By Melvin Adams
I recently attended a conference for pastors and ministry leaders where the focus was transformational ministry. One of the sessions was led by the pastor of a “significant” church who spoke about transforming communities through ministry in local schools. I was captured by his thesis that every challenge and opportunity of a community could be found in the local schools. I had to agree. So I was eager to hear what his church was doing to transform young lives through their ministry in schools.
His presentation centered on a local public high school that his church had adopted. He shared about enthusiastic turnout for workdays to paint and repair. He told about improving sports facilities, providing clothing and meals for students, and helping with after-school tutoring to help kids learn how to read. The church was clearly engaged with the school, and I wasn’t surprised when he stated how happy the superintendent was with their church-school partnership. Everyone was impressed!
Then the Q & A session started. Pastors and leaders peppered him with questions, eager to know how they could apply this transformational ministry model to their own communities.
Q: How did you motivate your people to become so engaged? A: I guess I was able to lay out a clear vision for how we could transform our community by engaging with our school.
Q: So how did you overcome the challenges of sharing faith in a publicly funded school? A: We went with no agenda—only to serve. We were very careful not to have any materials that mentioned Jesus or had scripture. We were just there to let them know we cared and wanted to make our community a better place.
Q: So how are you reaching the students for Christ? A: We’re serving them and trusting God to reach them through our love and relationships we will form over time.
There were lots of questions like these. Then I asked a question.
Q: Three primary spheres of K-12 education are represented in every community and in most churches: public (or secular), Christian schools, and homeschools. What vision does your church have to serve non-public schools in your community? A: [after a long pause] Since over 90% of our community is in public schools; we choose to serve there. A church can’t do everything. Our vision is public schools, so we do nothing for the others though we don’t oppose them.
I wasn’t surprised. This is normal thinking for most pastors and, to some extent, I can understand why. But when the session ended I approached the speaker and asked if I could have a little bit of his time. He agreed.
I thanked him for his vision to bring transformation to his community and for seeing schools as a vital part of that opportunity. I then asked if he minded a little “push back” to his thinking. He said he didn’t, so I continued.
Q: Do you agree that the primary purpose Jesus gave the Church is to make disciples? A: Yes.
Q: Do you agree that making disciples requires biblical worldview formation? A: Yes.
Q: Do you agree that biblical worldview and secular education are pretty much diametrically opposed to each other? A: [cautious pause] I suppose so.
Q: What are your thoughts about parents who understand this reality and have chosen to take their children out of secular schools because of their commitment to helping their kids form a biblical worldview, regardless of the sacrifice to themselves?
What might parents feel when their Christian school or homeschool is dismissed as irrelevant, even though they too have real needs and would be helped significantly by the vision and passion the church has for public education?
Should your parents, who are making every effort to do the transformational work of making Christian disciples, be encouraged and supported and not dismissed as a minority in the culture by their church? A: [a long pause] Wow! Thank you for sharing. You have really given me something to think about. You’re right!
We parted ways as friends freshly determined to bring transformation to our communities and culture through schools.
Here is the heart of the matter: Every parent, student, and school needs to be bathed in prayer and shown the love of God through dedicated Christians who are willing to serve. Christian schools and homeschools that are giving children a biblical worldview and truly making them disciples of Jesus should be championed and supported, even as work is done to influence public schools and the families and students they serve.
Christian parents, pastors, and educators need to understand how vital biblical worldview formation is to students. It is critical to the power of the gospel in their lives and is essential if we hope to experience Christ-centered community and cultural transformation.
Volume 8 Issue 1 - The Renewanation Review