the child’s abilities are taken away one day, or opportunities to use those abilities dry up, they are left searching for their identity. It is imperative that we consistently remind our children of their identity in Christ, and that He has a purpose for their lives.
To adequately prepare your child for the counter-cultural mission of proclaiming Christ to the world, they will need to be equipped to persevere. Jesus tells us that we will all have trouble in this world, but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Trouble in your child’s life is guaranteed. So is Christ’s presence and power. We need to teach our children to lean into Christ and become dependent upon His ability, not their own. The perseverance of your child’s faith, as they encounter trials and tribulation, will depend upon where they place their identity, not their ability.
- Be intentional to explain who they are in Christ and the calling He has placed upon their life.
- Be intentional to emphasize their identity in Christ, apart from their abilities, successes, or failures.
- Be intentional to emulate Jesus in continually loving and praying for them as they go out into the world and encounter trials and tribulations.
Stephen Loeffler has been a leader and educator in the church and secular world for over 15 years and has taught at Christian High School for 3 years. He has a B.A. in Christian Education from Hannibal University, minoring in Youth Ministry, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. Stephen also served for 7 years as an officer in the Marine Corps until resigning his commission as a Captain in 2016.
It was never a question for my husband and me. We both graduated from college with degrees in Christian education. It was a given that we would work in Christian schools and that our children would attend them. What began as a given, however, was tested and turned into a firm commitment. Having experienced Christian education as a parent, a teacher, and coworker, I have clearly seen from many perspectives its benefits in the life of a young child, and for families.
Although I felt deeply that Christian education was the right decision, I wasn’t so sure that I could defend that decision. I had many friends who questioned why I was so firmly committed. If I couldn’t defend it, then where did the commitment come from? I knew I had to turn to God’s Word to give me answers. No, there was no passage that definitively directed me toward Christian education. However, I do believe that truths found in the Word support Christian education, and the power of surrounding your child in those formative years with His truth, His ways, and His love.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Lord maps out how we as parents are responsible to consistently pour God’s truths and love into the raising of our children. It says: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Basically, this passage is teaching us that we cannot afford to be hit-or-miss. We have our children for such a limited span of time. Teaching them a biblical world view has to be a very intentional and constant process.
Students spend eight hours a day, nine months of the year at school. I can tell you as a veteran teacher that the influence I can have over my students within that timeframe is huge. Time and again I am able to address questions, situations, discipline, and current events from a biblical worldview, therefore modeling for my students how to do the same. Can we really be teaching His truth and give our child anything but a Christian education? Because bottom line, if they attend a secular school, they are not getting God’s truth taught to them all the time. They are often receiving conflicting information that makes the job of teaching them to think biblically that much harder. We cannot afford to sacrifice that much influence in bringing our children up in the Lord. The saying has been said, “Repetition, repetition, repetition.” It takes a lot of consistent repeating for a child to begin to think biblically—and having adequate time is the only way that will happen. Christian education is the most solid way of knowing that children will consistently receive His truth all day long, every day.
The book of Judges led me to another realization. In reading Judges, there is a perpetual cycle of sin and repentance that happens over and over. That entire cycle was started by the children of Israel not being faithful to the Lord’s commands to drive the pagan people out of the land. As a result, those pagan people began to infiltrate the Israelites and eventually Israel turned away from the Lord and over to the ways of the pagans completely. When Joshua died, Judges 2:10 tells us: “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshipped the Baals and abandoned the Lord…” The Lord knows how we are. We are strongly influenced by those around us. And, if not consistently directed to stay the course, we easily wander from it. That is even more true with children who are not old or wise enough to have developed strong conviction. Keeping them separated from influences that can and often do lead them away from God’s ways is following the course the Lord shows us as an example in Joshua.
There is a massive difference between teaching children the proper way to behave according to God’s ways or according to what is “right”. In the secular arena, since God is not a part of the picture, children can only be disciplined and directed according to what is “right”. The problem with that is also mentioned in Judges: “…everyone did whatever they wanted” (Judges 21:25). If God’s unchanging clear ideas of right and wrong are not the standard, then the standard becomes very subjective. Each person has their own standard, and therefore that is what will be reflected in their ideas of right and wrong. However, in Christian education, everyone is on that same page because God and His Word set the standard. There is a consistent expectation and approach because there is a consistent truth. That does not mean that the Christian school is going to be perfect. Believers are not perfect, and therefore, Christian schools are not as well. However, having children see how believers work out those imperfections and issues is a wonderful source of learning for them.
Lastly, a Christian education is the most amazing way to demonstrate His love. Scripture makes very clear that God’s children will not be loved by the world (I John 3:13). I know that there are many caring teachers in the secular arena that love their students. However, they will never love or understand a believing child the way a fellow believer will. That love of a fellow brother or sister in Christ, goes far deeper than any worldly love can simply because of the commonality of sharing a heart that loves God first. The relationship between a Christian teacher and the student goes to a much deeper, sincere, and impacting level due to the power of the Holy Spirit. These teachers are able to pray for a child, point them toward God and a relationship with Jesus, and love a child so much more effectively because of that.
I have seen and experienced first-hand that kind of love for students and their families. I have prayed earnestly with and for my students. I have seen teachers in the teacher’s lounge cry over their students hurts and be elated over their victories. I have had many occasions where I was able to come alongside and counsel families. Despite the ups and downs, the teachers in Christian education are deeply invested because it is not a job for them—it is a ministry. To do that ministry, they have to love the Lord, love what they do, and love students. Christian education is the best way to consistently show students His love.
As a teacher and a parent who wanted to have my students and my own children grow in His truth, His ways, and His love, I know that Christian education is the most solid choice for that incredibly short amount of time we have to influence them. Working with the individuals at Christian School District, I can tell you that I have seen those things demonstrated consistently and am positive that a lasting influence for the Lord is being impressed upon the hearts of its students.
Katy Aldrich holds a B.S. in Bible & Elementary Education and taught in Christian education, along with her husband, for 17 years. She currently serves as the P.E. and Art teacher for K-5 at Christian Elementary School in St. Peters, MO.