“Don’t Drop That Baton!”
- Wednesday, April 24, 2013
“They’re leaving!” It’s hard to miss this ugly, dramatic pronouncement in glossy, church-related periodicals everywhere, but George Barna’s stats proclaiming that an average 70% of teens will leave the church after high school graduation1 quite honestly don’t scare me.
I birthed five strong-willed, independent-thinking young men, beginning with my firstborn in 1984. After over a quarter-century of investing my life in their spiritual development, while also home educating them and serving local, national, and international churches as a full-time pastor’s wife and trans-local leader, I’ve learned a whole lot about transferring the baton to the next generation.
Home educators have an edge. We have the benefit of access to our children 24/7, to lead by example and to influence powerfully, primarily because we have the luxuries of time and togetherness. Yes, as a homeschooling mom, my thoughts often have been occupied with pencils, papers, co-ops and curriculum, but my overriding mission and passion has always been more about imparting my beliefs to my five sons than simply executing my academic agenda.
The average Christian parent doesn’t get to see his school-aged child for seven to ten hours of each weekday, because during those hours children are on the way to school, in school, or on the way home from school. That same child spends about as much time in his bed at night, sleeping. The hours left for meaningful parent-child interaction are not only few, but they also are chock-full of stressed carpools, debriefing, dinner prep, chores, homework, and assorted extracurricular activities. The fact is, formal schooling holds families hostage to a system that dominates their days, nights, and weekends. Within that system, only crumbs of time are left for discipleship.
Worse yet, while the vice of academia grips these vulnerable kids in its jaws, they are likely to be exposed to all manner of negative influences during their countless hours on campus. In public schools it’s no secret that their course of study will be permeated with secular humanistic philosophy, while at the same time they could be dodging bullets, bullies,2 blatant sexual perversity,3 peer pressure, and ruthless cliques, to name a few of the dangers they could encounter daily. And let’s be honest, private schools won’t guarantee a child exemption from such hazards.
On weekends if there’s time after soccer, hockey, dance, and football, this same parent will drop his children off to attend church programs designed to save them from the deplorable indoctrination experienced while engaged in their educational institution. Kinda crazy, wouldn’t you say?
One local church in our metro area recently upgraded its children’s ministry facilities, at a cost of $400,000, with elaborate décor, Wii games, basketball, air hockey, and other age-appropriate amusements.4 These folks are serious about impacting the youth in their city, but in my decades of experience, I have learned that providing myriad special youth nights and extravagant parades of pleasure for teens in outreach endeavors doesn’t keep the teen sheep in the fold. Institutions will not save our kids. It’s up to us parents to create our own revolution in our homes for our sons and daughters.5
I said “home educators have an edge,” but I didn’t say “we have it in the bag.” Many enthusiastic homeschool parents are smugly touting their youngsters the “signs and wonders following them,” but a word of caution: babes under your wing aren’t yet adults who’ve decided to follow Jesus.
I’ve met so many disappointed parents and heard so much debate related to this topic. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found what I think is the non-negotiable in this all-important matter of getting—and keeping—our kids in the race.
It begins with us. The good news is that we’re the models! Wow! Such power in our very own hands to impact the next generation. The bad news is that we’re...the...models. Sigh. Such huge responsibility before God to make right choices for the sake of our children.
A young boy was sitting, crying, in the back seat of the family car on the drive home from church one morning. His parents, quite alarmed, questioned him: “What’s wrong, Johnny?! Something happen in Sunday School?”
Johnny blubbered, “Well, [sniff, sniff] my teacher said [whimper] we oughta be raised in a Christian home, but [bahhhah]...I wanna live with you guys!” We’re all human and it’s easy to relate to this humorous tale, but Dad, Mom, despite your fallibility, can you honestly echo Paul’s plea: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV)?
It’s my conviction that we pass on to our children far more than our physical DNA. Our sons and daughters will reflect what we are. We establish the standard and cast the mold, and that’s serious stuff. We can preach it down, but if we aren’t living it, kids know it. You can’t get anything past them.6
So...what are you? I’m not asking if you’re a church member, a homeschool leader, how much money you give, or what good works you’re involved in. What we are and what we do can be two very different things.
Are we simply religious followers in systems, attending to those duties prescribed by our church denominations and traditions of men, or are we decidedly surrendered disciples of Christ, recognizing that “...he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them...” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NIV)?
As Christian homeschooling parents, we are far more than educators equipping our students for a future vocation; we are the primary ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our impressionable youngsters. Sobering.
If we believe Jesus’ statement that “a student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40, NIV), our mission is paramount. We can’t deny that our toughest job is to first lead ourselves strongly, baton firmly in hand. Let’s be done with lesser things and “...run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24)!
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.7
2. www.boston.com, “Nine Charged in Death of South Hadley Teen, Who Took Life After Bullying” by Brian Ballou and John Ellement, The Boston Globe, March 29, 2010.
3. www.chron.com, “Two 10-Year-Olds Charged in Boy’s Sex Assault on Bus” by Ericka Mellon, Houston Chronicle, January 6, 2012.
4. www.sacbee.com, “Sacramento-Area Churches Add Extra Round of Entertainment to Sunday’s Easter Basket,” The Sacramento Bee, March 30, 2010.
5. Denise Mira, No Ordinary Child: Unlocking the Leader Within Your Child, (2008 Impact Media) p. 8.
7. William P. Merrill, The Continent 1911, (www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/i/riseupom.htm).
Denise Mira, author of No Ordinary Child: Unlocking the Leader Within Your Child, has been married to Gregory for thirty-one years. They are the parents of five sons. Denise has traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally, inspiring change as she shares the message God has given her for families. She would love to have you visit her blog, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter!
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: April 24, 2013
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