Ed Gamble believes training children is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year, "forever" responsibility.
Gamble, headmaster at The First Academy, a ministry of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., said the generic term Christian education might mean anything from Sunday school to Wednesday night missions education to Monday-through-Friday schooling. In contrast, he speaks of Kingdom education, a term that represents God's expectation of parents for educating children.
A resource used by faculty and staff at The First Academy, Kingdom Education published by LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., defines the term as "God's plan to educate future generations to develop a God-centered world view, and, therefore, to think and act according to God's ways."
Gamble reasons, "If we don't educate our own kids, who will? Who is going to teach your world view? Who is in charge?"
Kingdom education, he continued, "is like planting an orchard. We won't see any fruit for several years. The big crop is down the road. We teach children to function in the kingdom, not to just be good little girls and boys."
Keeping the biblical assignment of training children in the hands of the parents, Gamble admits, is "tough. Historically, we professional educators are the pros. But the relationship between parental involvement and quality education is direct. We're asking them to participate by mentoring, nurturing, and creating an extended family. You need someone else looking out for your kid when you aren't around. When we kingdom educate our kids, then everyone is expected to join in that in a biblical way."
As for the major distinctive between The First Academy and public schools or other kinds of private schools, Gamble said faith and learning are integrated at the academy in a variety of ways.
The academy's mission statement is "Preparing children for life as Christian leaders who choose character before career, wisdom beyond scholarship, service before self, and participation as a way of life."
Some subjects lend themselves to integration of faith better than others, Gamble acknowledges.
"It is more difficult in algebra than English literature, but in math you talk about order, which can be illustrated scripturally. What if we teach children both to balance their checkbooks – scholarship – and also to use their resources in ministry and missions – wisdom? This is the integration of learning into faith rather than faith into learning. Faith is the base."
Larry Taylor, assistant to the headmaster and principal of the middle school, said, "We are not just a school that has a chapel. When we begin interviewing families, we make clear that God's rule is that the responsibility for educating children does not belong to the church or the government or the school, but to the parents. We make clear through our literature that there is a biblical principle of partnership, which is the glue that holds kingdom education together. That is totally integrated in our discipline policy. Everything we do that involves a child's heart includes Mom and Dad."
Taylor said integrating faith topics into school curriculum is a natural process. "Nowhere do I find in Scripture that evangelism and discipleship are only done at church. And we are a part of the church. While we don't teach a month of missions, it's a lifestyle. Our program begins in kindergarten, adopting children of migrant workers to give them toys. Thinking of others is taught at school, home, and church. That, to me, is kingdom education."
Classes are suspended four to five times annually to engage in ministry work. In its most mature form in high school, outreach and evangelism takes the form of a mission trip.
Relationships between faculty and students are emphasized, with a balance between grace and law, Taylor said.
"We have to have standards, but through relationships, the biblical principles are internalized. Rules without relationships lead to rebellion. We also believe God's word will not return void. Our ultimate goal is that kids will be Christ-like."
In the middle school, for example, twelve biblical principles that lead to being Christ-like are introduced. They are having a servant spirit, integrity, individuality, personal salvation, self control, purity, rule and authority, a forgiving spirit, stewardship, evangelism, unity, sowing and reaping.
"In order for these to really come alive, we integrate them into everything we do," he said. "Courses that are skill- and competency-based are difficult to integrate with biblical principles, but if 100 percent of your faculty have a biblically based world view, then everything you do – science, history, math – will be filtered through a world view that reflects God."
Gamble predicted, "The Christian school movement in our churches is going to take the denomination by storm in the next ten to fifteen years. By the end of that time it will be as unusual to find a church that is not sponsoring or supporting a Christian school and a home school network as it is today to find a church that does not have a Sunday school program. This movement and the home school movement together are going to radically reshape the way America does school in the next two decades."