Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Big Test (Part 1 – When To Let Your Kids Go)

For some reason, this subject has been heavy on my heart lately. I have prayed daily for wisdom about whether or not to write about it – and for God to reveal His truth to me on the topic. I have many dear friends who may simply disagree with the amount of protection that I give to my own children. The answer to the question “When should I let my kids go out into the world?” is not the same for every child or family. There is no easy formula. But for those who have children and who want to see them glorify God in their lives when they leave the nest, let me just say this – this is one thing that you don’t want to get wrong.

I plan to cover this topic in three segments:

1) The Big Test
2) The “Salt and Light” Argument
3) The Danger of Not Letting Them Go


Whether you agree or not – I encourage comments. I especially encourage other viewpoints when they are accompanied by scripture. Believe me when I say that this was written under prayerful circumstances, and with no accusing finger pointed at anyone. Really.
****************************
Imagine for a moment this scenario. Your child, along with every other child in your neighborhood, must prepare for, and one day take, a written test administered by the local school district. The ground rules are pretty simple. They go like this: 1) the questions are not a slam-dunk – they require real knowledge and preparation about a known topic, 2) your child may take the test any time between the ages of six and twenty-one, 3) they have only one opportunity to take the test – no re-tests are allowed, and 4) the test is truly “pass-fail” – that is, if they pass, your child will be allowed to live, and if they fail, the school district will execute your child.

How much preparation would you insist on before you let your child go take the test?

I’m sure that most parents would insist on their child’s attention to the subject matter, and would enforce a great deal of preparation time. I think most parents would worry enough about the consequences that they would establish a study routine that would guarantee success. Many parents would take over the training personally, just to leave no doubt that their child is ready for the Big Test. No one would simply look at the test casually, and send them off one day saying, “I think they’re probably ready.”

My analogy is not perfect, but I believe it is very much like the multiple decisions we must make as parents to give up precious hours and oversight of our children– to public school, sports, and even to church youth group. When they are not under the care and attention of me and my wife, bad things can happen. Minds can be changed. Respect and allegiance may shift. Our children may see things that they will not be able to get out of their minds – things that may never leave their thoughts, even into adulthood. Yes, some of these things can happen at home, too, but I firmly believe that my wife and I stand a better chance of providing the proper oversight to my own children than any other people on the planet.

Things are different today than they were for most of the last five thousand years. “Progress” which we now take for granted, like cars and buses and the ability to move about and gather into large groups many times a week have changed the face of the family – and I think eroded the importance of the parents in a child’s life. The practice of stratifying children into age groups at churches, through youth ministry, is fairly recent. Public schools in the United States have only been in existence for the last 150 years. Before this, families would learn together, often huddled around a Bible or a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. There were no youth group activities or PTA meetings in Bible times.

Most of our friends are aware that we homeschool our children. We don’t do this to provide them with a superior education (though I think that is indeed a benefit). We do it for this reason: a study conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute and presented by Pastor Voddie Baucham shows that 70-88% of professing Christian teens fall away from their faith at the end of their freshman year in college. Yet, only 6% of homeschooled, professing Christian teens fall away in that time frame. Consider those statistics again…there is at least a seven out of ten chance that a publicly-schooled child will reject God after their first year of college. Less than one out of ten will do so if they are homeschooled.

This study may be tough for some to accept, especially when so few of us believe that such a result could possibly occur in our own family. And we should understand very clearly, the study does not explicitly prove that schooling is the only factor that determines a child’s grasp on God’s grace. It stands to reason that a homeschooled child will have more parental involvement in his or her life, and this is a big contributor to the Christian walk. I believe further study would conclude that public-schooled children who enjoy a devoted father and mother, and a family who prays and worships together regularly will improve on the 70-88% odds greatly. But once again, any study that concludes with such a diverse result – 70-88% versus 6% - is either flawed, or else it has uncovered a fundamental issue to be considered.

Either our children will change the world, or the world will change them. It’s a rare situation where two opposing views are thrown together for hours a day without at least one side’s viewpoint being changed. These are hard words to read. They were hard words to write. But in the end, isn’t the goal of every Christian parent to ready their children…for the Big Test?

Next: The "Salt and Light" Argument

9 comments:

Misty said...

You put a lot of thought into this post which is excellent. I am in the process of raising 4 teens and one just turned 18. I have given him freedom and he is doing well. However, I also let my 15 year old go with him with the responsibility of being at a church function. The younger one took a friend and was running around the parking lot instead of going to class. Now, there is a new rule. I gave him freedom with responsibility and he abused it, so now is the time to rein him back in. When you decide to let your kids go, it should be a trial basis.

Brian said...

Alan,

I feel you are letting the public schools take the fall for poor parenting. Many Christians who have chosen to go the public school route have the same values as you and your family. The fact that their children are part of a public school setting does not change that. Parents can choose to be involved or non-involved in their child's public or private school setting. Just this last week we have contacted school board members by email and have received responses. Karen and Andrew talked to a teacher on the phone the other night. The teacher was thankful for the conversation and felt the Lord was speaking to her and motivating her to get back on track with her relationship with Him! It would have been easier to ignore this particular issue and blame it on our degrading public school system, but by taking the time to ask a few questions a ministry opportunity happened.

Sometimes I feel that we applaud Christians who choose to go into the mission field, and rightly so, but when it's a matter of choosing public schools, we are aligning with the enemy. If anything we should immerse these kids and teachers in prayer and support as they enter into their schools on a daily basis. A local church here in Loveland gathered at Karen's elementary school and prayed over it. Members of the church also came in and volunteered to clean the classrooms and help out in any way they could. They brought gifts to the teachers and administrators.

Nothing is stopping us as individuals, as families, or as members of Christ's church, to get involved in our local schools except our own skepticism.

Two of our favorite verses are 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" and 2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 'Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.'"


With Christ love,

Brian

Alan Metzger said...

Brian,

Without a doubt, there are good opportunities to shine Christ's love in the public school system. I think if you go back and read the post again, you will see that you and I are saying the same thing - it's about parenting, not about the school system. We are in complete agreement on that. Actually, I chose the public school system to hold up as only one example - there are many other places where we could talk about parenting needs.

I know that you and Karen are good Christian parents, you train your boys well, you pray together as a family, and you serve in many faithful ways. The results show. You will no doubt be one of the 12-30% of Christian, public-schooling parents who get your kids through college as faithful believers. I believe that. Your family has the admiration of our family.

Let me be clear - I've never said or believed that public school is an absolute wrong. It's right for some, and it's wrong for others. The statistics in the NHERI study I quoted bear that out. I went to public school, as did Wendy, and there were things there that strengthened our faith rather than weakened it. But you said it in your post - what kids need are their PARENTS to provide Christian examples and oversight. As homeschoolers, we are blessed to be able to do that for many hours a day. Truthfully, that wouldn't be so great for some families.

We're ordering a new book by Ken Ham that I think you might be interested in. Check out the description at http://www.amazon.com/Already-Gone-your-kids-church/dp/0890515298/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251431421&sr=8-1 . The opening line of the description says "If you look around in your church today, two-thirds of the young people who are sitting among us have already left in their hearts; soon they will be gone for good." It's a scary study. Satan is everywhere in our world, trying to steal our kids for eternity (and he always has been - it's nothing new). Along with my Christian brothers and sisters, I want to stand up and take back the world for Christ. Like you, I want my kids to be ready to do it, too.

Thanks for the reply and the thoughtful words. The Metzgers love the Shumates.

Alan

Brian said...

Alan,

Thank you for your response. I will admit, I may have gone off topic a bit in my post. Other recent experiences may have fueled some of my passion. Let me try again.

First of all, I completely respect your and anyones decision to home school. The same goes for those who choose private schooling. The home school path has never been completely out of the picture for our family. We always say we take it one year at a time.

So here's my point, I think.

Taking the statistics that you quoted for what they are, shocking and sad, what is the Christian Churches' response? De we have a role, as christians, to help change these numbers? As I look ahead to the future of public schooling, I see a longer school day and a longer school year in the near future. For some areas of the country this is already the case. What can we do as the Church, unitedly, to be a positive influence in our local schools. Whether we choose home school, private, or public, there still may be a responsibility for all of us as a body of believers to do something.

A local church here in Loveland strategically targeted a local public school and showered it with the love of Christ. That, to me, is "out of the box" ministry. Is that a good example for other churches? I think so. At least it's a start.


