Must officebearers in the CRCNA send their children to Christian day schools?


This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.

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Community Builder

This is a question that keeps nagging at many a local council in our denomination. It often rises to the surface when new elders and deacons are to be nominated and elected. So many have wonderful gifts to bring, it is said, but they’re ruled out of the process without any deliberation simply because of the fact that their children attend a public school.

Article 71 of the Church Order insists that the council must “diligently encourage the members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools in which the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation is clearly taught,” and “urge parents to have their children educated in harmony with this vision.” It is hard to know how ministers, ministry associates, elders, and deacons who do not support Christian day school education can persuasively and with integrity “encourage” and “urge” members to do these things. So they must certainly embrace the vision. Its specific application is another matter.

A council on which I had the privilege to serve once nominated a person to be an elder who sent his son to public school. We could do this because the child had special needs that Christian schools could not supply. The elder shared the vision of Christ’s lordship, but its application was for him no simple matter. He was even willing to bow to legalism, had we chosen to go down that road, but we insisted he could “encourage” and “urge” in good conscience.

What councils cannot do is to nominate people who simply don’t share the vision and actually oppose all Christian day school education. That would lead to intolerable tensions. But so, in my experience, did the constant and insistent demand of a “prophetic preacher” I became acquainted with years ago. His sermons frequently insisted that his parishioners establish and maintain a separate Christian school when, in fact, that was totally and demonstrably beyond the resources of the community. When the pressures mounted, the lid finally blew off: an exasperated council went to the classis and requested release from his call. It would have been so much better, I believe, had this preacher focused instead on enriching his congregation’s educational programs until such time as resources were sufficient. A significantly enhanced church education curriculum is exactly how the institutional church can still uphold the vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation in such a situation.

My recommendation to councils is that they straightforwardly embrace the vision, do what they can in their context to see to its implementation, and studiously avoid the kind of legalism in application, one way or another, that can stifle our fellowship in Christ. As for those who don’t share that vision, avoid nominating them as officebearers; instead, seek to disciple them into owning what we hold dear.

 "Good Christian schools" is the sort of phrase that helps lawyers make their boat payments. "Good" is half way between "terrible" and "better." Would not a parent want the best academic education he could afford? Then there is "Christian." A Catholic parochial school might be the best compromise.

Our congregation founded the local "Christian" school decades ago. Today it is a generic "Christian" school. None of our church children attend but it saps time and money from the congregation. In the last 20 years, one family has joined our congregation because of the school.

Most all the young adults in our congregation attended the elementary school and many attended "Christian" high schools in neighboring towns. Their academic level seems to be directly related to the academic interest of their parents.

If we were starting to raise children in this year and knew what we know, we would home teach and/or send the kids to a superior academic private school. My main complaint with public and, I suppose, "Christian" grade schools is they are a big waste of time. When our twins were to enter 6th grade in another town we did not want them in the middle school so we home taught them. They spent much less than an hour a day studying. The Wife and/or I took them to variouys interesting placed and they had to write paper on each trip. The next year we moved and asked the kids what they wanted to do about school. They wanted to attend public school. The school tested them and both were placed in advanced 7th grade classes. They both now have college degrees.




Community Builder

My simple answer is, 'no' for many, many reasons. Many churches are in places where there are not good Christian schools. In addittion Christian school costs are not minimal; the advantages and the costs need to be carefully weighed - it becomes a stewardship issue for each family and for the church.

I remember when our first child became "school age" and we debated this question (my husband having grown up in Christian schools and myself coming to faith later in life - growing up in public schools). We looked at the nearest and only Christian school nearby and decided that we would not send our child there - we felt that we would have to re-teach much of what was being taught, especially in the sciences. It just wasn't a good school academically. In addition, I saw advantages to my faith being challenged by living in the context of the public school environment. It made me think about how to respond to people and to situations and prepared me well for later ministry. I also discovered wonderful fellowship for myself in "Moms-in-Touch", connecting with ohter moms who prayed each week for our children and for our children's schools. There were many testimonies of answered prayer, and it was a great opportunity to be a light for the gospel in that environment (Becky Pippert would say, get out of the saltshaker and into the world where we can make a difference). Isn't that a reformed idea?

As our church becomes more diverse and as we seek to grow and be relevant in an ever changing world, I think this is not something that should be a "must" issue for church leaders. I'm glad it's not that way in my church; we have church leaders with kids in Christian school as well as those with children in public school. There are too many factors involved in each family situation to make a hard and fast rule.

If we restrict office bearers to those who send their children to (private) Christian schools, we are slicing out a lot of people who could be great office bearers and who may have great gifts to offer. As part of that, it creates a further division of those who can or can't afford to send their children to a Christian school. Sending one's children to a Christian school alone does NOT make them a stronger Christian or a better household. Children can get a good education in the public sysem (in Ontario, we have publicly funded Catholic schools even), while the Word is taught at home and in church. No particular school system or upbringing can guarantee the faith of a child. It is ultimately their own decision.