What's the Right School for Your Child?
As many of you know, our session voted for me to serve as Trinity’s interim Head of School for this academic year. While I am excited about this opportunity and trust the Lord is using it, there is one question, in particular, that has given me caution: What does this communicate to the families of TCPC that have not chosen Trinity as the best option for their children?
Because of the church/school dynamic, the opinion of TCPC’s Senior Pastor regarding Christian education has had an impact on Trinity as well as the congregation’s view Trinity. I won’t speak for my predecessors, but I think it’s important in this season of interim leadership for me to be upfront and honest about my opinion on education.
First and foremost, when it comes to the discipleship of our children, a school is (at best) third on the list of importance. There are two God-ordained institutions for the formation of the next generation, and neither of them are academic institutions.
The first is the family. It is popular to say that a school choice is so important because children spend more time at school than with their parents, as though quantity of time is what’s most significant. But this neglects the God-ordained power of a parent over a child. A weekend getaway with one of my sons is as influential to their character development as an entire year in a teacher’s classroom. One intimate heart-to-heart conversation with a parent can overcome hundreds of conversations with peers. Simply put, God has granted parents preeminent influence over their children.
The other is the Church. The preaching of Scripture, the administration of sacraments, the fellowship of believers, the discipleship and discipline of ordained leadership—these are all far more influential than a school classroom. God has granted a church community uniquely formative power that a school community simply does not have.
Therefore, when it comes to the notion of Christian education, both the responsibility and supremacy belong to the family and Church. A bad school experience cannot undo healthy parenting and church life. Likewise, a great school experience cannot replace unhealthy parenting and church life. And this truth alone defuses what can typically be a fairly heated discussion. So my first opinion about Christian education is that Christian education does not belong to any school. For better or worse, every parent along with every church is doing Christian education with every child entrusted to their care.
Now that school choice has been dethroned from its false preeminence, we as parents are freed up to think of our children’s schooling as a tool to aid us in our own discipleship of our children. That discussion typically begins with academics, because that’s where most parents need help. I don’t need a school to disciple my children in the ways of Christian virtue, I need a school to teach them their A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s. If the teaching of a public school is superior to a Christian school, then I will most likely choose the public school for my children, just like I would choose a non-Christian surgeon for my child over a Christian surgeon if the non-Christian surgeon was better. Would I prefer that my children’s teachers shared my same worldview and ethic? Of course! But that’s not my priority, because I’m not asking a teacher to teach my worldview and ethic. I’m asking them to teach academics. So I’ll choose the best academic teachers.
But beyond academics, thoughtful parenting calls us to look at each of our children in view of their unique, God-given, glorious design, and place them in a school that cultivates that glory. For instance, if a child is a gifted athlete, then a school’s athletic program would become a priority for the parents; an art or music prodigy needs a high-quality arts program; an incredibly social child with a high EQ (emotional quotient) might need a bigger school with many peers and activities. There is no “one size fits all” approach to education, because there is no “one size fits all” design to God’s image.
That being said, parents must not only consider how a school can help in the discipleship of their children, they must also be aware of how a school might harm their discipleship. There will inevitably be discipleship challenges to any school you choose. I emphasize any, because it is wrong to assume that only secular public education is a threat to our children’s faith. Any and every school requires a form of improvisational discipleship on behalf of the parents, walking with them through the unique challenges they are facing, no matter what those challenges may be.
So, for instance, I currently have my children at Trinity, and we absolutely love it! (Schedule a visit to see why we love it so much 😁) But I am also very aware of challenges that come with that decision. As much as I love my children attending a school with a Christian worldview, if I’m not careful, my sons will grow up with an overly protected and homogenized existence, which can be deadly to the Christian faith. How many times must we watch a sheltered Christian school kid graduate into the real world only to abandon the faith before we admit the inherent danger of fortification education? Or what are the dangers of my children growing up surrounded by mostly white, affluent, privileged people, when my greatest hope for them is that they would do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly? Someday I may choose to place my children in public school, and that decision would bring discipleship challenges as well, not the least of which would be an education that comes from a worldview that, in many ways, is opposed to our Christian worldview.
The point I’m trying to make is that no matter the school choice (and yes, that does include homeschooling), our children’s education will bring unique discipleship challenges that parents must navigate. Therefore, any attempt to make school choice a strict, absolute, across-the-board principle is at best naïve and at worst harmful.
Having said all that, I do want you to know that my hope and prayer for Trinity is that we become a school that does all things really well. Trinity is already an amazing school, but we can always improve. Call it hopeless idealism if you’d like, but if TCPC is going to have a school, then let’s create the best school we can to serve the community we love for generations to come. Whether it be academics or athletics, faculty or facilities, learning or serving, in unity and diversity—let’s have a school that strives to honor Christ with excellence in all things. That’s the dream that has led to my short-term involvement as the head of Trinity. But Trinity may never be the best place for your children, and as both the senior pastor and headmaster, I want you to hear me clearly say that is completely fine.
So, what’s the right school for your child? At the end of the day, I don’t know. You tell me.