Prof. Dykstra is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
In the providence of God, and by His grace, a new school will open its doors this fall. Heritage Christian High School, located this year in the educational wing of the Calvary Reformed Church in South Holland, will begin instructing students in grades nine and ten. The opening of this new school will go largely unnoticed in the world—the newspapers certainly will not promote it. The school will begin without great fanfare, and will scarcely produce a ripple on the educational scene. Yet, this new school is significant and is cause for rejoicing on the part of those who love God’s truth and covenant.
The start of any parental, Reformed school is significant. Such a beginning comes only when there is a deep and experiential knowledge of God’s covenant of grace. Believing parents and grandparents know their responsibilities. God has established His covenant with them and their children. Deeply conscious of this, believing parents bring their children to baptism to receive the sign and seal of the covenant. At that baptism, the same parents swear an oath before God to teach their children and to bring them up as His children.
Such knowledge of the covenant makes all the difference in the world as far as the basis of the school is concerned. The Christian school is not a mission school, seeking to convert the unbelieving students. It is not an attempt to flee from the wickedness of this world, or even from the existing schools, however unsatisfactory the parents may find the instruction and atmosphere there. Nor is the Christian school an exclusive academy only for the brightest and best. It is rather a covenantal school, set up for the express purpose of rearing covenant children in the fear of the Lord. Such a school is not erected unless believers have a great love for God’s covenant of grace and an unshakable conviction concerning its importance.
Secondly, the opening of a new school is significant because it means there is great commitment on the part of parents, grandparents, and many other believers—young and old. Founding a parental school is no small task. There is no easy way to establish such a school—no government funds, no government-provided building or equipment, no ready-made curriculum. Starting a Christian school is simply hard, hard work. It demands men and women who are willing to sacrifice. It demands men who are willing to serve, with no financial remuneration, long, long hours. It is a commitment that is long term—a lifetime of commitment to the cause.
Thirdly, the opening of a new Christian school is significant because of the governmental regulations that must be met. Christian schools honor the state as the minister of God. Such schools do not thumb their noses at the state. They obey the regulations of the state—everything from building codes, to a well laid out curriculum, to certified teachers. At the same time, Christian schools are not slaves to the state. On the one hand, they go beyond the required academic minimums; on the other, they refuse to offer the God-denying subjects that the government desires, such as dancing and drama.
In the fourth place, the opening of a Christian school is significant because it means that willing and able teachers have committed themselves to this new work. It means that the parents have found teachers who are one with them in faith and walk, so much so that they can entrust their covenant youth to these teachers. These teachers not only know, they love the Reformed faith. They know the confessions and heartily agree with them. They maintain (must it be said?) that the Bible is not man’s word, but the infallibly inspired Word of God. The parents have found teachers who have been trained to teach and who are capable of doing the work. These teachers have the necessary knowledge of the subject matter, and yet agree to develop and grow all the time they are teachers. Teachers have been found who love God and His covenant, and heartily desire to serve God by serving the covenant youth.
We say again—the opening of a Christian school is a significant event!
And if the opening of any Christian school is significant, the opening of a Christian high schoolis even more so. This is evident in Protestant Reformed circles simply from the fact that eleven Protestant Reformed grade schools are currently in operation, but only one high school. Soon there will be two.
The endeavor to begin and maintain a Christian high school encounters greater difficulties than that of a grade school. The difficulties fall generally into three areas: 1) finance (including building and equipment); 2) teachers; and 3) students.
A high school is more expensive to start because of the need of special equipment and more building space than is required in a grade school. It is more expensive to run, largely because of the lower student-to-teacher ratio. Grade schools have nine or ten grades of students whose tuition covers the faculty salaries; and only one teacher per grade, at most, is needed. High schools have but three or four grades. Plus, more teachers are needed. The level of instruction in high school demands so much knowledge and development that teachers need to specialize in certain areas, and that, in turn, makes it preferable, if not mandatory, to have more than one teacher per grade. The cost of educating one student is almost always higher in high school than in grade school.
