Currently there is a great discussion in the blogosphere about the missional implications of education. Here’s a couple good examples from this discussion: Jamie Arpin-Ricci and Tony Jones. There is not a “one size fits all” approach to education and living on mission. The key is that we pray and discern where God is leading each of our families.
Here’s my attempt at explaining our current decision to enroll our kids in a public school and join what God is doing in our neighborhood. My hope is to be descriptive not prescriptive.
When I accepted my current position at Mountair Christian Church, Hillary and I knew that it meant that we needed to move into the neighborhood around the church. At my last church, we learned the benefit of living in the neighborhood where the church building was located. Fundamental to our family’s beliefs is the idea that our role as a family is to make the Kingdom of God tangible to our neighbors and community. We are sent to be God’s instruments of unconditional love and grace.
We see ourselves as missionaries.
This belief that we are sent as missionaries to our neighborhood and community means that our kids go to the same public elementary school that our neighbors attend. According to our daughters’ school, the area they serve is “a low-income, working class community. Approximately 50% of students are in a one parent household, 20% do not have parents, but are being raised by family members or friends. Approximately 20% of our students are homeless, living in foster homes or temporary housing.”
We have realized that in some ways we are sacrificing our daughters’ education to join what God is doing in our community. They won’t necessarily be behind in school but they won’t get all the opportunities they might receive in a suburban school. It is up to Hillary and me as their parents to supplement what they are learning at school and give them other opportunities to learn. This is hard to stomach sometimes.
This morning Hillary helped with writing in our daughter’s kindergarten class and she noticed that many of the students seemed behind as they start their school experience. Statistics show that some of them may never catch up. Over 80% of the kids are Hispanic so our daughters are in the minority. Parent involvement is low, especially among white parents. Hillary and I have a big role to play in making the Kingdom of God tangible at our daughters’ school. We are learning to write grants that would help contribute resources to the school, especially in the area of technology. We are starting to volunteer in the classroom and help kids read. Our daughters look for kids who are learning at a slower pace and find ways to help them out. Our oldest especially is learning leadership skills that she might not learn in a suburban school. And we are all slowly learning Spanish.
I’ll admit it’s not easy. Most days when I drop them off at school I wonder if we are doing the right thing. I want to protect my girls. But sometimes valuing safety and security can get in the way of living on mission in our community. All I can do is pray and step out in faith as a family.
For our family and for our daughters we know God has put us in our local public school to join what God is already doing there and to make his Kingdom real and tangible.