In this series I’ve been working my way slowly through various facets of life (home, education, work, sport, etc.), talking about the opportunities that each presents for being involved in the lives of others for their good and their salvation, and the idolatries that have the potential to destroy us and our witness by luring our hearts away from Christ. In this post, having set out a general framework and taken a brief look at the opportunities and idolatries of the home, I want to turn to the topic of education (our own and our children’s) and the opportunities that it provides for mission.
1. Equipping for the future
Education gives a person the chance to learn how better to think, read, write, and speak. Our own education is a gift from God, and it helps equip us to serve him and serve others. If we have kids then our kids’ school education (or their home-schooling) can be part of the way we train them as parents to gain skills and understanding and attitudes that will prepare them to be useful in serving God and serving others in the future.
That’s the big goal we ought to have in mind: how can our decisions about schooling and the way we approach our kids’ education help to equip them to live for God’s glory, to serve their neighbours, and to live holy lives, in the world but not of the world, seeking the good of others, that they might be saved? Our kids’ formal education is part of a larger strategy we ought to have as parents to raise them up in order to send them out into the world as missionaries.
2. Relationships in the present
But education is also about relationships in the present. In our society, the education system is the gate that everyone passes through, and the experience of schooling can be a source of daily gospel opportunities for both kids and parents. The decision about whether to send the kids to a private or public school (or to home-school), to send to a school close by or a school several suburbs away, can make a significant difference to the kind and frequency of those opportunities and to the ability you have as a parent to help your kids make the most of them. The experience of school can be a wonderful training ground for kids to start learning how to share the gospel and interact with the non-Christian world as missionaries.
Sending your children to school (or participating in a well-functioning home-school network) can also offer opportunities for parents to get involved in the local community. For me, for example, I’ve found school the best place to get to know other parents because I’m there every day, morning and afternoon. Plus (again, in my experience) there are so many ways to get involved and volunteer and spend time with the other parents a local school.
The aim, of course, is not to abdicate the work of mission to our children, sending them off into the battlefield of the gospel as child-soldiers, untrained and unsupported. Our job is to train our children as missionaries, not to use them to do the evangelism we are too frightened to do ourselves. But the best way of training them is not by hiding them away from the world for the first eighteen years of their lives, instructing them in the safety of home about the theory of making Christ known in a world they know nothing about.
There are at least two sets of questions we ought to be asking, therefore, about the choices that we make for the education of ourselves and of our children:
- How will these decisions assist in preparing us and our children for a future of serving God and serving others in the world, living as disciples of the Lord Jesus and making him known?
- What opportunities will these decisions provide for us and for our children to be part of the work of the gospel in the present? What sort of contact will we and our children have with those who don’t yet know Christ? What scope will we have for learning how to live good lives among the pagans (1 Pet 2:12) and to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:15)? How much involvement will we be able to have in the educational world into which we send our children day by day, and how much scope will we have to get to know their friends and the families of their friends?
Answering these questions is not always a simple task, of course—at times it can require the wisdom of Solomon. But—like Solomon!—we make our decisions not only as people who depend on the wisdom of God, but also as people who are beset by temptation from the idolatrous desires of our hearts within and the world without. But that’s another whole post…
For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the opportunities. How have you approached the answering of those two questions? And what examples come to mind for you of people who’ve made the most of the opportunities that the education system gives us as missionary-disciples of the Lord Jesus?