As of my writing of this response, it’s 2018 and there are many concerned Christians when it comes to the current state of public education. The public school system is teaching many things contrary to what we believe, teach, and confess as Christians, so what are we supposed to do?!?!
There are some options, but only one choice. Here’s what I mean….
Here are the options:
- Keep sending your child to secular institutions for education.
- Start sending your child to a Lutheran school (note: there’s no such thing as a “non-denominational” school when it comes to theology. The theology is almost always Baptist at its roots. i.e. a complete rejection of the sacraments and a lesser emphasis on the importance of uniform confession.)
- Pull your child from any school and connect with a co-op and other resources to start homeschooling.
Here’s the one choice (broken into 3 parts).
- Center your life in the Christian faith and actively…deliberately…purposefully teach the Christian faith in its purity.
- Go to church and Bible study. Make it a priority…not an option.
- Live out your own faith of prayer and study of God’s Word.
It’s like when someone asks, “How can I stop getting speeding tickets?” Well, you can go a different route, befriend the officer, or …stop speeding.
If you send your child to a public school, you have to accept the fact that for 8 or more hours per day your child is being indoctrinated with secular progressivism and atheism. For 8 or more hours a day, your children are being implicitly and explicitly told that there is no God (or something wrong about God) and that Christianity is either a harmless myth or a religion of hate.
If you send your child to a Christian school, they’re still going to face problems. Lutheran schools aren’t perfect (mainly because people are involved), but at least students are being built up in their Christian faith. Regardless of whether it’s a Lutheran school or a “non-denom” school, you’ll still need to teach the faith at home.
If you homeschool you’ll still face many and various struggles, but you’ll be able to teach your child more directly and have a better grasp of what is being taught. Of course, you have to either be apt to teach or apt to find the resources that can help do so.
Regardless of how you formally educate your child, it is up to the parents to ensure that their family is being rightly catechized (formed by God’s Word). More specifically it falls on the shoulders of the head of the house to ensure that that’s taking place (Eph. 6:4). Perhaps dad works strange hours. If that’s the case, then when there is time together as the family, it’s important that the Christian faith take priority. If dad isn’t a Christian or work hours are such that regular teaching isn’t possible, then find a way to ensure that Christ and the forgiveness of sins is being taught either way. Here’s a great article on the historical example of a Christian who had unchristian family members and how she handled it.
Far too often parents think that dropping the kids off for Sunday school will be enough. It’s not. It’s really really not. An hour or so once a week of spiritual formation will be a blessing, but our faith is a whole-life thing. It can be especially tough if kids know their parent’s aren’t going to Bible study. The most common reason parents miss Bible Study involves time: “But it’s the one time a week when we have freedom to go relax and have coffee.” If that’s the case then it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate schedules. If you want your child to see the importance of your faith you must lead by example. “Do as I say and not as I do” is quickly trumped by “Monkey see Monkey do.” Pastors and teachers only have a small chunk of time to teach the faith each week (parents included). Parents need to dive in and grow in their own faith so that they can then pass on the faith to their children. Will anyone do this perfectly? No. And when we fail to do so, we have the opportunity to talk about repentance and forgiveness and to strive to do better, continuing on in the peace of Christ.
Don’t mishear me. I’m not suggesting that if you live a pious Christian life and faithfully attend church and Sunday school that you’re guaranteed to have a child who will be a faithful Christian forever. Of course not. It’s not only about the parents. When we read Proverbs 22:6 about training a child in the way he should go and that he won’t turn from that way, we acknowledge that it’s a general rule. And yet, we don’t often see a family that is regularly shaped by the liturgy of the Divine Service, are faithful at home in their Christian walk, and train up a child in the fear of the Lord, only to see that child go off into a completely different path. Are there exceptions? Yes. There are exceptions on both sides. My family didn’t always go to church when I was growing up. Christianity wasn’t at the source of all decisions in the household, and yet God’s Word does work bringing us to repentance and faith.
So…AGAIN!!! I’m not saying that there’s a formula to guarantee how a Christian stays a Christian. Nor am I saying that parents are the way to salvation. I’m only saying that God’s Word is the source of our faith and life. If that faith in Christ and His promises isn’t being taught or lived, then we shouldn’t expect that kids will grow in their own faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17)!
We don’t need expensive programs and fancy entertainment. We don’t need an attraction that will be outdone by our secular world. We need right, faithful teaching and living. If we’re more willing and ready to drop everything to accommodate the school or athletic schedule, but the Christian faith is a distant 4th on the list, then the priorities are implicitly understood. There’s no need to say, “our faith isn’t that important,” because the example already shows that’s the case.
Along the way, we need to remember that God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word does the work. Faith comes by hearing, so we want that Word to be heard (Romans 10:17). It’s not us making Christians…we’re only watering as God does the work (1 Cor 3). What a blessing that we get to share this beautiful news with those around us, first and foremost our family.
Since God’s people were in the wilderness, God has emphasized the importance of keeping faith in God’s commands and promises at the forefront of family life. In Deuteronomy 11, Moses is speaking to the people as they prepare to enter into the promised land. We have a second giving of the law (Deutero – second, Nomos – law…Deuteronomy…) to remind them about God’s commands and promises. As he speaks he encourages the parents to raise their children in these promises:
18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.
