Christian schools in the United States are privately run, often in conjunction with a church or denomination. This means that education will not be state funded though the religious institution it represents may subsidize it. The largest organization of Christian schools in North America is Christian Schools International. Formed in 1920, CSI serves over 475 schools with a total enrollment of over 100 000 students. Christian schools act from the departure point that God calls everyone to serve Him. Though they often include rigorous academic programs they extend beyond the classroom to embrace ancient values and convictions that are as alive today as they were over 2,000 years ago. Just as there are many different schools of thought that fall under the general term Christianity, so are there as many different kinds of Christian schools.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that a school that calls itself Christian will necessarily hold your views. Christian schools can be roughly divided into two obvious camps: the ones serving the more conservative branch of Christianity that holds the bible to be literally true and the more liberal schools that hold a broader more figurative view of the biblical teachings. The Baptist Christian schools would be an example of the more fundamentalist approach while the modern day Catholic and Episcopalian schools are examples of the more liberal Christian school of thought. The most obvious route to follow when choosing a Christian school is simply to follow the guidance of your minister or priest assuming that you trust his opinion on the, sometimes delicate, interface between education and religion.
Fellow members of your congregation are also potential sources of information and experience. Some Christian schools are actually geographically or thematically attached to a particular church community; Catholic schools will be associated with a particular diocese and Baptist schools to a particular church district. Remember that a Christian school that fails regarding integrity and compassion is almost worse than a secular school guilty of the same. You need evidence that leads you to believe that the school practices what it preaches. Many innocent young souls have been permanently lost to the Christian faith through Christian schools gone wrong. So, once you have found the Christian school that best represents your Christian views you need to put them through a ruthless acid test. Christian schools put Christ’s love high on their agenda. Check that this is so in practice. Visit the school and observe the behavior of the current students. Do they look subdued and downtrodden by the school’s application of the Christian teachings or are they filled with the exuberance and good spirits of children whose souls are getting the right treatment.
If you choose to combine your teenager’s education with religion then you need to be aware of the synergistic relationship between the two. Education is going to rub off on the Christian faith and vice versa. You want the mix to be a positive one. You want the education to be superior because of its association with the Christian faith and you want the child’s understanding of God and his word to be enhanced by this juxtaposition. Another very important factor is the teenagers themselves. The teenage years are crucial developmental years and the thoughts and concerns of the child cannot be ignored. The best results are gained when the child is brought into the decision making process.
They will take responsibility for the venture in direct proportion to the role they have played in the decisions. Don’t discount the teenage point of view. Though they can sometimes be pure reactionaries they often have an uncanny sense of the integrity of a situation. Neither education nor, more especially, religion can be forced on an individual. They have to buy into the process to benefit from it. Pay attention to the teenager’s concerns. That’s respect. The mutual exploration that results from this will ultimately yield more favorable results than a unilateral approach.
Teenagers are young adults; they have vigorous opinions and will be suspicious of anything that smacks of indoctrination. Once you have chosen one of the Christian schools that best embodies your spiritual beliefs make a practice of checking in with your child to see how the methods are actually being experienced. Placing a child in a Christian school is no replacement for consistent parental input. Your own wisdom and compassion may be regularly needed to moderate strident viewpoints or institutional blind spots. Be there for your child. You are God’s representative here on earth and they need your special mix of the human and the divine.