It’s that time of year again. It’s the time when the weather starts to cool, the leaves start to change their color, and an important activity begins. No, I’m not referring to the end of the baseball season or the start of the college football season.
I have in mind the beginning of another school year, the time when students and parents and teachers are thinking about school supplies and friends, lunch boxes and bus stops, lesson plans and course schedules. Some of our Protestant Reformed schools began another year of instruction in this past week; we sent our two oldest children off last Tuesday. And I know that a number of other Protestant Reformed schools begin this week.
The start of another year of instruction in the classroom provides the opportunity to reflect on a number of things related to the existence of our schools: the history of their beginning, the basis for their existence, the curriculum, and the place of the teacher, to name just a few.
Another important aspect to consider is the goal or purpose that we have in providing this education for our children. What are we hoping to get out of it? Why the blood, sweat, and tears to get a school started and keep it running? Why the thousands upon thousands of dollars every year in tuition and drives?
Is the goal of our schools simply to prepare our children for their vocation in life, to make sure that they are able to go out into the workforce and earn a living or carry out their responsibilities in the home? This is a goal in educating our children. We certainly want to equip them to carry out their vocation from God. But, in the end, this is not the goal.
Is the goal of our schools to protect our children from the wickedness of the world and the evil influences of the public schools? This is a goal in educating our children. Some scoff at this and say it would be better if our children weren’t so sheltered but were exposed to the world at a young age. But there is wisdom in protecting and nurturing these tender seedlings until they are able to stand on their own. But, in the end, this is not the goal.
Is the goal of our schools to establish our children in the Reformed faith and in particular the doctrines as they are taught in our Protestant Reformed Churches? This is a goal in educating our children. We give thanks that the same things taught in the church and in the home are also reinforced in the school. But, in the end, this is not the goal.
Is the goal of our schools to provide an excellent, quality education? Is the goal to equip them for a lifetime of learning? Is the goal to prepare our children to be good citizens? Is the goal to educate all the covenant children? These are all goals in educating our children. But none of them is the goal.
But what then is the goal of our Christian schools?
Here’s the way it’s put in the RFPA’s book Reformed Education: “Our goal is a mature man of God, who lives in this world in every area of life with all his powers as God’s friend-servant, loving God and serving God in all of his earthly life with all his abilities, and who lives in the world to come as a king under Christ, ruling creation to the praise of God, his Maker and Redeemer (p. 84).”
In other words, our goal is related to this present life: our children serving their covenant God in the midst of this world with all their abilities. And our goal is related to the life hereafter: our children praising their covenant God in eternity.
This is the same goal that parents have in the rearing of their children. Deuteronomy 6:5 says that the purpose of our childrearing is that they “love the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart, and with all [their] soul, and with all [their] might.” Ephesians 6:4 says that the goal is for our children to be brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” 2 Timothy 3:17 says the goal is “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” If this is the goal for the home, then this is the goal for the Christian school as an extension of the home.
It is important that we keep this goal in view as another school year begins. It’s important for the teachers in their instruction of the children day after day. It’s important for the parents in their conviction and support for the school. And it’s important for the students in their going to school and doing their work there.
As we begin another school year, remember this goal.
And give thanks for schools governed by this goal.
This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.