Many of my friends say they want their kids to be salt and light in the public schools. Shouldn’t we do that?

I appreciate their concern. We should be “salt and light” in the world. However, I think a closer look at the passage and the context will help us see who that mission is actually directed to. In the gospels where this is written, salt and light are meant to be Christian influences in a dark and sinful world. It is only logical that in order to be a Christian influence in the culture, you must be a Christian. So, first you must ask yourself if your child is a born again believer.

Second, we must ask, “In what way can my child be salt and light?” — “Is my primary or secondary level child able to have an effect for Christ in the school?” — “Can he effectively explain the gospel?” — “Can he disciple a believer?” — “Can he defend his faith when under attack?” — “Can he withstand the constant bombardment of non-Christian teaching, non-Christian thoughts, and non-Christian acquaintances?”

In the vast majority of cases the answer would be no, and if the answer is no, then your child can’t be “salt and light.” In a rare case the answer may be yes, but you are obviously putting your child at great risk. Sending a child into an environment that is anti-Christian in philosophy is subjecting the mind of your child to daily teaching that is determined to replace God in every subject and every area of life.

How many young Christians can even discern that they are being fed worldly ways of thought? You might ask why the vast majority are not able to be “salt and light?” It is really quite simple—they are just (kids), and kids are not the ones that Jesus told to be salt and light—it is adults. It is the same reason that children do not lead Bible studies, become pastors, or go to foreign countries as missionaries.

They are not mature enough emotionally or spiritually, and for that matter, can’t even provide their own physical needs. They are at a time in their life when their primary function is to be a good student, not someone who teaches or disciples others. They are still being trained for adulthood and are still in the care and direction of their parents.

That goes full circle back to the Christian parents’ responsibility. We are called to protect and nurture our children in the ways of Christ so they can grow up to be world changers for Christ—no longer little saplings, but instead, strong oaks for the Lord!

Why should I send my child to a school that’s nowhere near my house when the public school is right across the street?

If the issue is safety, you’ll find that Christian schools are much less dangerous, no matter how far away they are from home.  [click here for more information about safety] But if it’s simply a matter of location, you might be letting the school’s proximity cloud your judgement.  When it comes to your decision-making priorities, obedience should always precede convenience.

If the state school system is rooted in a humanistic, truth-is-relative philosophy – and whether they openly admit it or not, virtually all of them are – does it really matter how close to home your children are when they hear it?  Across the street or across town, they’re still being taught for six to eight hours a day that God is irrelevant.

I went to public school and I turned out okay. Can’t my children do the same?

The short answer is yes. Just like you did, your (kids) can turn out okay. Maybe even better than okay. But our arrival at a place called “okay” does not necessarily mean that all our choices along the way were the right ones, or that our educational experience was the best one.

The real questions are these: Are you the same person today that you would have been had you attended Christian school? And what about the journey that brought you here? Might it have been a little more joyful, a little less troublesome? Is it possible that God could have used you for His glory even more than He already has?

These are questions only you can answer, and if you haven’t already, why not do it right now?  Give this issue an honest, thoughtful look, and then ask God what His will is regarding your children’s education.

What does God tell us to do with our children?

The first part of this answer has to do with your role as parent. You are the God-appointed leader of your children, so it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming task of raising and educating them is in your hands. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

The question is, what are you supposed to teach them? And God has a great deal to say about that. In Deuteronomy 11, for example, He says the education of children is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week process that must take place from birth through maturity.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds … Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers …” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

Here we see God instructing His people how to live as they prepare to go into the Promised Land. Critical to the life and health of His people is the teaching of the Word of God by parents on a daily basis in every situation.

Here’s the problem. State schools fail to recognize the relevance of the book upon which you, as a Christian, have based your life. The question is not, “Should I consider Christian education?” but rather, “Why should I consider anything else?”

The education of children and youth must be based on God’s Word as absolute truth.  If the school your children attend adopts any other approach, it is competing directly against your training at home, and ultimately, against the training God wants you to give them.

What if we can’t afford a Christian education?

This is a very real problem, and one of the most common parental objections. Christian schools cost money. However, before we get too carried away with financial concerns, we need to ask ourselves an important question:

Do we have a moral obligation to give our children a Christian education? If so, then God will do for us what He does anytime He gives us a command. He’ll give us the means to obey it.

Statements like “God will make a way” or “If He’s called you, He’ll equip you” may sound a little trite. However, they happen to be true. If you have a biblical mandate to provide your children with a Christian education – and all of us have to make that determination for ourselves – God won’t let a little thing like insufficient funds stop you from obeying Him. Not if you’re committed to hearing and obeying His will in the matter.

He may give you a raise. He may show you some fresh ways to economise. But one way or another, He will make a way – because if educating your children in a Christian setting is a genuine responsibility, the financial cost becomes a genuine need. And God has promised to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

There are other ways God may provide the necessary funding. In some cases, churches have been known to assist their members. Talk to your pastor and see if that’s a possibility. In addition, many schools offer financial aid to needy families.

At the end of the day, God may ask you to take a step of faith. Then another. Then another. And sure enough, you will see that God is faithful to His promises. For when God calls us to a task, He equips us to fulfill it.

What is a Christian education?

A Christian education is one in which the infallible truths of Scripture reign paramount. They form the foundation upon which all academic pursuits are built, and for that reason, students are often better able to reach their full educational potential. As Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

God expects children to be taught the truth in every subject. That requires educators to approach their lessons – and their lives – from a biblical worldview. Otherwise, teachers are (wholly) incapable of instilling or reinforcing that worldview in the lives of their students.

Rigorous academics, no matter how thorough, will miss the mark if the reality of God is denied (or diminished). Conversely, supplementing a secular academic programme with a religious education lesson – no matter how true – will fall short. Students need a challenging, comprehensive academic curriculum built on a foundation of biblical absolutes. Some institutions prepare students for a job. Others equip students for life. Only a Christian education has the potential to do both, because only a Christian education is grounded in the knowledge of our Creator, who grants wisdom and understanding to anyone who seeks Him first.