To Influence or To Be Influenced, That is the Question

Searching for resources to share with you on how we can be effective as Christians in public schools has been difficult. I found more far more arguments against it than resources for our success. Sometimes it can be discouraging. I am very happy that the homeschooling parents have so many resources and that is why I want more for those of us that have our kids in public schools.

One source in support for homeschooling really made me think. The author made many good points that we need to consider. The article, “Christian Children in Public Schools – Missionaries or Prey?”  lists three myths about Christian influence in public schools. It was written in defense against the argument that if all the Christians leave the public school there will be no one left to make a difference for Christ. The author is not so much arguing against public schooling, but “[calling] into question the thinking of those Christian parents who, without prayer, consideration, and preparation, send their children to public school, assuming that they will be witnesses just by being present.”

A great point! We can’t do this without prayer, consideration, and preparation. Let’s dive into these myths a little deeper and see what we can and need to do, because as Christians we want to be a light to the world, right? No where in life are our children going to have as much opportunity for influence as in a school, so let’s be serious about helping them in this area.

Myth 1: “Christian students at public schools will influence their peers, while at the same time remaining uninfluenced by these peers.”

If you put a sugar cube in a glass of water, indeed, over time the water becomes sweeter, and the sugar cube dissolves and eventually disappears. The hotter the water, the faster it dissolves. On the other hand, consider coffee grounds. If you pass hot water over coffee grounds, there is a profound effect on the water. Not only can you taste the difference, but you can see the difference. Yes, the coffee grounds are still affected by the water. Some of that water is absorbed into the grounds, but they do not disappear.

As parents we need to be aware of this concept. How do we make our kids and their Christian faith more like the coffee grounds than the sugar cubes? I do believe it takes more than Sunday school! Our children need to know what they believe and why. They need to see it lived out in their parents as they work and play. They need to see it in their homes and have real attention drawn to the development of their faith and not be casual about it.

The hot water of the world can be a test for us parents to see the strength of our children’s faith and influence. Do they dissolve into the world or do they make an impact on it? If they are dissolving it is sign that you need to do something different. Talk to them more, pray with them more, study the Word more, or just spend more time with them.

Be sure to pay attention to this aspect of sending your children to public school and do not assume that they will not be influenced by the world. Help them be a light for Christ!

Myth 2: Peers are the only negative influence parents should be concerned about.

This is another good point. The curriculum and the teachers have an agenda. Most of the agenda is purely academic, but there are many other view points and some alternative methods that are purposely being added to the curriculum in order to influence our children. Do not be naive to this fact.

The amount of this outside influence will differ between every classroom, school, district and state, but everyone has an agenda now and everyone recognizes the public school as an excellent platform for getting out information and normalizing their viewpoints. Do not ignore this part of the “hot water” equation. I think perhaps this type of influence is just heating up the water, and it is getting hotter and hotter every year it seems. Those sugar cubes will dissolve even faster when this influence is added to the mix.

Your children’s faith needs to be strong enough to see and hear these ideas from the world and still know and understand why they do not fit into their world view. Coffee grounds will not dissolve no matter how how the water gets.

Myth #3: If the student is a Christian, then he or she is ready for the battle.

The author of the article makes the point here that, when a country goes to battle, they do not send “half-trained, semi-equipped conscripts.” Indeed, they send well-trained and fully equipped soldiers into the fight. This is a valid argument. We need to train and give our children the appropriate weapons and defense mechanisms.

In the battle at public school, they train while they fight. They get stronger and more efficient with their shield and weapon the more they face the enemy. They need to be equipped, but as they grow that equipment will look different. First graders have first grade battles, but by the time they are seniors in high school they have faced many adult battles. It is not “Boot Camp” and they’re done. There must be on-going training. Thank goodness this training can happen while they still live at home with some (hopefully) strong examples of spiritual warriors to lead and guide them.

Also, our children need to understand that the “enemy” they are fighting is not the people at the school.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” Ephesians 6:12-13 NIV

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV

So, you have to dress your children ready for battle in their armor and weapons everyday. Do not neglect this, but stand in strength and confidence when you do send them out ready. Their God goes with them.

Personally, I have to admit that I wish that many of my homeschooling friends would come back into the public school system. I do see the void of strong Christian families in the public school and don’t want to be standing alone with so few soldiers. There are hurting and broken people and children that need love desperately out there. I want Christ’s love to be radiated into their lives.

But I fully agree that we can’t do this “without prayer, consideration, and preparation”. We can’t expect to be an influence by just showing up. Nor can we expect that our children won’t be negatively influenced if we aren’t prepared. But, with care and much prayer, we can help our children stand strong in the world and fight to make a difference.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Shawna Wright

Shawna Wright has three daughters currently in 4th, 7th, and 9th grades. While she graduated college with a degree in Chemical Engineering, she chose to stay home and begin raising her family. She and her husband, Michael, purposefully chose to put their children in the public school system with much prayer and perseverance. Shawna volunteers in the local school district. She is also a hobby web designer, writer, speaker, graphic artist and Director of Communications at her church. Her heart's desire is to be a light in her community and help her own children to be lights in theirs.
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