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Christian schools focus of how-to workshop

WINDERMERE, Fla. (BP)–Pastors and lay leaders are learning how -– and why — to expand Bible-based education at two-day “Christian School 101” workshops sponsored by the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools.

“Our goal is to help pastors reduce the fear factor in starting a Christian school or home school network in their churches,” said Ed Gamble, executive director of the Florida-based association. “Nationally, we see a rising wave of pastors and lay leaders who feel God is calling them to this endeavor, but obstacles like the lack of how-to knowledge are preventing them from moving ahead.”

An Aug. 27-28 Christian School 101 workshop is underway at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and will be repeated at least three more times at other locations to give participants the basic tools and information they need to plan and start a well-run Christian school.

“God has impressed upon us the need to take what looks to some folks like an insurmountable wall and make it look more like a picket fence by teaching them how to start a school and providing them with the resources they need to get started,” Gamble told the Florida Baptist Witness.

Gamble made a case for providing a Kingdom education for children by citing the parallels between Judges 2:7-15 and modern America and by considering the estimated 16,000 hours children spend in classrooms through high school.

“If you want to reach and disciple children, then take the Gospel to them every day, through every subject, right where they are — in school,” Gamble said, noting the endless possibilities if Southern Baptists planted thousands of schools and opened them to the public as they already do Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

“Schools have helped change our culture for the last 30 to 40 years, but not for the better,” he said. “God can use Christian schools to change our culture in one generation.”

With churches in control of the teaching, the curriculum and the philosophy in order to provide a Kingdom education for children, schools could emphasize the twin pillars of historical Christian teaching, which are spiritual integrity and academic excellence, Gamble said.

“Millions of children would learn to think and act biblically instead of from a secular worldview,” he said. “America would be a very different place in 20 years.”

Citing concerns about whether Christian schools would be affordable for all children, Gamble said they must be open to children without regard to a family’s ability to pay tuition.

“What if we began in the worst neighborhoods and work[ed] our way out to the suburbs?” Gamble suggested. “We can feed millions of people following Katrina and Rita, and we can get missionaries on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I am confident that we could offer Christian education to the children in every neighborhood. Has God’s purse gone dry?”

Southern Baptists have used schools for many decades as a way to penetrate cultures and gain a beachhead for expanding Christian work, Gamble said, and now they have the opportunity to reach those who are “church-aloof” or “church-averse” through schooling.

The two-day Christian school workshops cover such topics as gathering church and community support; governance and management; the church-school relationship; financial and facility issues; faculty and staffing; and curriculum and accreditation. Participants also receive a tour of a successful Christian school.

“A Christian school can help ‘beautify Christ’s bride’ through evangelism, discipleship and community outreach,” a promotional piece for the workshops says. “Schools help churches train parents and children who think and act biblically as well-discipled leaders — true salt and light.”

Future Christian 101 workshops are planned at First Baptist Academy at First Baptist Church in Houston Oct. 8-9; First Baptist Academy at First Baptist Church in Dallas Oct. 15-16; and The First Academy at First Baptist Church in Orlando Feb. 4-5.

The cost for the workshop, which includes a training manual, resource CD, books, resource kit, school tour, lunch dinner and refreshments, is $119 for the first person and $109 for each additional person from the same group. Spouses of paid attendees are free.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. Erin Roach of Baptist Press contributed to this article. For more information on Christian schools or to register for the workshops, visit www.sbac.org.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan