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Homeschooling, Christian schools find common ground

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Advocates of homeschool and Christian schools met June 22 in a Kingdom Education Summit to explore strategies for enlisting more families to teach their own children at home or enroll them in a Christian school with a biblical worldview.

“The summit brought together for the first time key players in making a difference,” said the event’s co-host, Elizabeth Watkins of Allen, Texas, a Southern Baptist who leads the newly formed Southern Baptist Church & Home Education Association (www.sbchea.org).

The other co-host, Ed Gamble, executive director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS), saw a twofold strategy coming out of the summit as homeschoolers backed a “family-to-family” initiative advanced by E. Ray Moore of Exodus Mandate to attract a half-million more homeschooled students and the SBACS goal to start thousands of Christian schools in Southern Baptist churches.

Summit participants came together in a common cause, Gamble said. “It’s called Kingdom education and that cause is purely biblical. We’re either going to keep doing education the way we’ve been doing it — which is not biblical and [is] disobedient, resulting in kids who don’t think and act biblically who then grow up to be parents who raise kids who don’t think and act biblically — or begin homeschooling and building Christian schools.”

He added, “We recognized we’re on the same team and want to draw the box bigger to include those brothers and sisters called to be teachers in public schools. We need to help them develop a real strategy with tools and training to make them effective in what they’re doing as ministers” in public school settings.

Watkins, in an interview, said she believes homeschooling is the best educational option, voicing concern that Christian schools often do not build up the family. “I believe God has blessed the homeschooling movement because of the impact it has on the family relationship. It forces the mother, usually, to be at home, but that is the blessing! Through sacrifice, we come to realign our priorities to God’s will for our family.”

She considers either cooperative or University Model Schools (www.naums.net) to be the next best option after homeschooling, with Christian schools third.

Of the Southern Baptist Church & Home Education Association, Watkins noted, “My primary concern is keeping SBCHEA distinctively Southern Baptist because of the impact I’m praying our homeschooled students will have on the convention.”

Gamble and the SBACS (www.sbacs.org), meanwhile, seek denominational support for Christian schools as “a powerful tool for missions and evangelism.”

“Not only can a Christian school help develop true disciples who tend to remain in the church family, but it also brings new families in the door who may not otherwise become involved in any church,” Gamble said. Often, pastors report that their Christian school substantially contributed to the growth of their churches, he said.

SBACS offers training, consulting, programs and resources to strengthen Christian schools.

An SBACS “school starting” training seminar will be held Oct. 24-25 at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., offering “Christian School 101.” School organization and ownership, the relationship of the church and school, governance, curriculum resources, leadership, teachers and space are among the topics that will be covered. The seminar “will help you decide if a Christian school or homeschool center is right for your church or community,” Gamble stated. A small school model will be visited to demonstrate how to start with 20 students.

The Southern Baptist educators take their mandate from Article XII on Education in the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, Gamble said. The doctrinal statement notes: “The cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.”

Summit participants embraced the philosophy reflected in “Kingdom Education,” a book by Glen L. Schultz, director of Christian school resources at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Curriculum for homeschools and Christian schools offered by LifeWay was promoted at the summit with a letter from Schultz outlining efforts prioritized for 2005 as including:

— training thousands of teachers on how to effectively plan and implement biblical worldview integration in any lesson.

— continuing to instill the biblical principles of Kingdom education in the hearts and minds of school boards, school staffs, parents and church leaders.

— building Kingdom schools that will be schools of influence for Christ.

LifeWay is offering its third annual Building a Kingdom School Institute July 13-15 in Nashville. (More information is available by calling (615) 251-2750.)

Both Watkins and Gamble expressed appreciation for the resolution on educating children adopted during the June 21-22 SBC annual meeting. “It was obvious to everyone that the topic could not be ignored any longer,” Watkins said, referring to a similar theme of a proposal that did not make it beyond the Resolutions Committee last year.

Two resolutions were submitted by supporters of home education this year, one coauthored by Texans Voddie Bauchum and Bruce Shortt called on Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools that affirm homosexual practice while the other written by Texan Grady Arnold and Tennesseean David Scarbrough asked churches to aggressively start Christian schools and encourage home education.

“Even though both resolutions were combined and edited into one milder one, it is still a victory for our children,” Watkins said. “The seed has been planted that we shouldn’t just send our children to public school by default. We need to investigate.”

That the resolution provided “a lot of actionable items,” Gamble said, noting its use of words like investigate, challenge and hold accountable in reference to schools. He said “people need to sit down with that resolution and ask, ‘What are the practical ramifications of challenging the curriculum? How do we teach people to recognize a Christian worldview?’”

Gamble offered “kudos” to all who were involved in the process. “We managed to get something through that actually not only survived the process, but came out on the other side with such incredible approval.” After hearing the discussion at the summit and a subsequent reception for Southern Baptists interested in homeschooling or Christian education, Gamble said, “The tide is going to turn in the next few years. There’s a lot more agreement.”

Sponsors of the Kingdom Education Summit included Broadman & Holman; Pat Marcum, a curriculum sales and marketing consultant associated with Homeschool Headquarters; Exodus Mandate; Grace Community Church of the Woodlands, Texas; Christian Liberty Academy School System; Considering Homeschool Ministry; and Family to Family ministry.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter