At the recent annual conference of our church body – the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations – there was some discussion about education. There often is. People have strong opinions about whether kids should be homeschooled or in Christian schools or public schools.
I know it’s not the case with every public school, but the elementary school that is a block away from our church here in Astoria has been great to work with. For a number of years we have been involved with an afterschool Good News Club. We meet in the school cafeteria. The staff at the school has always been real helpful and supportive of what we’ve been doing.
Sometimes Christians have assumed they’ll face opposition from the local public school, and so they haven’t even asked if they can do something like have an afterschool club.
As an encouragement to pray the Bible says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). It is possible that sometimes we miss out on opportunities to serve because we don’t ask. We assume the school will say no, so we don’t ask. Or when the request is made it is not done so in a respectful manner, but the assumption exists that the church and the school are adversaries.
I would encourage Christians and congregations to view their local public school not as an enemy to run from but as a mission field to go to and pray for. Where parents choose to have their own children educated is, of course, their own individual decision. Whatever their decision may be, I would hope Christians would not ignore the needs of the kids in their local public schools. Those kids need to hear the good news about how Jesus loves them.
By the end of this past school year we had around 40 kids coming to our Good News Club. Some of those kids were from our church. Some go to other churches in town. Some of them, though, don’t go to any church. I don’t think they are hearing about Jesus any time during the week, except for that hour at Club. If we didn’t have anything to do with the public school, how would those kids hear that Jesus loves them, died for them, rose from the dead and wants to be their Savior, Lord and Friend? Those kids aren’t going, at least not yet, to any Sunday school or midweek church activities. But their parents let them stay after school for an hour once a week. They might be hesitant to enter a church building, but they’ll stay at the school.
In the story of David and Goliath it tells about how Goliath would shout out his threats and “When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear” (I Samuel 17:24). David, though, had a different spirit. He had confidence in the Lord and knew God was far greater than Goliath. “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” (I Samuel 17:48).
Serving kids in the public schools can present challenges, but instead of running from life’s challenges in fear, let us run toward the challenges with faith in what God can do.