On Keeping Christian Children in Public School for the Purpose of Evangelism

Families considering classical and Christian education at Geneva Academy or at home face notable challenges. Usually, the parents’ desire is to raise a child to Christian maturity, so that he loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Christian education or home schooling requires time, determination, and scarce resources. The argument that children should remain in the local school system to be “salt and light” makes the choice harder.

When we think about keeping Christian children in public school, we must keep in mind that the public education system now forbids teaching that the Bible is the source of truth, that God purposefully designed and created the universe, that His moral law should be obeyed, that sin should be avoided, and that the Scriptures are the intellectual foundation of sound academic inquiry.

Public education claims to respect personal religious views but cannot by law affirm or encourage any of them. Even when school administrators and teachers are fellow Christians, Oregon Department of Education curriculum standards effectively teach that the Bible is irrelevant to learning that moral/cultural values are relative and that there is no absolute truth. God commands us to teach our children that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). In secular schools, however, children are taught (directly or indirectly) that the fear of the Lord is extreme, narrow, foolish, or best kept away from school. In short, children hear the opposite – sometimes from peers, sometimes from textbooks, sometimes from teachers – that abandoning the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Battling the worldview of a culture or institution is difficult, even for adult Christians. Deliberately sending our little ones to evangelize is like answering the following:

“WANTED – Children to be sent to Islamic schools as pupils. The task: persuade Muslim peers that Allah is not God, that Mohammed was not a prophet and that the Koran is not inspired. Bibles cannot be used. The children may face strong persecution if discovered or if someone is offended. While there all week, the children may get an education, though the instruction is rooted in the false teaching the children are there to disprove. Minimum commitment: 12 years.”

If we answered this ad, we would have to acknowledge that at the period of life ordained by the Lord for the training of our Christian sons and daughters, we were placing them in a situation hostile and likely destructive to that training. That would not be sacrifice or ministry, it would be irresponsibility!

Sadly, research shows the toll public education has had on Christian families. Christian researchers have found that most evangelical children attend public schools, and that only a small minority of them, when teenagers, believe in moral absolutes. Even “spiritually active” teenagers usually abandon their faith in their twenties, or adopt secular humanist or socialist viewpoints. (Please see barna.org, exodusmandate.org, nehemiahinstitute.org, and discoverchristianschools.com for articles and citations.)

Some families have no other option than public education, and they work diligently to counteract and overcome the negative influences on their children. We need to pray for these families and come alongside of them as best we can. Yet let us withdraw the “salt and light” argument as a reason to keep our Christian children in public schools. Let us send adults to be missionaries, while we fathers obey God’s command to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4)