Home > Brandenburg, Education > Education: State, Church, or Home? (part three)

Education: State, Church, or Home? (part three)

April 27, 2007

We have ruled out the state school as a viable option for educating children.  That leaves us with the church school, sometimes called traditional education, and the home school.  We church school, so it might just look like we favor that.  You might be right.


The Weaknesses

For the weaknesses of the church school, I want to start with 5 basic concerns that home school advocate Greg Harris listed in his book, The Christian Home School.  He’s the father of Josh Harris, who has written the well-known books on courtship (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and is pastor of a large Charismatic/Calvinist church on the East coast.

  • Many Christian Schools Only Clean up the Public School’s Practices.  “Objectionable material is ferreted out, Bible verses are memorized, and God is mentioned without fear of lawsuit; but these [are] shallow, cosmetic tokens of what a thorough Christian education should be.”  It is true that a Christian school could just be taking a public school model and sort of Christianizing it.  All I can say is that our school is radically different in philosophy than a public school–we certainly do not want to do less than a public school in the basic subjects like math, reading, and English, so we think that it is not contradictory to Bible belief to do a good job in teaching those subjects.  We use a different curriculum, have different teachers, and certainly a different emphasis totally.
  • Double-mindedness. Perhaps enrolling non-believing children could betray the Godly moral environment necessary for Christian parents.   Our focus is discipleship, not evangelism; but one cannot focus on discipleship without focusing on evangelism.  It is a matter of what is enforced, and the strength of leadership.  It is not a matter of not getting in the presence of sin, but getting in the presence of undisciplined sin.  Those students who attempt to disrupt the godly and discplined atmosphere of the school are dealt with in a firm and gracious manner. Our first priority is our own children.
  • Age Segregated Peer Pressure is Part of the Christian School Experience.   In order to learn older behavior or more adult behavior, one needs to spend time learning from adults.   Home-schoolers will say that being around children of the same age feeds immaturity–or as I have heard used, “encourages pooled ignorance.”  It is a valid concern–the school must be sure to enforce adult behaviour as the standard, and be disciplined in the extent of associations between students.  The goal is to focus the students on the teacher model, not a peer model.  We have found that what happens at a recess time is the biggest concern, not in the classroom.  This is the reverse of the “socialization argument”–home schoolers lose out on socialization, and they say, “good, I don’t want peer socialization, because it only reinforces immature behaviour.”  On the other hand, adults will be supervising and teaching about how people are to get along, or behave with each other–children can have no secret agendas during the school time.
  • Too Many Christian Parents Put their Children in a Private Christian School and then Abdicate their Responsibilities as the Primary Educators. Very true, but we won’t allow it in our church.  Other parents and churches that send their kids to our school, yes, but not our people.  I have found that work and worldliness are far bigger enemies than the school.  We want parents involved based on a highest common denominator for all of our students–thus giving accountability to those parents.
  • Christian Schools that Use Classroom Organization Inevitably Face the Problem of Dividing the Teacher’s Time among a Class Full of Students, All of Whom Have Differeing Needs.  This can easily happen.  There must be work with the parents of the children–extra work can be given–students can be evaluated.  Certainly, the dumbing down process can take place by too much attention given to the slower students at the detriment of faster ones.  A school just must work to make sure that does not take place.  Parents must confer with their teacher to help in this matter, not say that the school must give the children the extra.

The Strengths

  • Accountability–A student in a church school gets evaluated regularly by others besides the parents for needed objectivity.  He has nowhere to hide.
  • Division of Labor–A church school can take advantage of certain strengths one person may have in art, another in music, another in physical education, another in organization and administration, and more.
  • Fitting into the Concept of Gifts–1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 can be practiced easily with a church school.
  • Local Church Authority–God gave the church authority for truth, not one family.
  • Helping everyone–People talk about “no-child-left behind.”  A church can work at that with its membership.  Everyone takes responsibility for each other with a church school.
  • Group Activities–Certain activities are more easily done in a church school environment, and the children become accustomed to working with a group, which is often how things get done later in adulthood.
  • Becoming Accustomed to Different Leaders–People will often have different bosses as they go through life and they must learn to adjust to different styles of authority.  A child moving through a church school education will have different styles of teaching and authority and will learn to respect and learn from each.Â


