The Elephant in the Middle of the Sanctuary – Why Pastors Ignore the Dangers of Public Schools – Part 1

Introduction – If we are to make serious improvement on the impact the Church is having on children, and thus the culture, then one first step is to try to understand why on average pastors have such a low level of support for Christian schooling. The following is an outline showing many factors that may help us understand why so few pastors support Christian schools and/or promote homeschooling.

1. Pastors and parents fail to understand the Bible’s mandate to train children in all aspects of life. There is a mental disconnect between the needs of the child all week long and what “Christian training” the church provides for 2-3 hours weekly –TRADITION
2. Evangelism emphasis rather than discipleship – It’s the “come-into-the-church” rather than “go-into-the-world” mentality. –TRADITION
3. Pastor measures alter call success– decisions for Christ is a common indicator pastors use to measure success. Honorable, and easier to obtain via an emotional appeal compared to spending many years to “train up a child”
4. Pastor measures success by church growth (attendance). This is not a measure of how well children are trained, but it is highly correlated to church income. $$$$
5. Ministry support money comes from adults not youth, therefore recruiting adults for Sunday church service is more important than training children $$$$
6. Seeker-friendly churches by design bring unsaved people to services, but people who don’t see the need of a Savoir will not see the need of Christian training for their children. Thus Christian schooling becomes a hard sell.
7. Clergy/Laity distinction – a non-biblical belief that only professional trained ministers decide what is important for a local congregation. This atmosphere encourages people to follow rather than lead, and this puts excessive confidence in the leadership of the pastor. – TRADITION
8. Centrality of the Pastor – People follow the vision of this man, so if this man has no vision for Christian school emphasis then there is no school –TRADITION
9. Centrality of the meeting place – Christianity for many people is centered around a worship service Sunday a.m. in a church building. Such focus tends to pigeon-hole Christianity to a specific time and place, plus it relegates children into some other dimension like public school Monday through Friday –TRADITION
10. Worship service (not mentioned in Bible) often appeals to felt needs of adults (trouble with job, finances, health, personal relationships) rather than known needs of children (accept & follow Jesus Christ). This may also put the centrality of Christ secondary to “felt needs” of man.
11. Co-dependency of pastor and congregation. Pastor does the work, gets paid and the people’s payment helps relieve them of responsibility to study and teach at home. In return the people also get their “Sunday Christian fix,” which may include entertainment, baby-sitting services and a great (or mediocre) sermon. This relationship between the adult pew-sitters and the pulpiteer is usually comfortable and potentially dangerous for both parties. This co-dependency/comfort zone can easily lead to neglect of “the least of these” to whom both parties are charged to train.
12. Flawed idea that public schools can be changed by adult Christians (teachers, staff, & school board members) – honorable idea, but has been a dismal failure if we analyze data for the past 50 years. These schools can be changed, but not under the current management.
13. Flawed premise that young Christian children should be in public schools as salt and light … dream on; boot camp comes first. Besides we know that about 80 percent of high school students who professed Christ then reject Christianity within 2-4 years after leaving home.
14. Christians wrongly believe their local school is okay – yeah, right! –TRADITION
15. Christians, including Pastors have a naïve worldview – For example they don’t realize that there is a strong socialist/Marxist influence in America’s public schools.
16. Cost of Christian school – lack of faith that God will guide the pastor and provide the money. I say it is an excuse for their lack of commitment. $$$$
17. Pastors believe Christian schooling is a family responsibility
18. Pastor’s efforts go toward building a personal ministry $$$$
19. Mobile society: children grow up & move to new geographic areas – church gets no financial gain from the training that the church provides $$$$
20. Pastor fears offending public school parents & teachers – loss of income $$$$
21. No instant results by training youth for 12 years or more – a special event such as a men’s retreat can have instant results
22. Pride of achievement – material world of property and buildings is more visible presence in community to attract new adults as in 25 acres and 17 buildings versus sending thirty 18-year olds out as missionaries $$$$
23. Tradition of giving tithes and offerings to God translates into giving to the “storehouse, the Church” but not a Christian school. Amazing, spreading the gospel happens in a church sanctuary, but not in a home or classroom –TRADITION & $$$$
24. Hard work – Christian school much greater challenge than church without school – new innovative church programs easier to start and stop than school
25. Pastor risks loosing control dealing with parents of school children – once-a-week participants easier to deal with, guide, control, manipulate (choose one). In other words you can mess with the Sunday service, but don’t mess with my kid
26. Pastors follow the Money. Example: Pastors called to a new church usually means called to a place that pays more money. Money is a common thread running through many of the factors listed here. –$$$$
27. Pastors are territorial. There is a lack of unity among pastors and/or congregations; other congregations seldom give financial support to churches with schools. –TRADITION & $$$$
28. Lack of leadership by seminaries – they seem detached from the issue of training children. –TRADITION
29. Pastors fail to see children in the church as a mission field.
30. Pastors lack vision of children becoming missionaries.
31. Ignorant of historical facts showing public schools were started by atheists more than 150 years ago – before that children trained at home and at Christian schools
32. Paid clergy – It is likely that pastors never loose sight of the fact that their own personal income is tied to those activities that increase the dollars flowing into the church.

Opinions of Others
I sent the following e-mail to seven people who I thought to be like-minded with regard to the need for Christian schooling and the apparent lack of support from pastors.
I am collecting some information. Could you write down and send me 2, 3, or more reasons why you think pastors do not support/promote homeschooling and/or Christian schools? Thanks.
Six people responded immediately. A description of those people is as follows: all were Christians, At least five are published authors, at least five are married with children, at least three have homeschooled, at least two have taught in public schools, at least one has taught in a Christian school, and at least one has seminary training. I have only met three of them face-to-face, and only one on multiple occasions.
All who responded wrote down three or more reasons why they think pastors do not support/promote Christian schooling.

