Last week in this space I urged Christian parents to consider Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as a guiding principle for how they educate their children. Before the ink was dry on that piece, I could imagine at least one objection to the position I had staked out because I have frequently heard it before: We send our children to non-Christian schools so they can be salt and light to the lost children and teachers. If that’s what you think, I suggest what you’re doing is more like sending your lambs to slaughter.
Every Christian must be engaged in Christ’s Great Commission to His followers found in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen! We have our work cut out for us, brothers and sisters. We are charged with spreading the Gospel!
But where do our school-aged children fit into that commission? Does Christ want us to send our young, (mostly) spiritually defenseless children alone into the lair of the enemy in an attempt to convert them? I want to suggest that the answer to that is almost always a resounding, no. Where is the wisdom in that strategy, after all? Of course we want our children walking in faith and learning how to bear witness to the Gospel, but do we really think our nine-year-old is spiritually strong enough, prepared enough, mature enough to have more of an impact on his unbelieving schoolmates than five, ten, or more of them will have on him? Again, I think the answer is most often, no.
The Proverbs caution repeatedly against aligning ourselves with certain kinds of companions—from the foolish to the guy with a bad temper (both frequent behaviors of the non-believer) and then warn us that bad company corrupts good morals. Some may argue that these proverbs are not actually commands, but we can agree that at the very least they are wisdom for the believer, and they seem to be saying that it isn’t wise to spend too much time with people who serve other gods, especially if they outnumber you. And that goes double for the nine-year-old who, by the simple fact of his age and lack of experience, does not possess the discernment and wisdom necessary not just to defend himself but to go on the offense with the Gospel.
Of course, every child in a secular school is not anti-Christ and, in fact, it would be foolish to think your child would not find a couple good Christian friends to help sustain him. Certainly there are some good Christian teachers in secular schools as well (and they definitely have a more valid salt and light argument for being there than your child does). Unfortunately for your child, though, a couple of like-minded friends and an undercover Christian teacher usually isn’t enough to protect against the secular attack on Christian presuppositions and ideals even when it is not attacking Christianity directly by name. In other words, it isn’t simply that there are a few predators in this pond you’ve let your little Christian minnow loose in; it is that the whole pond is toxic to your minnow, and he is going to bring more toxic waste home with him each night than you can possibly wipe off of him before he goes back for another seven hours tomorrow.
Still not convinced? Let me leave you with a couple sobering statistics. The Nehemiah Institute administers a test called PEERS that measures Christian worldview in students. (You can check them out here.) A score of 70 or above on their test means the student is solidly in the camp of biblical theism. A score between 30 and 69 means he is moderately Christian. Below 29 is secular humanist. In 1988 the composite score on PEERS test for Christian children attending public schools was 36.1. In 2001 the score had dropped to 7.5 (Wilson).
The Barna Group is known for its work compiling a variety of Christian statistics. In the early 2000s, they determined that 59% of young Christians leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time (https://www.barna.com/research/six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church/). This study was not related to Christian education, but one should ask himself how many of those students were getting one unified message from home and church while the school—the third influence in a child’s life and the one that spends the most instructive time with the child—was teaching and training a message radically different from home and church, a message toxic to Christianity.
While I won’t suggest these statistics definitively prove my point, neither do I discount them. Scripture and common sense should prevail in this argument. If I want my child to be a great football player, I’m not going to send him to music camp to be trained for football. If I want my child to be a faithful Christian, I’m not going to send him for 1,200 hours a year to be trained in anti-Christian thought and practice. Don’t send your lambs to slaughter. Teach them diligently (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
At Trinitas Christian School, we aren’t perfect in training young Christians, but we are working at it faithfully. A recent survey of our alumni showed that 92% of them were still active in a local church and pursuing the faith. We won’t be satisfied until that number is 100%. Let us partner with your Christian family to teach diligently to your child the ways of Christ that he or she is learning at home and at church.
Wilson, Douglas. The Case for Classical Christian Education. Crossway. Print. Pg 104.