News Articles

Pastor says adding school fits with congregation’s goals

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Adding The First Academy as a ministry of Orlando’s First Baptist Church more than a decade ago fit well with the congregation’s goals then and now, pastor Jim Henry said recently.
A part of the thinking that resulted in establishing the academy in 1987 is “the desire to be a seven-day-a-week church, not just facilities to look at, but to use, he recalled.
“We would rather wear our buildings out than to rust them out,” he said.
“We began to hear concerns about the quality of public education from a lot of our people. If we did begin a school, we wanted to do it right, making it attractive and church-based. We wanted to keep the school under the church umbrella, but not micro-managed by the pastor.”
Several years later, he said, they were confronted with the dilemma of what to do after eighth grade?
“Adding a high school was a more difficult decision,” he recalled. “Did we want to do that? If we had no high school, should kids go back to public school earlier than high school in order to get involved? We decided we had gone this far. We needed to finish the job. God honored that, and we have one of the finest Christian high schools anywhere.”
With nearly 1,000 children and a $6.8 million budget, The First Academy has come a long way from its founding.
A January 1997 survey of 536 families revealed that The First Academy had been instrumental in adding 107 families (approximately 20 percent of respondents) or 366 adults and children to the First Baptist Church roll. Of all the families at the academy, 37 percent said the school was instrumental in leading their children to make a profession of faith as well as 3 percent of the parents. Other responses included that 17 percent said their children attend church more regularly since attending the academy, five percent of parents indicated their marriages are stronger, and 24 percent said they are better parents due to the school’s influence.
Almost 90 percent indicated that association with The First Academy had positively impacted their family’s spiritual life.
“A lot of the kids will be head and shoulders above their peers,” Henry said, “by being able to make right decisions and take a stand. It’s worth it.
“If you are a serious Christian, you don’t want your children to hear conflicting ideas. If the same feedback comes from home, school and church, you get three to one against what they are hearing in the world,” he continued.
“While the church had to set aside seed money to begin the academy, Henry said, today the academy supports itself, even reimbursing the church for utilities. The church contributes $100,000 for scholarships for children of families in the church.
“If God is in it, it should go,” he said. “Like a baby, it took a lot of care. Today, the academy has a foundation. People who will not contribute to a church, we’ve found, will give to Christian education.”
Henry said the school attempts to provide the best curriculum, and if some content is found to be “off-base,” teachers use that as a teaching point.
“We’ve got a Christian faculty, involved in local churches who pray with the kids, support and affirm them, who can give them Christian values. When you have an atmosphere of affirmation of the child, you are a long way toward modeling the faith, as well, as teaching the faith.”
To those pastors whose churches may consider the addition of a school, he offered these thoughts:
— If you are going to do it, pray about it. Does the Lord want you to be in this?
— Look at it with a ‘dream team.’ How could you do it?
— If you are going to do it, do it right.
— There will be challenges and difficulties, including confrontations. There will be those who don’t like it. Realize that. It can clear the air like a thunderstorm.
— The greatest evangelistic tool can be Christian schools.
For information on how to start a Christian school, contact Charles Schneider at LifeWay Christian Resources at (615) 251-5042 or by email at [email protected] .

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis