Throughout the course of life, parents make a variety of decisions that impact the lives of their children. This morning my wife and I had to make several decisions regarding our children: How long should we allow them to sleep? What should we serve for breakfast? Should we register to have them to play on the local soccer teams this fall? How much money should they take with them to Bible camp? Some of the decisions parents have to make are pretty trivial, but many of these decisions lead to positive or negative consequences for our youth. One of the most important decisions that parents will make regards their children’s education.
Thankfully God has given parents Biblical principles to help us make wise decisions for their families. From these principles we can better understand how to make sound educational choices for their children.
Back to the Basics:Biblical principles of parenting
What does the Bible have to say about educating children? Well, the Bible does not directly mention today’s options in education, but God’s Word does contain principles that will assist parents in making wise decisions related to the training of their children.
Principle #1: Children ultimately belong to God. Romans 14:8 says that “whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (KJV). Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” These verses make it clear that we all belong to the Lord. Children do not belong to the state, nor in a sense do they belong to their parents, even though God entrusts parents with children; children belong to the Lord. Parents are not to think of themselves as exclusive owners of their children; parents are to be stewards, responsible to make wise decisions regarding the welfare of the children God has entrusted to them.
Principle #2: Parents are to assume the basic responsibility for their children’s education. God’s Word repeatedly instructs parents to train and discipline their children so the young ones will learn to become wise, godly adults. Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (KJV). Wives are to lovingly help their husbands in this endeavor. The book of Proverbs also shares many principles regarding the training of children. Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 29:17 goes on to say, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” In Deuteronomy 6:1–7, parents are commanded to consistently teach their children to fear the Lord, love Him, and keep His commandments.
Many people believe that the state is responsible for the education of our youth and deserves the blame for their poor achievement and behavior. I reject this notion; I believe that parents need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their children’s education. No, I’m not saying that all parents ought to be homeschooling their children. Rather, I am saying that no matter what educational option we select, we must frequently assess whether or not our children are learning what they ought to be learning. If they are not learning, we must take an active role in doing something about it! Academic studies have consistently affirmed the Biblical principle of parental involvement in education. After three decades of research studies, Dr. Patricia Pierce summarized, “Greater parental involvement in children’s learning is a critical link to achievement, quality education, and discipline in the classroom.”
What will happen if parents continue to neglect God’s mandate to train their children? We are already seeing the results of this around the world as governments are taking over more parental responsibilities. Lawmakers in numerous states are currently taking steps to broaden the compulsory education age, requiring children to begin attending school at an earlier age and stay in school until age 18. Schools across the nation are stepping up physical education requirements to help students become more physically active in order to reduce childhood obesity. Israel recently passed a law to expand its mandatory attendance ages, and leaders in Great Britain are calling for a huge expansion of state intervention in family life as a way of preventing young people in dysfunctional families from drifting into antisocial behavior and crime. Even though governments may have good intentions, their programs cannot replace the training of loving, nurturing parents!
Principle #3: Children need to be taught Biblical principles about God and Christian living. A knowledge and understanding of our Creator is foundational to the education process. Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” I found an interesting quote related to the fear of the Lord from Frank Gaebelein in his book Christian Education in a Democracy. Over 50 years ago Dr. Gaebelein made the following observation: “Having long since given up ‘the fear of the Lord,’ our Western civilization, bowing at the altar of materialism, has substituted for the fear of God, the fear of man.” These words remind us that our children will not learn to fear God unless we, as parents, make a focused effort to see that they are taught about God and His attributes.
Test Time: Making wise educational decisions
Sooner or later all parents have to make educational decisions for their children. For some parents, the decisions will be relatively easy. For others, the task will be extremely challenging. What is a parent to do? Here are some basic guidelines that may help you as you seek God’s will in this important matter.
Acknowledge God. In other words, seek God’s direction by spending much time in prayer and in the Word. Remember the words of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Assess your child. Reflect upon these questions:
• What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
• Is my child ready to stand for Christ in the secular environment?
• Is my child strong academically?
• Can my child work well independently, or does he or she require much individual attention to stay on task?
• Does my child communicate well with me regarding personal joys and struggles?
The answers to these questions can help parents choose the type of education that will best prepare their children to serve and honor God with their lives.
Analyze your options. Take some time to consider the educational options that are available to your family:
• What reputation do the various schools and teachers have in your community?
• Are good Christian schools available in your area?
• Visit school campuses while school is in session, if possible, and seek information regarding the teachers, rules, school philosophy, curriculum guides, standardized test results, and textbooks.
• Do both parents earnestly desire to homeschool their children?
• Can you adjust your budget to afford homeschooling or a Christian school education?
• Are there individuals in your church family who could provide wise counsel regarding different educational options in your community?
When parents consider these questions in relation to their children, different families will reach different conclusions as to whether their children should attend public schools, go to Christian schools, or be taught at home. I believe that we, as fellow believers in the Body of Christ, must accept this and respect the decisions of others. When we are tempted to be critical of others, may we support these parents by praying for them instead. Yes, parenting is a challenging endeavor, yet with God’s help and the support of fellow believers, we can successfully prepare our children to live fruitful lives for the Lord.
Mark Stupka (EdD Argosy University) is an assistant professor in the department of Christian School Education at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, Iowa.