Thursday, August 18, 2016

Kingdom Education in the 21st Century

"The Christian school is the only system, outside the home, where the teachers will instill in your child a Biblical worldview."  Dr. Glen Schultz, Kingdom Education

Dr. Glen Shultz has served as a teacher, head of school, and director of a curriculum publishing division of a major Christian publishing company.  He wrote a book entitled Kingdom Education:  God's Plan for Educating Future Generations a little over a decade ago.  Our faculty will be taking a look at it this fall as part of their continuing education.  Dr. Shultz's outlines the mission and purpose of a Christian school, links the basic education that is required to produce functioning citizens of our society with the church's Biblically assigned function of discipleship, or Christian education, and addresses the Biblical role and relationship between the institutions of the home, the church, and the school. 

It's important for us to review this foundational material, because it goes to the very heart of the mission and purpose of Portersville Christian School, and why we are here.  The waning influence of the gospel message of Jesus in our culture and society is what compelled church leaders to start Christian schools in the first place, but even though the movement enjoyed success in the 80's and 90's, both the church, and the enrollment in Christian schools, in our country is declining at an accelerating pace.  Most church growth is transfer growth, not evangelistic outreach, and finding volunteer leadership has become one of the most difficult things that churches have to do.

Most Christian grade schools and high schools were started by churches, or groups of Christians, from 1960 to the mid 1990's.  There was really not much in the way of unity of purpose or planning involved.  The Catholic church established schools all over the country in the 19th century, mainly to counter the influence of Protestants who tended to dominate the public education system at that time.  They connected the schools to the church's ministry of Christian education, and they funded the cost of providing the education by committing large amounts of church revenue to the schools, as well as utilizing those in the church who served under the calling of sacred orders, and a vow of poverty, and taught students as part of their service to the church.  The end result was that for about two generations, the Catholic church saw its membership stabilize, and then increase in number, and its need for leadership on the local church level was filled.  Even today, the majority of Catholic priests and nuns are products of the church's school system. 

Protestants and Evangelicals were latecomers to the Christian school movement, but when they did get involved, the schools had an impact.  The problems experienced by Christian school education on our side of the denominational divide has been  a lack of unity of purpose and a lack of unity when it comes to planning where schools will serve.  While the Catholic church accepted the responsibility for educating its children, and worked to ensure that most of its families could afford to place their children in a church-owned and operated school so that they would be under the church's influence every day, Protestants left their families pretty much on their own, to bear the full cost of sending their children to the kinds of schools that will undergird and support the values of their home and church, instead of teaching the opposite, or trying to tear those values down. 

There are some good things that have come from the development of faith-based education, particularly Christian schools connected to a Conservative, Evangelical perspective.  While up to 80% of the youth who are raised in church and active in their youth group will drop out by the time they finish college, those who have been enrolled in a Christian school that emphasizes and practices a Christian worldview are much more likely to stay in church, and not drop out at all.  A significant percentage of adult church leadership in the US today is drawn from among the alumni and former students of the Christian schools.  Christian school graduates tend to gravitate toward international missions in particular, making up a significant portion of those who leave this country to serve overseas, for the long term. 

In spite of that record, Evangelical Protestants have not yet found a way to come together and cooperate across cultural and denominational lines to provide the kind of foundational support for Christian schools that would enable them to get past many of the obstacles they now face, and remain open.  When the Catholic church refers to its budget for Christian education, they are speaking of the lion's share of the money committed to that purpose going to support parish, and diocese owned schools.  When Evangelicals talk about Christian education, they are speaking of Sunday School, small groups, and programs that are inwardly focused to provide services for their own congregations and members.  Using Christian education budgets to support Christian schools is almost unheard of in Evangelical Protestant circles.  And yet, collectively, the dollar amounts that churches spend in the category of "Christian Education" would allow existing schools to more than double the enrollment they currently serve, increasing the effectiveness of what is provided every time another student graduates.  Instead of seeing over 300 Christian schools close annually, and up to 80% of the young people raised in church leave by the time they graduate from college, never to return, that kind of investment would have a major impact on the effectiveness of the church's ministry everywhere.

"Kingdom Education" outlines a plan for Christian schooling that aims at preparing students for service in the Kingdom of God, namely, his church.  It builds the foundation for a student's school experience on the truths of scripture, and links this experience to the task of discipleship which is one of the five Biblically mandated functions of the church as the body of Christ, and the local expression of that body.  Every church that has one of its members involved in this Christian school is seeing that Biblical function carried out, according to God's will.  And every home represented in this Christian school is engaged in a partnership to make sure that their children are taught truth, and connected to the God who is the source of it. 

As Dr. Shultz says, "The Christian school is the only system, outside the home, where the teachers will instill in your child a Biblical worldview." 

Think about that and let it sink in.  Teachers, next to parents, have as much influence over what a child things as anyone.  You may be fortunate enough to have your children in a Christian school like this one, but what about the other families in the body of Christ that is your spiritual family?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's August. And you know what that means!

Three weeks from today, alarm clocks will go off all over the area in the homes of PCS students.  The busses will start up, and head out.  By 8:15, the students will be unloaded, and at 8:19 the bell will ring to signal the beginning of the 2016-17 school year for about 250 students at Portersville Christian School. 

About 30 new students will be joining us, including some siblings of current students, and some families who are new to the area.  Our theme verse for the year, I John 3:16, indicates our desire for all of us to come together as a body of Christians.  We hope that happens quickly, that friendships and bonds between student form, and that we can get about the business of being a Christian school ministry. 

We still have some openings for students, a few in grades K, 1 and 2, and a few more in 11 and 12.  There might be some room in the middle, depending on being able to tweak a class schedule here and there.  We also have some room in Pre-K, which is an excellent, affordable way to come to PCS, and guarantee a spot in the following year's kindergarten class. 

All the way around last year, our students did an excellent job in their studies.  The tests we use to measure student progress painted a glowing picture of achievement and progress.  Of course, test scores are not the only component of expected student outcomes, in fact, they are only one of many indications of how students are doing, and of the quality of education that is provided in the classrooms.  We use them to tweak our curriculum objectives, and to fine tune the academic program.  But in every regard, the academic strength of PCS is visible.  This is a good place to go to school, and the quality of the education is excellent. 

Please join me in prayer as we prepare for the upcoming school year.  The supplies and books are already hear, and are in the process of being distributed to the classrooms.  The calendar is in place.  Before long, the summer cleaning in the building is almost done, the teachers will be arranging their classrooms, and everything will be ready.  We have a mission, and a purpose that turns education into Christian discipleship and partners with parents in the God-given responsibility of training their children.  Education and the acquiring of skills goes hand in hand with understanding truth, and the source of truth is the Bible.  Otherwise, without the Bible, learning takes place in a vacuum, and there's no objective foundation. 

I believe this is our 54th year of operation.  That makes us one of the oldest Christian schools in Western Pennsylvania, set on top of a hill in a township near a tiny town that straddles the line between two very rural counties.  In an era when many Christian schools are struggling, and many are closing, we're still here. 

Apparently, God isn't finished with us yet.  So as we begin this coming year, let's find out what he wants us to do.