Your family means a lot to us and I greatly value our friendship!

I pray you have a productive and rewarding school year!

With the love of Christ,

Brian

Dana said...

This really hit a core in our family and even brought Anni to tears. "I am getting a degree in education so I can go to Haiti to be a missionary teaching in a school", she said. We are a family that feels very strongly in the public education system. So far we have a daughter that is in her junior year of college and has her own personal faith that has been strengthened as she has grown further from us. Korben is a freshman, but attending a Christian school to be a youth minister. I truly beleive that all families are different and that home schooling is a better option for some famiies. I have also seen the opposite be true where the parents wanted to home school the children and they did not prosper under this system of education or parenting. Like all famiies on the planet, there are Christian parents that are everything they need to be for their children whether home schooling or not. There are also home school parents that may be completely out of touch regarding what their children need or even what their children are doing when not in their parents presence. I do not have any great Biblical wisdom that supports this. What I do know is that chidren raised in a true Christian home with watchful parents who are in touch with the needs of each of their children, home schooled or not, have the best chance of raising children who continue to walk their faith after they have left the nest. These are just my thoughts and while I know the spirit in which this was written it did really hit a nerve and hurt Anni's feelings.

Alan Metzger said...

Dana,

Thank you so much for sharing. I'm glad you feel you can respond. I would have been sad if feelings were hurt and you hadn't told me.

First, it is not, and never will be, my intention to hurt anyone's feelings through what I write. So if you, or Anni, are hurting over anything I've said,then I humbly ask for your forgiveness. That goes for everyone who may have read my post. As the opening lines said, I'm not pointing a finger at anyone. I will never say or believe that our current public school system is an absolute wrong for children. Just as you said, whether it be public school or homeschool, it could be right or wrong depending on the circumstances.

Second, this post is not really about schooling at all. That's just an example I use to demonstrate the real issue - when do parents start to trust that they can let their kids have more contact with the world? Most every parent feels that tug when they leave their child at the bus stop, ready to go to their first day of school. We did with both Molly and Noah. My point (and you made it, too) is about parenting, not schooling.

Last, I've read your comments three times - and I can honestly say that I agree with every single word you said. Your second-to-last sentence - "What I do know is that children raised in a true Christian home with watchful parents who are in touch with the needs of each of their children, home schooled or not, have the best chance of raising children who continue to walk their faith after they have left the nest." - could serve as the conclusion for this whole three-part series. With your permission, I might use that quote in Part 3. It sums up perfectly what I'm trying to say. Parents shouldn't drop their kids off somewhere and just hope for the best (whether it's school, youth group, or the mall). It requires active parenting.

One more thing - you should be proud of the direction your three kids are going in their aspirations. I didn't know Anni was thinking of work in Haiti, but I could think of no work more admirable or God-inspired. It certainly beats what I do for 8-12 hours a a day. I would be proud if she was my daughter. Would you please tell her that for me?

Again, thanks for your note. And feel free to talk to me if I left anything out.

Love you guys,
Alan

Mike said...

Alan, I am proud to call you my son and to know that you and Wendy are so committed to my grandchildren. Your heart and the focus of your love to each of the three of them is a joy to me. The respect they show to so many even when others laugh at them truly represents Christ's love.

I appreciate all the commments and their hearts being expressed and the tenderness you show to each of them. Unfortunately, all of us have glasses that are clouded with our daily lives that do not allow us to receive everything without the cloudyness creating a misunderstanding of others intent. We are all so blessed to have a Saviour that can see each of us clearly without the obstructions we see thru or there would no hope for any of us. Keep the faith and keep on teaching as Jesus will bless all of us with it.

Joe Taylor said...

I'd just like to say one thing. Alan knows that I have never, and never will, consider homeschooling my children. However, I was in no way offended by anything he said. There are definitely issues that needed to be responded to; but if we really have a strong faith and are completely comfortable with where we and our families are in our relationship with Christ, we have no reason for hurt feelings. Christ did not give us a spirit of timidity. Hurt feelings and offense usually indicate conviction. Alan, thanks for your writings. I enjoy them all and I appreciate everything you give me to think about concerning raising my children. ~ Kara

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