It’s the end of the school year. Standardized testing has been shipped off for scoring. Final report cards are disseminated and slyly hidden from parental eyes. Kids are acting like they’re howling at the full moon. Teachers are frazzled and need a 2-month vacation to Aruba. Parents are tired of hauling their kids around to year-end recitals, art shows, field days, formal dances, pizza fundraisers and lacrosse competitions. Some parents are ever shedding a tear for the end of a season of life due to graduation. Other parents already can’t wait for the kids to go back to school in August.
So in the spirit of final report cards, I want to ask my public school families a year-end question: How are you public schooling to the glory of God?
Or here’s another question: Are you wasting the opportunities that God has given you in the public school setting?
Here’s what I mean by those questions …
One thing that I admire about homeschool families is their sense of intentionality. If you ask any given homeschool family why they homeschool, I am certain they will give you a clear, concise, communicable and completely Biblical answer. To the contrary, many public school families will flounder with the question: “Why do you send your kids to public school?” You will probably get flustered stuttering as an answer. As a public school parent, I’m pretty sure that many public school families don’t fully consider why they’re public schooling or the opportunities that God has given them in the public school setting.
I’ve already blogged about the reasons why our family participates in the public school system, so I’m not going to argue or rehash that issue in this blog. But I do have a humble suggestion for public schooling families out there … If you’re going to send your kids to public school, consider your decision with the spirit of 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Specifically, consider how your family is going to glorify God through your decision for public schooling. God is giving your family unique opportunities by participating in public school, so don’t waste those “open doors” that God has given to you.
Here’s a 10 question “report card” for the public school family … Evaluate the following questions for your family over the past school year:
- How well are you representing Christ in your public school? (1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 5:20) Always remember that you are Christ’s ambassador, meaning a representative of the kingdom of God, in your public school setting. How you think, dress, speak and act casts a reflection of Christ’s lordship in your life. When we cuss, complain, curse or gossip, our lips betray Christ’s lordship (James 3:10). When we act selfishly and pridefully, we fail to humbly place Christ first in our lives (Philippians 2:3). You are first and foremost a missionary representing Christ wherever you go.
- Has your family been praying to eliminate lostness in your public school? (John 15: 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9) When Christ looked over a lost crowd in Matthew 9:36, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Believers must always respond to lostness with compassion instead of callousness. We must pray that God would use us to reach lost people God loves and values in our school system.
- Have you verbally shared the full Gospel story with faculty, families or students? (Matthew 5:16; Romans 1:16-17) When you’re stuck waiting around with other parents in a stinky gym for basketball practice to end, it’s time to put down the cell phone and make a meaningful conversation with other families. Talk about what God is doing in your life … Talking about your testimony … Talk about what God is teaching you about your kids. But – ultimately – remember to talk about the Gospel story, because it’s the power of God for salvation.
- Have you invited faculty, families or students to your local church? Honest relationships that you have built in the school system can be leveraged to invite others to church. I am proud that many of the public school families in our church’s new AWANA program are inviting families to our local church. As a result, kids are hearing the Gospel and coming to know Christ. So praise God for those relationships.
- How have you served the faculty and students of your school with Christ-like love? (Matthew 23:11; Mark 10:44-45; John 13:12-14; Galatians 5:13-14) Our mentality in the public school should always be that Christ has sent us here to serve others instead of simply receiving a governmental service. As an example, our family and local church recently provided breakfast and gifts to local teachers for teacher appreciation week. Our church is also attempting to build a partnership with our local school by providing needed items, such as school uniforms or teaching supplies to the school. Our hope is to serve faculty and students so we can ultimately have a platform to share Christ.
- How are you intentionally teaching your kids about God? Regardless of your educational preference, parents still have the Biblical responsibility of teaching their kids about God in the home (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). And this responsibility should never be abdicated to schools, churches, kids ministries or youth programs. Your family should have some intentional strategy, whether family devotionals or otherwise, regarding how to disciple your kids. Blogger Tim Challies urges in blog on public schooling: “Inviting the public school system to educate our children has not meant that we abdicate or outsource all responsibility or ultimately responsibility for the kids’ education. We remain involved in what they do, what they learn, the kids they befriend, and all the rest. Wherever or however children are receiving their education, they need their parents to be involved. Their parents have by far the loudest voice into their lives and, by looking to the Bible together, we can explore, explain and interpret anything that comes their way. We are all homeschoolers!”
- Have you counseled family problems with Biblical advice? (2 Timothy 3:16-17) When your kids come to you with problems, there is a tremendous opportunity to counsel our kids with sound Biblical advice. Recently, our daughter came home upset that some “mean girls” were calling her names at school. Instead of telling her to punch the kids’ daylights out, we asked her how Christ would respond and were able to practically teach about “turning the other cheek” and “loving our enemies.” Never miss an opportunity to point your kids to Scripture in difficult situations.
- Have you had “the talk” with your kids? As a long-time student minister, I’ve found that nothing causes greater disruption to Christian families than when your kids start making goggly eyes at the opposite gender. Make sure that you’re clear about the Bible’s and your family’s expectations about dating, relationships and – yes – even sex. Share about your relationship successes and failures. Don’t be too scared to have these relationship conversations with your kids very early on.
- Are extra-curricular activities and sports destroying your family’s spiritual health? It’s easy to allow the “bonus” commitments of school to choke out your spiritual life. I’ve talked with many families that start off skipping one or two Sundays for other weekend commitments … And ultimately wind up spiritually adrift. When our family’s obsession revolves around a school gymnasium instead of Christ, red flags need to be raised up. Don’t give Christ lip-service: If Christ truly is first in your family, then don’t put anything – and I mean anything else – before Him. Your kids won’t grow in Christ with a half-hearted commitment to Christ. Carve out immovable commitments to God on Sundays and other important church activities. Limit the number and time commitment of extra-curricular activities in which your kids can participate. Be bold enough to tell coaches that your family isn’t available on Sundays. And always remember to represent Christ’s kingdom more than a school team.
- Are you running the race with endurance? (Hebrews 12:1) Let’s face it: A school year can be exhausting for everyone involved. Sometimes you just want to drop off your kids in Timbuktu and never look back. Without endurance that comes from Christ, we cannot run the race of the Christian life. Endurance is found in casting your cares and burden on the Lord. Endurance is found in encouragement from your local church gathering and small group. Endurance is found in the Word of God. Endurance is found in prayer. When you’re ready to throw in the towel and quit the race, remember that you can’t do it on your own … Turn to Christ and other believers for help.
If you feel like your family hasn’t made any headway on these questions over the past year, remember that – by God’s grace – there’s another school year coming up soon.
So enjoy summer vacation, everyone!