by David E. Pratte
As a home schooler and a gospel preacher, I am sometimes asked how the unity of a local church will be affected by the presence of home schoolers in the congregation. The answer will depend to a large extent, of course, on the specific situation and on the attitudes of the people involved.
I am convinced, however, that there is no need for congregations to be divided over educational alternatives, provided all the members are determined to do what is best for their children, for the church, and above all for the Lord.
Let me begin by stating my personal convictions about educational alternatives.
(1) I believe and preach that there are serious spiritual dangers that threaten the souls of students who attend most public schools. However, I am aware that these problems are not as great in certain public schools and with certain teachers as they are in other public schools and with other teachers.
(2) I believe and preach that the problems in modern education demand that every parent make serious efforts to investigate the problems their child faces and then to assist their child to remain faithful despite the problems. This is true whether their children are in public schools, private schools, or home school. I believe further that many Christian parents are not making adequate efforts to oppose errors.
However, this issue is much like the question of how much an individual will contribute to support the church financially - it is such a personal matter that I seriously doubt any member can judge any other member regarding it. Personally, I simply preach the Bible principles involved and let parents make their own applications.
(3) I have never believed nor taught that the above facts prove it is sinful for parents to leave kids in public schools, provided they diligently investigate and fight evil influences. I know many parents that I love and respect as faithful Christians who have left their children in the public schools and have successfully fought the errors, and their children have remained faithful. Not only do I believe they have not sinned, but I respect them. Nevertheless, I believe they have run a risk that I personally am not willing to run.
(4) I also believe, however, that many parents, myself included, would very much like to have alternate ways to educate their children that avoid many of the problems of the public schools. I see no reason why we should be bound to a corrupt, decaying system if there are valid alternatives. One such alternative, I believe, is home schooling.
It is furthermore my opinion (note the emphasis) that, in many situations, home schooling has advantages spiritually, socially, and otherwise over other alternatives. I generally consider it to be the best course for those who can do it, therefore I have chosen that course for myself and my family. So strong is my personal opinion that I find it hard to imagine that I could in good conscience send my children back to the public schools. And because I hold this opinion, I gladly assist others who are interested in considering this alternative for their family.
(5) However, I freely admit that I cannot prove my opinion to be essential by the Scriptures, nor do I believe other people can prove my opinion to be in error according to the Scriptures. I grant that there are people who have dealt adequately with the problems in the public schools. And I grant that home schooling is not for everyone. Nor is home schooling a panacea cure all. We cannot guarantee that, simply because people home school, their children will turn out to be faithful to God. Therefore, I conclude that the issue of home schooling is a matter of Romans 14, and I am glad to leave it there.
(6) It follows that home schoolers must never believe, state, or imply that people are in sin simply because they decide to send their kids to the public schools. It would violate Bible teaching regarding unity for home schoolers to act so as to cause division or to destroy the unity of a local church over the issue of home schooling vs. public schools.
(7) Public schoolers likewise must never believe, state, or imply that people are in sin simply because they choose to home school. It would violate Bible teaching regarding unity for public schoolers to so act as to cause division or to destroy the unity of a local church over the question of home schooling vs. public schools.
If the above statements are accurate, then it should follow that home schoolers and public schoolers should be able to get along as Christians in the same congregation, provided we all have at heart the best interests of our children, of the church, and of God's work,
When we first began home schooling, I tended to be overly aggressive in advocating home schooling. I believe this is a common tendency. Home schoolers tend to be very "sold" on their choice. They generally see so much good for their family that they think everyone should do as they do.
But it is easy to forget that not everyone can do it properly. And as with many other family matters, each family must do what they believe is best for their own family. So my family has developed some personal guidelines that we try to follow to help promote unity in the local church. While we speak as home schoolers, we believe these same practices would be good for public schoolers to use in their relationship to home schoolers.
(1) We sincerely try to avoid any conduct that promotes clannishness or an "us vs. them" attitude. We try to develop just as close a relationship with non-home-schoolers as we do with home schoolers. Naturally we tend to share something in common with home schoolers that is very special to us. But we try to keep that separate from the meetings of the church and other gatherings of Christians.
When we are around other members, we try to associate freely with everyone. We encourage home schoolers to avoid anything more than casual discussions of home schooling when other Christians are around. If we want to discuss home schooling with other home schoolers, we do it at some time or place other than when other Christians are around.
(2) We try to let the people who are not home schoolers determine how much they will discuss home schooling with us. Because the educational activities of children are such an important part of any family's activities, naturally our conversation occasionally refer to home-school activities, and public schoolers' conversation occasionally refers to public school activities. From time to time we invite other members to attend some home-school activities involving our children. But we try not to pressure anyone.
If, as a result of these casual comments, people ask us questions about home schooling, we answer them. If they raise objections to home schooling, we answer them. When they cease asking questions or making comments, we try to let the subject drop. In short, we try not to push discussions of the pros and cons of home schooling on people who are not interested. If people are interested, we are glad to do all we can to help them be informed.
(3) We try to set good examples as Christians in every way we can. We try to avoid any home school activities that are questionable Scripturally. For example, we try to carefully follow home-school laws. We try to avoid any Scripturally questionable activities of home-school support groups. And especially, we try not to let home schooling in any way hinder our involvement in the local church. In fact, one of the big advantages of home schooling is that we are much more free to set our own schedules so as to avoid conflict between school activities and church activities.
Specifically, as a gospel preacher, I try to avoid becoming so involved in home schooling that it hinders my work as a preacher. Other members may naturally wonder if I am neglecting the work they support me to do by spending too much time on home school activities. I try to honestly answer questions about this without resentment. Above all, I try to give the work of preaching such diligent effort that no one has any reason to question whether or not I am adequately doing the job I am supported to do.
(4) We try to discuss education in general, and home schooling in particular, in a way that makes it clear we do not believe people are in sin just because they do not home school. This is one reason why we have written these statements that you are reading right now.
The Lord's church has far too many problems dividing it already. Home schooling is something we do for the good of our families, especially their spiritual good. Wouldn't it be a shame, for everyone involved, if home schooling were allowed to become another divisive issue in the church? This could happen if we are not careful. We all need to be aware of this and accept the responsibility to be peaceable.
The responsibility to avoid division rests on both the home schoolers and on those who do not home school. Home schoolers may not be able to control the attitudes of others, but let us make absolutely certain that no strife and division result from our attitudes. And let home schoolers not sit back and expect other people to initiate acts of peace and harmony toward us. Let us be in the forefront, actively pursuing peace with other Christians. Let us make a diligent effort, even at these early years in the modern home school movement, to do all we can to be an influence for good, and not harm, in the Lord's church. (Note: anyone who seeks peace regarding these matters, and wishes to use this article to accomplish that end, has permission to reproduce this article, provided it is reproduced in its entirety without modification and as long as proper credit is given.)
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