The constant need for good Christian school teachers was the subject of my last editorial. Our Christian schools cannot exist without teachers. And without good school teachers there is no purpose in having separate, Protestant Reformed Christian schools. Last time I issued a summons to young men and women to consider training to become teachers in our schools, to stand in the place of us parents (in loco parentis).
What amplifies this summons is retirements, some women teachers turning to motherly duties if they marry and bear children, the gradually enlarging population of our churches, and the encouraging expansion of the special education programs. There is real need for Protestant Reformed teachers. I’m thankful to God there is no crisis, no dire shortage of teachers. Nevertheless, we commit ourselves to doing all we can to promote our schools and the good teachers who make them what they are.
In this editorial, I mention some ways that our covenant community can create a culture that encourages capable young men and women to prepare to teach.
I begin with our magazine. The Standard Bearer promotes our schools, praises our teachers for their kingdom and covenant labor, and will do all it can to continue this promotion. The Standard Bearer’s promotion of good schools and good teachers is well known. From her beginning, the SB has explained, defended, developed, and promoted Christian education in a multitude of ways. Special rubrics on Christian education have come and gone—gone, I imagine, when writers believed they had exhausted themselves on the subject. The origin of the rubric “In His Fear,” I understand, was Christian education. For a few years, a rubric called “That They May Teach Them to Their Children” worked out principles and practices of Christian education. One of the SB’s first special issues was on Christian education. And even a quick search of the SB index shows that literally hundreds of articles have been written by our men and women who love to promote this effort.
The pages of the SB are open for more to be written. I take this opportunity to urge Protestant Reformed writers to step up and renew our minds with fresh articles about Christian education’s history (in this land and others), principles, practices, current issues, threats, local efforts, and grand blessings. There are so many areas to consider that, for someone who reads broadly and has a keen interest in education, the SB could have an article every issue on some aspect of this vital subject.
All SB readers are aware of Article 21 of the PRC’s Church Order. In recent years we have debated (with some vigor, and not a little pain) one important aspect of the article. What would be helpful is a series of articles explaining the positive ways consistories can “see to it that there are good Christian school . . . .” If this article is a mandate to consistories, is it not reasonable that at least annually an item appear on the consistory agenda: “Church Order, Article 21”? Then, each consistory could appoint a committee to prepare a brief report on what could be and has been done to carry out the mandate of this article. I pray that the heavy burden consistories bear in these evil days will not cause them to dismiss this suggestion as unrealistic.
Certainly, elders and pastors in family visitation will think of the need for teachers when family visitation brings them to homes with young people. “Have you considered preparing to teach in our Christian schools?” I always reminded myself to ask young men about possible aspirations to the ministry. I even addressed young ladies to remember the possibility that God may want them to be the wife of a pastor or missionary. But I too often failed to encourage these young people to consider teaching.
We preachers may be reminded to pray often and at length for all the different aspects of our schools. Since God’s Word speaks to the education of our children, entire sermons—“school sermons” and “baptism sermons”—can be preached on this subject. Directly and indirectly in catechism classes, ministers can promote good attitudes toward the schools and Christian school teachers.
Elders might remember VanDellen and Monsma’s advice under Article 21—the need repeatedly to urge parents to reconsider a decision not to use the schools, even to point out “gross inconsistency” in some parents. The Church Order Commentary refers to this as a kind of “discipline,” that of course stops short of formal discipline. Read the rest of the strong advice of these wise church order authorities under Article 21.
Is there more that consistories can do?
The committee to plan Classis Wests officebearers’ conferences could consider a conference on Christian education, at which one of the speeches or a sectional would focus on the consistory’s positive duty in respect to Article 21.
These two organizations are closely related, the PRTI being an organization of PR teachers, the Federation Board an organization of PR schools. Both have the laudable goal of promoting and developing good Christian education.
The Federation Board hosts seminars on teaching, sponsors workshops for teachers, provides the Principles and Practices of Reformed Education course, publishes textbooks, and still keeps in mind the real need for a PR teachers’ college. These activities help current and prospective teachers, keeping them focused on and enthusiastic about teaching, but they do not directly promote the need for new teachers.
The PRTI publishes Perspectives in Covenant Education, a fine little magazine that ought to have much broader circulation than it does. I encourage all readers of the Standard Bearer to consider subscribing to Perspectives. The contents of the last few issues give an idea of the magazine’s worth. There are reviews of children’s and young adults’ literature (like The Hunger Games); editorials about giving tests or the significance of graduations; stimulating feature articles about vocation, geography, art, and “Course Goals and themes for Science Courses”; even photographs of graduating classes from schools across the country. To subscribe to this quarterly magazine, just send a check for only $7 (in the US; $8US, Foreign) to the Business Manager (see box at the right).
Can both of these organizations consider ways to recruit for our schools?
One of the best means to encourage young men and women to become teachers is the good, godly teachers themselves. Just as a faithful pastor can be a powerful means to show young men that the pastorate is a desirable calling, faithful school teachers can draw young people into the teaching profession. Everything that is attractive in the teachers, and everything good and positive in the school, God will use to make the teaching profession desirable.
The opposite may be true too.
School boards and principals always pray for wisdom, realizing that careless decisions and actions can offend the students and their families. Unwise spending, for example, or sinful protection of a lazy or ungodly teacher, will make the school unattractive to the students. The teacher who is satisfied with the old notes and older knowledge (pastors and seminary professors know the temptation) needs loving but firm discipline not unlike church discipline, discipline that leads to change or “excommunication.” I might pray that a poor teacher would, in the providence of God, rile up a young man enough that he vows to become a good teacher; but we do not want teachers who are reactionary or come with an agenda.
But positively, how many of us don’t have happy memories of teachers who cared for us, devoted themselves to our instruction, loved to walk into the classroom each day, and tried never to let on that they might be having a difficult day? Doesn’t it live in our memories that this or that teacher obviously did not teach for his own advancement but ours, did not come to school at the last minute and leave as soon as possible, but was available to talk to us? Or what about that teacher who confronted us in love so that we were not only turned from our foolishness but learned how to deal with folly?
Some of the most important recruiting of teachers is done by the teachers themselves. Thank you, Christian school teachers!
Join with me, members of the PRC and friends of our schools, to stand behind this great cause of covenant Christian education. Join with me, people of God, sacrificially to support this cause so dear to the church of Christ. Join with me, non-tuition-paying members of the church, to commit to significant financial support, thus aiding our young, tuition-paying families. Do not allow me, my flesh and blood sons and daughters, and my sons and daughters in the faith…do not allow me to resign my membership in the school society, or become slack in attendance in the annual meetings. Join with me in remembering the cause of special education, so that all the covenant children can be reared according to their needs.
What a thing of beauty—our homes and schools thriving under God’s blessings. Then, “all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
God of the covenant, bless our homes with godly parents. Bless our schools—extensions of our homes. And bless our schools with many godly teachers.
A child’s prayer before leaving for school:
“Father, help us to respect our teachers, be kind to the other students, and work hard. Amen.”
Perspectives In Covenant Education
1743 Westwood Ct.
Jenison, MI 49428.
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*Previous article in this series: April 1, p. 292.