Friday, March 18, 2011

Pastors and Christian education

A few days ago a reader named Dennis Rowan emailed and asked, "I am collecting some information about Christian schooling, and wish to know if you would list 2,3, or more reasons why you think most pastors fail to promote Homeschooling/ Christian schooling. Thanks."

I replied as follows:

1. I believe many pastors are still unfamiliar with homeschooling. We attend a small church with an older pastor. Prior to pastoring our church, he spent 30 yrs working as a hospital chaplain (in other words, not in day-to-day contact with children). Our children were literally the first homeschooled kids he had met. He was deeply skeptical at first about our schooling option, but over the last eight years of watching our girls grow up, he has totally changed his mind and now applauds our decision.

2. There is still a widespread belief in America - including among pastors - that things in public schools just aren't as bad as the critics claim. They remember what schools were like when they were students and tend to believe the good parts still exist. Unless the local public school is a blatant failure, the belief is that "our" schools are okay and everyone else's schools are the messed-up ones.

3. There is still a reluctance to criticize a parent's educational choice for their child, i.e. "it's none of my business." Unquestionably a decision to homeschool has a major impact on a family. But what if both parents work? How can a pastor suggest the family homeschool when it's perceived as "impossible"? Keeping one parent at home to school the kids might mean selling a house, moving to a cheaper house, changing a job for the husband, and/or all kids of other major upheavals for a family. It is not something a pastor can suggest lightly.

4. Frankly if a family hasn't already thought about homeschooling as an option, they're not likely to change their mind unless an experience with their own kid(s) convinces them. Many parents aren't likely to listen to (or at least, take seriously) a pastor's thoughts on the matter. And many parents, like pastors, tend to see their "own" schools as fine (see #2 above) unless a dramatic situation develops to change their opinion.

Just some thoughts, hope they're helpful.

Mr. Rowan assembled all the replies he received as well as his own thoughts on the matter, and pulled together this article which makes for very interesting reading.


  1. As a Catholic, I think we're a bit spoiled in this area since there is such an emphasis on parochial schooling and having the Church as the center of education. At the same time, there can be resistance to homeschooling because of the same philosophy.

    Happily, I can always point to the words of Pope Pius XI: "The family holds...the right to educate the young...a right inviolable on the part of any power on earth."

    OT, I just pre-ordered your book on Amazon and I'm looking forward to it's arrival in June!

  2. Here's the Dennis Rowan summary of the 6 respondents that returned answers to his questions.

    "Summary – Fear (lack of faith) is probably the single most underlying factor.
    • They fear they will offend those associated with public schools
    • They fear they will loose financial support

    It appears that the Gospel then becomes a numbers game. Does the people group in largest numbers control the pastor’s choices? Should more un-saved people show up some day, will it change his message? If more Muslims than Christians showed up in the church, would the pastor still use his Bible? … just asking."

    Wow! I think he should read Enola Gay's article for today at
    Circular Reasoning

    My summary: (short of having the actual 5 other responses to read and compile an analysis, instead of just his version of the abbreviated summary).

    We're definitely stuck in a circular reasoning that is NOT advantageous any longer to meeting the needs of a congregation, community or a society as a whole.

    So will the Pastor follow his peers or strike out on his own path, forging against "fear" for what is actually BEST for his flock?


  3. One reason that you did not consider is the 501.3c. Pastor's are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them.