Below is a summary of their thoughts
• The clearest answer was this one: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
• The most common opinion: many people in the congregations are employed by the public school system, the fear of offending and loosing finances
• Ignorance ranked high – some pastors are clueless as to the conditions in public schools. Some have never studied the issue looking for viable ways a church congregation can support homeschooling and/or a Christian school.
• Lack of a biblical worldview also ranked high
• Have not had seminary training about k-12 education
• Brain-washed
• Cowardly/lack of courage
• False shepherds
• Pastor doesn’t want to tell people what type education their children should have.
• Public school educated are intimidated by homeschoolers, but not intentionally
• Too much work/training children not a high priority
• They see supporting public schools as a way to appear caring in the community
• Poor emphasis on discipleship

Conclusion based on Their Opinions Plus Mine
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.

Dennis Rowan

Related articles:
Dollars, Discipleship and Disaster
Is in the Church Nullifying the Word of God for the Sake of Tradition?


Filed under Church Tracks, Elephant in the Sanctuary

8 Responses to The Elephant in the Middle of the Sanctuary – Why Pastors Ignore the Dangers of Public Schools – Part 1

  1. Xa Lynn

    I am a homeschooler in a church with many other homeschoolers, but with a pastor who feels that homeschooling removes the salt from the schools. He actually does have a significant amount of experience in private, Christian schools, as well as personal experience as the product of public schools, but no experience homeschooling. I think a large part of the problem is pastors’ lack of contact with people whose experience in the public schools has led them far, far away from Christ, to the point of syncretism at best, and atheism at worst. If one never sees the damage public schools do, why should one support any other method of schooling?

    Xa Lynn

  2. You make some interesting points in this article about education, many to which I agree. You seem to think that a great part of the problem is related to money but I’m not sure that is at the top of the list of problems. The biggest problem I have with Christian schools is that there are so few of them that do Christian education well. As a pastor, I cannot promote any of the local Christian schools.

    Both my wife and I attended Christian schools and as I pastor I’ve been associated with a number of Christian schools. The overwhelming commonality between them all is a spirit of spiritual apathy and mediocrity among the students. I would send my kids to a Christian school that operated upon the foundational principle that they were training “soldiers for Christ”, but I haven’t come across one yet.

    Responsibility for training children rests upon the parents. Whatever educational choice is made, it will fail to reach the desired outcome if the parents do not daily train their children in the facts and principles of God’s word. In addition, the parents must model the selfless, Christ-like life. Too many parents are too wrapped up in this world to really take responsibility.

    Homeschooling is not he default solution though. In my former church there were about forty children being home-schooled at one point. Many of these children have grown now and are serving the Lord, but not all of them by any means. Some of the publicly educated children have also excelled for the Lord. The bottom line is that intense intentional parental involvement is needed.

    • Pat,
      You are right about the fact that Christian schools often fall short. I knew that…it was an oversight and an important one. Thanks for pointing that out. In fact the Nehemiah Institute in measuring Christian Worldview among both Christian and public schools has found that graduates of Christian schools are only slightly better than public schools. Christian schools need to improve a lot, and my basic assumption is that it would much easier to improve the Christian school that to change the public school.

  3. Sarah

    Yep, you got it about right.

  4. Joe Cason

    Within the Christian church in the US attempting to tell the truth has become taboo. This author has hit the nail or the pastor on the head. After spending the last 20 years homeschooling 5 children and combating the public indoctrination centers, I can tell you first hand what Pat, and Dennis, would rather have you ignore: the anti thiests who control public indoctrination hate Christian’s and most pastors love the money public indoctrinators bring to them. If home schooling is not a default position Pastor Pat then what is, public indoctrination?
    Lord save us from such teaching.
    Thank you for the article

  5. Jennifer M

    The statistics regarding the number of publicly schooled students who leave the faith after high school are staggering. According to NHERI, 75%-85% of public school students leave. 94% of homeschooled people remain faithful Christians. No, homeschooling isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s working out better than any other method.

  6. I believe that a great many adults – pastors included – having been out of school for some time, aren’t even aware of the sad state public education is in, ideologically. Sure, they know about the poor academic performance rates, the high security risks, etc. but they don’t seem to be aware of the dangerous IDEAS being taught. The humanist worldview has always been a part of public education, but the last 15 – 20 years have seen a real upswing in its emphasis, as if in some sort of backlash to the growth of the vocal, political religious right. Or when they are aware of it, as the article says, they seem to somehow think that the schools their children attend aren’t part of “all that.” It’s a sad, sort of head in the sand mentality…….

    As the only homeschoolers in a rather large, active church, I sometimes feel like the salmon swimming upstream. I don’t have to educate so much anymore on what homeschooling is or how we do it, but WHY homeschooling should be for everyone who cares for their childn’re hearts and minds. And it doesn’t help that there are two public school principals, at least two teachers and a librarian in our congregation, always ready to point out the “faults” in my argument……

    Thank you for an informative and well stated article. I’m printing and adding to my resource file for future reference in defense of my position as a homeschooler.

    • Suzanne,
      It is worth noting too, that the government school principals, teachers and librarian would not even have a job if the government did not confiscate money from their neighbors to pay them. Many public school employees have an entitlement mentality; they are entitled to be paid well regardless of whether or not they do a good job … Paid by those of us who pay taxes. I firmly believe though, that it is pastors more than anyone who fail to become informed, and then lead.

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