Now…we’re not under the Old Covenant. We are not hearing this passage the way the people in that day were. These words were spoken to God’s people in the desert, and yet the importance of sharing God’s promises, not of a piece of land between a river and a sea, but of an eternal promised land remains the same. In Christ, we have a greater promise. The instruction begins at home. Pastors teach and administer the sacraments, bringing God’s Good News of forgiveness in Christ and all that he commanded, but the teaching starts at home.
When Luther traveled around visiting families in his day it inspired him to provide the small catechism as a simple way for the head of the house to teach the basics of the faith in the household (You can read his preface explaining exactly why he put it together). It wasn’t the first catechism of the church, but it was a simple explanation of what we believe, teach, and confess as Christians. The Holy Scriptures, Christian piety (praying, going to church, living the life of faith) and the basics of the faith ought not to be first introduced when a child is entering their teenage years. All of those years that our minds are most fertile for remembering content ought to involve the hearing of God’s promises in Christ and instruction regarding how we are to live as a result.
There’s an idea that we don’t want to “push religion” on kids. We’re ready to tell them which sports to like, which movies to enjoy, and which activities to look forward to, but we don’t want to share and instill in them the words of eternal life and true peace?
The world would have you believe that the path to peace is in chaos. Be everywhere! Do everything! The promise of Christ is that he takes the burden of God’s law and gives us true peace (Matthew 11). We need not worry if we’re on the best select teams or whether we are in with the right crowds. Instead, we can faithfully play on the teams and when those teams or other commitments encroach on our Christian faith, we take a step back to decide whether the health of our faith is worth the things of this world. Is it always easy to make those decisions? No. And yet, if we haven’t gathered with the body of Christ in months, then whatever is keeping us from such wonderful gifts of Word and Sacrament ought to be re-evaluated. Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches. We are to abide in Him. If we are cut off from Him now we are like those branches that are cut off and drying fearing the last day (John 15). One pastor recently said, “We’re a forgetful people. Most people leave the church because they forget. They forget the beauty of the Gospel. They forget their own need for such good news.” We want to share this good news and remember it ourselves.
So, what should we do about the education issues currently facing us? God has given you sanctified reason. You have been made new in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit. Now you can look at the situation and decide what to do. Look at your situation and determine whether your educational situation will help form your child up in the way they should go. You are free in Christ. Enjoy friends and sports and all that education has to offer. Just keep Christ at the center. Don’t allow our Christian unity to be pulled apart by the demands of the world.
Are you a horrible Christian parent if you send your child to the public school? No, just know that you have a lot of teaching to do every night and a lot of listening to do in order to know what all needs to be discussed. There are some who believe that we just need to retreat from the culture. No. We are to be in but not of the world. The big concern here is whether we can rightly form our kids around God’s Word when most of their day is spent hearing the teachings of the world only.
Are you a spectacular parent if you send your child to a Christian school? Not necessarily. Especially if you think that you now have no responsibility to teach the faith because the school will take care of it all. Continue to teach at home. Listen and love your kids as you grow yourself.
Are you a weirdo or a superhero for homeschooling? Neither. Any option is going to have pros and cons. If you can teach and get connected with good educators, that’s great! If you don’t have those abilities and resources then continue to faithfully and deliberately live out and teach the faith when you have your children around you.
The goal is not to shelter from everything all the time, but to teach and protect as we are able.
Here are some great podcasts on the matter: (if either of these links is ever no longer good, just let me know and I’ll get them fixed)
- The Federalist – AUTHOR MAKES THE CASE FOR PULLING YOUR CHILD OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL (also available via iTunes)
- Issues, Etc. – Raising Christian Children in an Age of Progressivism: Socialization and Engaging Culture (This is a great series. This link takes you to a broader category. I couldn’t find them all under one category. This digs into various topics about raising children in our day and age.)
Overall: Live the faith, teach the faith, and make the best decision possible for your family. Kids see what you do and how you do it. Scary right? Praise be to God, that it’s not on us to make Christians. God’s Word does the work, we just continue to share it. Will we be perfect? Never. Is God faithful? Always.
Peace is yours in Christ. Life is yours by grace through faith. What a great message to share with the next generation and those around us. (look in the near future, for a post on sharing the Christian faith as a whole.)
If you’re looking for some helpful resources for family prayer or personal devotional growth here are some ideas.
- Educational Resources – Podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels that you can immerse yourself in to dig deeper into what we believe as Christians.
- Teaching the Faith at Home – A great book on how to teach the faith at the various stages of child development as you work through the catechism.
- Devotional Challenge – A wonderful resource for how to do personal devotions, how to read Scripture, and so on.
- Around the Word – This is a resource for home family devotions that revolves around Scripture.
- Treasury of Daily Prayer – Has the daily lectionary readings plus many other great resources.
- The Hymnal (Lutheran Service Book) also has some wonderful resources available to you to provide structure to your devotional time.
- Responsive Prayer 1 pg. 282
- Responsive Prayer 2 pg. 285
- The Litany pg. 289
- Daily Prayer (This is what I personally use devotionally)
- Morning pg. 295
- Noon pg. 296
- Early Evening pg. 297
- Close of Day pg. 298
- An of course, the Catechism is set up for devotional usage to study Scripture as we understand our Christian faith.
Blessings in Christ!
If you have questions or other thoughts, just let me know.