  4. A lot of pastors do not promote homeschooling because they are ravenous wolves in sheeps clothing that aren't teaching the true gospel anyway. They continue to conform to their congregation's ideas of what family should look like instead of the biblical model. They wouldn't want to *offend* anyone by saying that mothers should stay home and teach their own they just don't promote it at all. Just an opinion.....--S

  5. We are pastors of a small church in a small town, population under 700 and that is if you count every person on every ranch within a 30 mile radius. When we first visited this area, we found out that the closest school is more than 45 miles away. The kids are bussed there and back. In our area, more kids are homeschooled than attend school. Our children are the only ones in our church that attend school. We prayed about this position, especially concerning the school problem, and we felt God tell us "let Me take care of the school stuff." So we accepted the pastorate and moved here. We have caught a lot of flack from our congregation and townspeople for allowing our kids to be public schooled. But our stance on this is our kids are part of our ministry team. They have been called to minister and reach out to the kids and teachers in their school. We are very involved in the school and have a great relationship with the vice principal who is a born again Christian. In fact just a few weeks ago, our kids went on a mission trip to San Francisco to minister to the homeless. The vice principal's wife was one of the counselors on the trip. Many times, our daughter has been asked to pray for friends, some who don't even believe God exists. Our son is a very outgoing kid who shares his beliefs with many kids also. My two sisters who have children both homeschool so it is a totally natural choice for us to understand. But it is just not for us. We do encourage people to homeschool because many parents are not aggressive enough to stand up and make sure only what they want taught in the public school is what their kids learn.
    As far as the comment about the 501.3c is concerned, many churches and pastors are opting out of this tax consideration code. We want to preach the Bible not what someone else wants us to preach. If you are concerned that your pastor is being ruled by that tax designation, put a little more in the offering or maybe an envelope of money with their name on it. None of us are in this 24/7 occupation for the money.

  6. My pastor of 24 years used to be a big advocate of home schooling but unfortunately over the past 4 years or so that has changed. He's bought into the corporate lie that you must have two incomes to live in todays world so our church opened a school as an alternative to both public and home school. If we're not supposed to be of this world why live by their rules?

    Our daughter "graduated" 12th grade at the age of 16 after being home schooled her entire life. We have family members who's children were raised the same way as her yet went to public school and now she's in college while they're out partying. While they couldn't live without their cell phones and internet, she's excited about our moving to a farm. I wouldn't change a thing.

  7. Patrice,
    i don't know how you feel about age-segregated worship, but i thought this was an interesting movie on the subject:

  8. The excuse I've heard most often from pastors is "don't take the salt out of the schools." Unfortunately, they are failing to realize how often the public schools leach the salt from the students. By the time I graduated from (public) high school, I was mad at God, for making me a second class (female) citizen of a kingdom I didn't want any part of, and I wanted nothing to do with Christianity in any form. It took me 12 years of worshipping money, Baal, Astarte, and myself, before I reached the point of admitting Jesus was right. I would like my children to learn from my mistakes without having to repeat them.
    And I've taught in the public schools. I have a very good idea how bad they've gotten since I was a student.

    Xa Lynn

  9. There's a reason that a lot of people will not buck the "traditional teachings" that we were taught while growing up. Even though a lot of the teachings have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be wrong, they still refuse to accept the truth.

    Here's the reason why:

    Truth seldom goes without a scratched face.

    – John Trapp

    AlaRedNeck and Mrs. Neck

  10. Sorry, not to be offensive, but children are CHILDREN, not ministers.

    This kind of nonsense is part of the reason we left our former church. Home school families in that church were derided because our children weren't being "salt and light". There was a perceived/expected evangelism opportunity at public schools.

    Public schools are almost entirely closed to evangelism.

    Public schools are evangelizing THEIR views and those views are NOT Christian. By putting Christian children in such an environment a family does not improve the school, but rather damages their children.

    I suffered abuse in public school, as did my wife - and this was in the 60's - things have only gotten worse in the intervening years.

    Children are a gift of God and should treasured as such.

    My (homeschooled) child knows more history and more languages than I by far and I hold a B.A. I am ahead of them on things technical and philosophy but that is it.

    The reasons to send a child to public school are few and usually come down to parental convenience.

    The reasons NOT to send them to public (or many private for that matter) school are myriad and often come down to what is best for the child.

    I am sorry if I offend. I am a bit passionate about this.

    However if you think that I have a strong opinion about this, ask my wife about hers. B-)