I don’t want to spoil your day, but the summer is almost over. Lazy mornings spent sleeping in and lazy evenings spent by the pool are over. Fresh stocks of paper, glue, and other necessary supplies sit ready to be deployed in the service of the mind. Restless kids and tired parents are ready to begin the orderly routines that help shape childhood.
But it’s not just the little ones who must get ready to go back to school. This time of the year offers a fresh opportunity to prepare our hearts for the coming season.
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Christian parents have to carefully weigh their options when making educational decisions for their kids. This is a deeply personal decision, with quite a few variables. Our four kids have been enrolled in all three models of education during various seasons. Right now, we have one child homeschool and three who attend our local (very good) elementary school. Regardless of the method of education, we parents must understand that we have a primary responsibility when it comes to forming our kids’ minds. No educational model can fill in the gaps for parents who fail to take their discipleship responsibility seriously. Our kids’ minds are being shaped. The question is: Are we the ones doing the shaping, or are we outsourcing that to the culture or other influences?
There is perhaps no issue more potentially divisive in church life than the issue of education. As a pastor, I’ve had to navigate the tensions in the congregations where I’ve served. The wisest course of action is to try to create a culture where parents are both equipped to disciple their children well and supported in the educational decisions they make. A healthy church is filled with public school teachers, homeschool families, and Christian school kids. Often churches can create cliques: homeschool cliques, public school cliques, Christian school cliques. Pastors should encourage their people to build deep friendships with families who do school differently.
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As a Christian school kid, I am aware of the temptations toward pride that can easily accompany our schooling choices. I remember the sinful elitism that I, at times, displayed toward public school kids or homeschool kids I grew up with. Some of that was due in part to the way I often heard adults speak of our schooling. In their well-meaning zeal to champion private schooling, I often heard my teachers and administrators disparage parents and kids who were doing school differently. This fed an overinflated sense of myself that God has had to chip away from my character. As parents, we should be confident in our choices, but not so much that we unintentionally teach our kids to be little Pharisees. Education is important, but we should hold our opinions about it loosely in order to love our neighbors and live in unity in the body of Christ.
Your days of buying school supplies and making lunches might be over, but this doesn’t mean grandparents don’t have an important impact to make on their school-age grandchildren. It is during this busy season that you can have maximum impact, both on sharing some of the responsibilities for busy parents and being a source of wisdom and guidance in forming the minds of your grandchildren.
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Even if you don’t have children going back to school this week, you still have a role in shaping the next generation. The kids in your church need your prayers and support. The parents in your church need encouragement. And the teachers in your church need to know you are seeking the Lord on their behalf. You also have a role in shaping the children in your community, whether it is through volunteer work at your local school, inviting local kids to church, or supporting your neighbors who are in the midst of the busy school season.
As we readjust our rhythms for back to school season, let’s recommit ourselves to influencing the next generation of kids to love the Lord with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. After all, it is childlike faith, Jesus tells us, that embodies the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:2).
In a changing world, your children will have questions you may not know how to answer. Join us for the fourth annual ERLC National Conference on "Parenting: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World" on August 24-26, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn., this event will welcome key speakers including Russell Moore, Jim Daly, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Todd Wagner, and Jen Wilkin. Register here.
This article originally appeared on ERLC.com, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Used with permission.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications. He is a contributor to Christianity Today, In Touch and a columnist for Homelife. His works has appeared in The Washington Post, CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Times, OnFaith, and The Gospel Coalition. Daniel is the host of The Way Home Podcast and is the author of several books, including his latest, The Original Jesus. He personally blogs at danieldarling.com.
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Publication date: August 9, 2017