Education is a BIG topic. What educational environment is right for your kids? Who is most responsible for the discipleship of your kids? How does formal education and disciple-making work together? What can we do if we feel our disciple-making efforts and our kids’ formal education is at odds? I believe that with a healthy view of the biblical roles of parents, the church, and the educational system and with some practical suggestions, you can create a plan for your family.
Parents, please understand that God has called you to be the primary disciple-maker in the lives of your kids (Deut. 6:4-9; Psalm 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4). If you miss this point, the rest of this article will not make sense. If you are not the one providing the day-to-day formal education for your kids, you are still called by God to oversee that education and shepherd their hearts considering the role that you’ve been given. Disciple your kids as if no one else will, knowing that God has not designed you to do it alone.
"Parents, please understand that God has called you to be the primary disciple-maker in the lives of your kids."
Second, please remember that God has designed your local church to be the secondary place of discipleship for your kids. My use of the word secondary does not imply that it is unimportant. In fact, I believe it to be extremely important. Your kids need your church, and your church needs your kids. This does not require your kids to be involved in specialized programming like children’s ministry or youth ministry. However, when healthy programming is available, it is a gift from God! When the right emphasis is given on home and church, real discipleship foundations are formed in the lives of your kids.
Third, if your kids attend a public or private school, then they will end up spending more time in an educational environment than at home or church during the school year. Considering this, the role of the church and home are pivotal for Christian parents to understand. These are institutions designed by God that schools should defer to and accommodate, but culture increasingly denigrates the roles and rights of parents in the educational journey of their kids. Christian parents must be aware of this reality while not giving in to panic or fear.
"The role of the church and home are pivotal for Christian parents to understand. These are institutions designed by God that schools should defer to and accommodate, but culture increasingly denigrates the roles and rights of parents in the educational journey of their kids."
With a good foundation established, it’s important to think through appropriate schooling choices and how to navigate their experience regardless of what educational environment you choose.
Some parents choose to resolve this tension by homeschooling their kids. For those who choose to send their kids to public or private school, here are some practical suggestions for healthy involvement in and the continued shepherding of your child’s education:
#1 Know who their teachers are and pray for them regularly
The relationship between teachers and parents can often be in conflict due to belief systems. I unfortunately hear stories of teachers that actively work against God’s design and the parents’ Biblical authority. Even if this is taking place, follow the example and teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44 and pray for deliverance. Thank God for the good teachers out there that serve their classrooms faithfully and for those that live like Jesus day in and day out. Regardless of how teachers believe or what they believe, you must show them the love of Christ and attempt to live peaceably with them (Romans 12:18).
"Regardless of how teachers believe or what they believe, you must show them the love of Christ and attempt to live peaceably with them."
#2 Never feel tempted to lie to your kids about the condition of their school.
However, resist the urge to speak badly about the school, their teachers, or their administrators. If you are not careful with this point, your kids will take on the negative behavior being modeled for them. When real issues arise, discuss them with your spouse and pray. When appropriate, you can bring your kids into the conversation.
#3 Show your kids that you care about what they are experiencing at school.
This is easy when their school activities line up with what you already like. However, it gets a little tougher when what they do at school isn’t of natural interest to you. Young kids often care deeply about their friends, teachers, and the daily life of their school. Meet them where they are.
#4 Be involved whenever and wherever possible.
There are unhealthy extremes to this suggestion, but a healthy balanced involvement in your kids’ schooling can really make a difference. Yes, show up to the games etc. but also look for ways to help their teachers. The teaching profession is often a thankless job without support. Your occasional presence on the field trip or in the classroom will speak volumes.
#5 Avoid being a helicopter parent.
You might be surprised that I included this item in the list! Please hear me… real intentionality and involvement in your kids’ educational journey is not to be confused with helicopter parenting or rescuing your kid from every felt difficulty. In many cases, this type of behavior is based out of fear, pride, and/or entitlement. Frankly, a child notices if their parents are always complaining or fighting against the school. Even when it is hard, continually place the education of your kids in the Lord’s hands. He has not abandoned you and He is entirely in control.
#6 Don’t be afraid to lovingly ask questions when the school seems to be moving in an unhealthy direction.
The home and the church are primary and are institutions created by God. Schools are meant to be an educational/discipleship resource that hopefully serves as a great supplement to the environments that God designed to be primary in the lives of kids. Parent, you are a customer of the school. With love and much prayer, follow God’s Word as you seek to understand why the perceived difficulty is occurring. You may be the only parent that has a complaint or concern that is also willing to treat the school representatives with love and respect.
"The most powerful thing you can do for your kids is to pray for their salvation and discipleship."
#7 Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray and then pray some more.
Any feeling that you are in control is a deception. Even the best schools with the best teachers and the best doctrine does not guarantee that your child will turn into a perfect citizen or this generation’s Billy Graham. The most powerful thing you can do for your kids is to pray for their salvation and discipleship. Pray that God would bring godly men and women around them at home, at church, and (God-willing) even in school. Consider pausing even now to pray for your kids by name.
Friends, there are plenty of other things we could talk about. This article is in no way exhaustive. Having said that, I hope you’ve been given ideas and God has sparked something new in you that will lead to a better connection with your kids as you seek to disciple them. I am personally working on every one of these items and more in my own life as a parent. Praise God for his mercy and praise Him for our families!