This month, many parents will find themselves frantically roaming the aisles at Target for school supplies, children will select their first day of school outfits, and with far less fanfare, teachers have begun setting up their classrooms.
Recently, there has been a lot of handwringing about the state of public schools related to broader cultural changes in society. We must be careful not to vilify people created in the image of Christ, based on isolated incidents or cultural changes beyond their control. The Bible commands us to give honor to those whom honor is due and there is something honorable about the work of men and women who have devoted themselves to public service.
It is also important to remember the many Christians who work in the public school system. Christian teachers and administrators have the opportunity to be the church for children and families that may never step foot in a church. According to James, teaching is a high calling and while James is speaking about bible teachers the reasons people should be cautious about teaching in the church (the heavy responsibility for correctively communicating truth) apply when it comes to teaching in the public square.
Given the heavy responsibility placed on Christian teachers, we as the church should encourage them the same way we cheerlead and support raise for missionaries headed to Indonesia. Beyond, treating public school employees as people created in the image of Christ. Christians should not abandon public schools in mass.
90 percent of Texas school children will attend public schools, many of these children will never set foot in a church, how then will they know Christ without the Christian English teacher who shows supernatural understanding and kindness? What about the missed opportunities for our children and youth to put into practice their Sunday school lessons by sharing the Gospel with their classmates?
Evangelism isn't always bible tracts and street corners. Sometimes it's just about showing up and living Gospel lives in close enough proximity for people to start asking questions about why we live differently. Many Christian men and women are called by God to serve in our public schools. These men and women view their call to service as a mission field and they serve their students and their families through their public witness and professionalism as they educate their students. Many Christian students represent biblical values taught to them by their parents and their churches every time they treat their teachers and classmates with respect, complete their homework and serve their school communities.
Rather than retreat from a changing culture, Christians should view schools as an opportunity to serve their community and demonstrate the truth of the Gospel. Public schools serve such a critical role in educating the majority of children that they are often at the center of community life. This is one reason many churches have begun partnerships with their local schools in the hopes of evangelism, by caring for the needs of their communities. One example of how your church could serve its local schools is by hosting a school supplies drive for kids whose parents may not be able to afford new materials otherwise.
A BGCT church in Fort Worth has taken on providing classes at a local elementary school that helps parents understand how to be more involved in their children's lives and education using biblical principles. This partnership is of mutual benefit since schools want parents to be involved in their child's education, many parents do want to be involved but may not know how, and the church has the opportunity to share Christ's love with these parents.
Of course, parents are charged with making the best decision for their families, my brother graduated from a private Christian school, while my sister and I graduated from a public high school, my parents recognized that he needed a different educational environment. Parents have a choice in where their children attend school, but one can utilize private and home-based education and still recognize the importance of the public education system.
As children across Texas head back to school, whether public, private or at home, let's remember the high calling of teachers and encourage the ones in our congregations and the ones outside. Let's remember that Christians are meant to be a force for the common good and quality public education is essential for both good citizenship and a thriving economy. Finally, let's remember that every time we step into the public square, including public schools, we have the opportunity to share the good news of Christ.
Resources on Church-School Partnerships:
The Expectations Project: http://www.expectations.org/
Nicole Baker-Fulgham: Educating All God's Children available via Amazon
The Urban Alternative's National Adopt A School Intiative: http://churchadoptaschool.org/
Raising Highly Capable Kids curriculum, contact Gabriel Cortes at firstname.lastname@example.org.