By Dr. Josh Mulvihill
Grace Church of Eden Prairie, MN, where I am a pastor, has offered a Christian Education Fair for the past four years. I want to highlight what I’ve learned and provide you with a vision to host a similar type of event.
But first, why should a church host a Christian education fair? Here are three reasons:
The church and Christian school are partners working toward the same goals of evangelism and discipleship of young people. Colossians 1:28 summarizes the shared goal of pastor and Christian educator, “teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” A Christian Education Fair is a way for churches and schools to work together to help young people know Christ and grow in Christ.
Education greatly impacts a child’s faith in Jesus. Pastors who are serious about shepherding their congregation must pay attention to the shaping influences in their people’s lives. What are the most influential faith-shaping forces in a child’s life? According to a study by George Barna, the single most influential voice in a young person’s life, other than parents and grandparents, is education. Young people spend approximately 16,000 hours at school between K-12 grade, and this fact must be taken into account by pastors.
Christian education has been a focal point for pastors at key periods of church history. I believe a majority of individuals in the evangelical community have lost sight of what the Reformers knew: a child’s education was a critical component of a pastor’s responsibility. Riemer Faber, a professor of Classics, writes:
“It is sometimes forgotten that the Reformation was as much concerned with school as it was with church and home. Appreciating the role of education in directing church and society back to the source of the Christian faith, the Reformers were committed to the schooling of the young. One of Martin Luther’s first acts as a reformer was to propose that monasteries be turned into schools, while one of his last acts was to establish a school in Eisleben, where he died in 1546. Not only Luther, but also Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger, and Calvin actively promoted reformed education in their writings and works.” 
Throughout periods of church history, Christian education has been the adjunct servant of a gospel-centered church. Unfortunately, for many today, it has become a forgotten partner of the church. It is critical for pastors to understand that education is not outside the mission of the church, but central to it. Each pastor and church should prayerfully wrestle through what shape education takes in their discipleship ministry to young people.
One option is to host a Christian Education Fair. A Christian Education Fair is a low-investment, high-impact way for churches to support local schools and serve families in the community. A Christian Education Fair is a gathering of local Christian educators, including Christian homeschool groups, K-12 schools, and Christian colleges, for the purpose of promoting Christian education and providing a one-stop shop of local Christian education options.
If you are interested in hosting a Christian Education Fair, then follow these seven steps:
Communicate internally with the leadership of your organization. Share a concise list of reasons why it is valuable to host a Christian Education Fair. Reasons may include: education shapes a young person’s worldview (for added impact contrast the differences between a biblical worldview vs. secular worldview), to help young people develop faith that lasts (so they do not walk away from Jesus), and to increase impact outside the walls of the church (churches have about 1,200 hours with a child between K-12 grade).
Identify a point person to oversee the details of the fair. The responsibilities of the role include contacting area schools, handling questions and RSVP’s, coordinating the promotion of the event, offering a resource table at the fair, and being a host the day of the event. For examples of promotional videos see vimeo.com/39077330 and vimeo.com/58631765.
Choose a date that works for your congregation. January or February is our preferred months as families in our community are seriously considering education options at this time of year. Find out when this occurs for your families, and position your education fair accordingly. Key groups to target include families with preschool aged children and families with children in transition ages (i.e., moving from elementary to middle school). It takes most families one full calendar year to digest, discuss, and decide what direction to take. As a result, many Christian schools do not see immediate fruit from the education fair.
Bring the education fair to your people. When are there large numbers of parents in your building? Offer the education fair at one of these times. Our first education fair was offered on a Saturday morning, and 150 people attended. For the past three years, we have hosted the education fair on Wednesday evening when large numbers of people are already coming through our building, and our attendance has been much larger.
Contact area Christian schools and invite them to participate in the Christian Education Fair. We contact schools three months in advance of the event and ask for an RSVP within weeks of receiving our invitation. We average 20 to 30 different Christian education options every year at our education fair.
Collaborate with local Christian school leaders to ensure what is offered is helpful for them. Invite key schools to help plan the education fair, provide a seminar on the value of Christian education, and promote the event to their network.
Decide what components to include at the fair. Our education fair consists of three components: educational options, seminars, and educational resources. Educational options are the Christian preschools, schools, colleges, and homeschool groups available for families to explore. This will be the main draw. Seminars help families weigh options and consider reasons to choose Christian education. Educational resources are books that help parents disciple their children and pass on a Christian worldview. We sell 100-150 different biblically based books at a resource table and encourage parents to build a Christian worldview library for their children.
Education is a powerful shaping influence in the life of every child. Every book, teacher, and curriculum has a worldview and will impact a child’s faith in Jesus. For this reason, pastors—as shepherds over their flock—are wise to help parents understand how education shapes their child’s worldview. Parents are looking for guidance on education and are grateful for the assistance. A Christian Education Fair is a great way to champion Christian education and encourage parents to choose an educational option that will build their child’s faith in Jesus.
1. Clarion Vol. 47, No. 16 (1998)
Volume 8 Issue 1 - The Renewanation Review