The second great difficulty faced when starting a Christian high school is obtaining the necessary teachers. The teachers must be equipped to teach a variety of subjects, and to teach them well. Of necessity, the high school curriculum must be broad. One need think of only a few areas of the curriculum to get a grasp of the problem. In history, basic courses would include ancient, modern, European, and American history. Mathematics courses would include algebra, geometry, and some form of advanced mathematics. This list can be multiplied by looking at areas of Bible and church history, English and literature, business, social studies, physical education, music, and foreign languages. Teachers are the key ingredient to make this work. Their skills, knowledge, and energy are stretched to the limit in a small high school.
The third difficulty in a new Christian high school involves attitudes of students, and the parents with them. The problem is that students may be reluctant to attend a small new Christian high school. This reluctance may have many causes, but for students, the causes are primarily social. I recall well the social stigma of going to a high school which people had never heard of, and many could not pronounce. (Convenent? Calvinent? Covenant? Where is THAT?!) When a sports program did develop, we were regularly drubbed by every opposing team. And yet in many respects I had it easy because almost all my classmates and friends moved with me from grade school to high school. What if they do not? That makes it all the harder. For most teenagers, this is life-and-death stuff. The task of the parents is to adjust the attitude of the teenagers, so that they see the priority of godly, Reformed instruction over the relative unimportance of social difficulties, real or perceived.
Parents have concerns which may give them pause when making decisions about sending their youth to a new Christian high school. Will the school’s academic standards slip below acceptable levels, with the result that the students do not gain sufficient knowledge in the subjects taught? Are there a sufficient number of classes taught to give the high school student a solid liberal arts education? Can the teachers adequately teach the subjects assigned? These are legitimate concerns, and are to be distinguished from such paltry objections that the school will not offer woodworking, auto mechanics, or cooking 101. Or, even worse, that there is no interscholastic basketball or volleyball.
Notwithstanding the frivolous objections, it is proper for parents to concern themselves with academic quality. It is not acceptable that a school be sound in its Bible and science classes, but the quality of the instruction be poor. The reason for this is not that the parents are concerned merely about their children’s future ability to make money. Rather, the parents demand that their children be trained for their service of God and His cause. They must be trained well. They must have not only a working knowledge of the various subjects, but also the Reformed evaluation and perspective that will equip them to live as friend-servants of God in an antichristian world. The students are covenant children, and the teachers have as their aim preparing them for a task of no less importance than the service of God now, and eternally. In the face of that, quite obviously, a poor quality education is totally unacceptable.
Exactly with such issues does an association for secondary education struggle mightily. Has God provided us with the large amount of money needed to start a high school? Is God providing us with sufficient money to support the school financially, so that we can pay our teachers and the bills year after year? Has God provided teachers who are not only one with us in the faith, but who are also gifted, dedicated, knowledgeable, capable, and energetic? Most importantly, will our school provide the kind of education for our covenant youth that God requires of believing parents? Only when they are satisfied that the answer to all the above is, “Yes,” do believing parents open the doors to a new Christian high school.
A group of believing parents, grandparents, and others in the South Holland area have studied the questions for decades. They have arrived at the point where they say, “By God’s grace, yes!”
For what it is worth, as a very interested “outsider” who was part of the faculty of a new (grade) school some years ago, I am convinced that they are correct. The financial support is plentiful. Support for the school ranges across the generations. The curriculum is well laid out, more complete than I have ever seen in a new school. And the energetic teachers are, in my judgment, well qualified by God for the task. Heritage Christian High School is necessary for the proper godly instruction of the covenant youth. Thus I cannot but believe that God will bless this work. I urge the believing parents in the area to investigate the school, and send their covenant youth with thankfulness to God.
Reformed believers around the world rejoice over good news of the new Christian high school in South Holland. Well they may rejoice over a covenantal school, committed to the historic Reformed truth of sovereign grace and the infallible Scriptures and to the truth of God’s everlasting covenant of grace with believers and their children. No doubt they will also pray for it.
Anyone interested in contacting the school may do so at the following address:
P. O. Box 87
Lansing, IL 60438