Is Your Christian Day School Really a Mission?
One of the pivotal moments in my life was going to a Lutheran preschool. It changed the direction of my life. My family grew up strong Southern Baptists. As I young kid I didn’t get the emotional reactions to the Word of God in the preaching, it was confusing and frighting. I would sit in church with my head on a swivel waiting for the next adult to be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and taken out back by the ushers. This led me to tell my mother I was done with the church because, for a kid with anxiety, this was just too much. My mother honored my request but she also enrolled me in a Lutheran preschool. The first day of school started with a chapel service. You can imagine the anxiety returned, but there was something different, there were absolutely no emotions. I joke with my Lutheran friends, I convinced my mother that Lutheranism was for me because it was devoid of emotion. What it did for me was allow me to hear the Word of God. This is not a criticism of my Baptist roots, this worked for me.
I deeply appreciate Christian day schools. Schools are facing an uphill battle these days. Cost, public schools have more resources, and a loss of focus on the mission have all impacted Christian education. Since Christian education has transformed my life I thought I would share ideas to help others working tirelessly in this mission field.
Getting Back to the Foundation
When I think about Christians what stands out to me is that they are centered on the family. If you take full advantage of that time your children are in a Christian day school there are plenty of opportunities to connect with other like-minded families who share common values, hopes, and dreams for their children. You pray your youngsters will develop healthy Christian friends and relationships which will help shape them for life.
A Barna research study shows: The family continues to be the institution that most defines us. Family is ranked by American adults as more central to their identity than any other surveyed factor (i.e. being an American, faith, ethnicity, etc.). More than six in 10 (62%) also say that family plays a significant role in their identity (“a lot”). But this is changing generationally. Only slightly more than half of all Millennials (53%) say family plays a significant role (“a lot”) compared to over three-quarters of Elders (76%). Despite these shifts, parents are taking their task of character-building very seriously. Self-control, patience, fairness, and conflict resolution are some of the virtues being discussed daily between parent and child.
Schools provide an opportunity for Churches to use those formative years to serve the community. One question to wrestle with as a church blessed with a school is: How can we use all of our resources to minister to the whole family?
One easy shift is to talk less about yourself and ask more questions about what parents need. What you discover is the start of a ministry opportunity. You may uncover common vacuums in the community. Uncovered needs like Christian parenting which is based on character formation. Other communities have a desire for spiritual formation. In diverse neighborhoods English as a second language (ESL) is critical. Millennial parents may connect with reverse mentoring where different generations pour into each other. It is not rocket science, it requires us to do more listening than talking.