Below is the final part of a speech Rev R Eikelboom delivered at a Canadian Reformed office bearers’ conference in 2002. having shown in the earlier articles that Reformed Education is not just the parents’ business but the responsibility of the whole church, and hence also of the office bearers, he went on to show that God set our children in the covenant and now wants them trained in the Word of the covenant—which covers every part of life from the cradle to the grave. The previous article focussed on some practical ways office bearers could act in relation to the Reformed Education; that is continued in this final part of his speech. As in the previous articles, references are to the Canadian situation but have relevance for our situation in Australia.
What can the office bearers do?
In some cases the parents may be convinced that the school is unable to provide the particular type of education that their child needs, and we may be forced to agree with them. And then there is no issue; we can support them. In fact, every Sunday in the public worship service I pray for the children in the congregation who are being home-schooled. But if we are convinced that the parents are making the wrong decision, or the motivation is wrong, then there is an issue. Then the church community should be encouraged to keep its doors open, to include these children as much as we can, for the wellbeing and benefit of the church. Because it’s so easy to write those particular families off! And then we can create conflicts which last for years, if not generations. When somebody stops sending his children to our school, he does not stop being a member of the church. And instead of wagging our finger at them, instead of telling them that they have to repent and send their children to our school, we should show them what our school has to offer. In this respect as well, the Lord holds us responsible for what we do. He does not hold us responsible for the reaction of others.
It is also possible that people choose to home-school because they consider our school to be too liberal, or unchristian. Along the grapevine I have heard stories about drugs, and sex and alcohol and all sorts of other godlessness in Canadian Reformed schools. And then parents quite naturally begin to wonder. And yet I would remind you of those words I already quoted from Prof. van Bruggen: “The school is no stronger or weaker than the community that it serves.” And that means: the lifestyle of our young people reflects – in a general sense – the dominant lifestyle in our church community. And so: if there are families in the congregation who believe that they have to keep their children separate from the other children in the congregation, these parents are – essentially – separating themselves from the church. For if your children cannot go to school with them, can your children go to catechism classes or Bible study with them; can your children date them, or marry them? These are questions which we may direct at the parents who pull their children out of our school! And we can urge them to consider what their place is in a communion of saints, when they don’t consider some others to be saints!
Please, do not suggest to them that they should come back and help fix the problem. It’s an easy answer, but it’s not helpful. And it’s not Biblical either. I can only help somebody if I recognize that I am a sinner; that I am just as much a part of the problem as he is. If you tell me that I am better, and that they need my help, you can send me on an ego trip, but I cannot help anyone.
But this cannot be the end of the discussion, brothers. If people pull their children out of the Canadian Reformed school because they are offended by the godless behaviour of our children, it’s one thing to challenge the reasoning of those parents. But we may not ignore the alarm bells.
Because I put it to you, that there is something seriously wrong with our schools. Hundreds of young men are graduating from Canadian Reformed schools every year, but so few of them go into teaching. And why is that? Why aren’t they excited about the thought of passing on the baton, teaching the next generation the ways of the Lord? Why do so many of them choose to go into computing and related industries, where they can make a pile of money, while the Clarion has pages full of advertisements: ‘Christian Teachers Wanted’? I know! It’s because, ‘The school is no stronger or weaker than the community that it serves’. It’s because people like you and me often give the impression that we measure our success by the types of cars we drive and the houses we live in; it’s because people like you and me are so free to criticize teachers. Most of all, it’s because people like you and me don’t show that we love the church, and that the future of the church is dearest to our hearts.
The reality is that the churches need school teachers just as desperately as they need ministers; and if we don’t get the school teachers we need, our churches have no future. And it’s time that we start dealing with the problem. It’s time that we start loving our schools and our teachers, praying for our schools and our teachers, showing our teachers and our school-boards that we are behind them all the way! We need to start believing in our schools again! Because otherwise we will have no schools left; and we will have no churches left either.
And so the bottom line: our job with respect to Christian education is a lot of work, but it’s really quite simple. In the first place, it must begin in the worship service on Sunday. As I was preparing this speech, I was reminded of the awesome responsibility which ministers have: to show the members of the congregation that serving God in their personal life is important; but that a living, active interest in each other, to build up the church, is also important.
I am convinced that we should not talk about Christian education unless we have first built this basis where we care for each other as a communion of saints. In this context, the office bearers must demonstrate that they truly value our own schools! And how do you show that you care? Simply by making sacrifices. Bending over backwards to support the school in every way. Show that you care about the school. And by making choices ourselves.
Lastly, congregational interest in the school must be fostered by the school. The board, the staff, and the parents, need to draw the link between church and school. And when this happens, the elders must dare to enter the homes of the people of the congregation and challenge them to explain their choice. But this must be done humbly and prayerfully. It must be done in a spirit of love. Love for the parents who have to make these awfully important decisions. But most of all: love for God and for his church. And this love must be accompanied by the faith that good Christian schools and good Christian teachers will surely be a blessing, not just for us and our children, but also – and most importantly – for God’s church!