The Weaknesses

  • Wrong Motivation–I have found by experience that often home-schoolers are not motivated by a conviction to home-school.  This is not a broad brush, but it is a besetting temptation.
  • Money–Home schoolers won’t have to pay the church school and will also be able to “invest” the resources back into the home.
  • Pride–Everyone can be subject to pride, even in church schools, but the home-schoolers will often elevate what occurs in the home above everyone, comparing their children to everyone else in their superiority.
  • “Ours is better than everyone else’s.”
  • “My child is way ahead.”
  • Independent Spirit—Independence can be good, but in so many cases, dependence is superior.  We must learn to trust in God and in leadership.  The independence can foster rebellion when the authority is some other than the parent, or against someone who does something differently than their own way.
  • Loss of Team–Certainly teamwork is necessary in the family, but can the home-schooler work with others, or is he a loner that is often off on his own.  He prefers doing his own thing by himself without working with others.
  • Loss of Help–“The church is not for us; they stop meeting our needs, and we go elsewhere.”  “Our home and school are more important than our church” (not more important than work, I have found, but more important than church).
  • Lack of Protection–The home school movement often looks at everyone around them as a kind of buffet table to get what it wants.  This becomes an avenue of compromise and false doctrine and practice.  They often have a tendency to get with other homeschoolers that are not of like faith and practice and disobey on areas of separation.  The unity of purpose is often educational, separate from God’s church.
  • Lack of Accountability–We see an example of this with James and John and their mother.  She assumed her sons should be the greatest in the kingdom.  This lacked a perspective and accountability necessary.
  • Lack of Evaluation–Some home-schoolers are the home-foolers, not having the necessary evaluation that comes when opened up to outside evaluation.
  • A Largely New Evangelical Movement–The home-schooling movement is largely new-evangelical and the reason for this should be considered.  It relates to everything above, since the church is pillar and ground of the truth.  The church has built-in discipline, the Lord’s Table, the pastor, and more, which will affect schooling.
  • Strengths

    • Parental Responsibilty–Parents are obviously TAKING responsibility big time.  Parental involvement is crucial to educational success.
    • Students with Parents More–This could be addendum to the first strength.  Parents (adults) become the model, and adult behavior is definitely the standard.
    • Flexibility–School can be whenever the parents want it or need it.  This facilitates trips, good vacation times, dad teaching a class when he gets home from work, etc.
    • Able to Help the Special Student More–This might be the biggest plus here.  The child won’t necessarily be held back by the pace of the rest of a class.  He can go as fast or slow as he needs.
    Categories: Brandenburg, Education
    1. April 28, 2007 at 4:51 pm

      Where to begin?

      I notice that you use a “Charismatic/Calvinistic” person to point out weaknesses with “church schools”. I am neither, and I would like to make my own observations.

      1) Most church schools, in my experience, are started and run for bad reasons (or at least dubious ones.) They are started either as a reaction to the public schools or a reaction to a message from a persuasive church school advocate. Neither of these is a good enough reason.

      2) The Bible is “unclear” at best about the responsibility of the church to teach the members’ children about math, for example. As the pillar and ground of the truth, the church is responsible for all truth. However, the pattern in Scripture never shows this “church school” sort of situation.

      3) The idea of a “church school” is a good one if you believe the basis of your original argument. But, when you let others in other than your church members, you are then stepping outside the authority of your church, and in effect, disciplining and teaching another church’s people. What Scriptural basis can there be for this? This is problematic for me. I am completely sold out to the local church.

      As to the strengths of church schooling, let me say that the original premise must be true for these to be true. By the way, the last one is the weakest of all. Getting used to different leaders? How is that, in any way a Scriptural concept?

      As to the weaknesses of homeschooling. If you are going to mention wrong motivations, you should use it for church schools, too. The fact that you did not is telling, at least to me it is. Church schools have the same temptations for “money” and “pride.” In fact, fund raising and having to buy specific school uniforms come to mind.

      Loss of team? Perhaps, he can simply think for himself. Perhaps, the convictions he has are his own, and he is not just “parroting” the party line. Our kids are active in our church and learn teamwork.

      Brother, I am still struggling with the mother of James and John analogy. I still don’t know what you are trying to say there. I particularly don’t see the connection to this argument.

      Lack of evaluation is a “guess” on your part. In most states in the union the children must take standardized tests, etc. My children always score right about where we think they will.

      As to it being largely a “new evangelical movement”, let me say this: Could it be that churches like ours in the last 30 years have been so consumed with the “Christian School Movement” that we have been wrong about this issue? We home school our children because it is the only one actually patterned in Scripture. Period.

      Having said all this, let me say that anything that takes away from proper attendance and submission to the local church’s authority must be avoided. Personally, I think many Christian Schools do this at least as much as homeschooling. If a church is to have a school based on your arguments, I believe that only your church’s members children should be enrolled. They are the only ones you could possible extend this authority to.

    2. April 28, 2007 at 8:24 pm


      I think all of what you are talking about is good. I say, fire away. Church schools need to be open to some criticism, some thoughtful persuasion. I’m pro-home school, but in twenty years, I have had more problems with home schoolers than not, and this someone who wants to be a help to them. I went to a Greg Harris speech incognito and what he said was tell-tale. He had up a powerpoint screen in which he said that the church was to equip the saints for the ministry. That sounded just fine to everyone there. Of course, they were thinking of themselves, of getting equipment from the church for their home-school, as if the church existed to equip them. Big problem. The pastor perfects the saints, and the saints are the church. See how this gets turned around. I don’t assume that you do this, but this is exactly the attitude that I’ve seen with home-schoolers—they are in it for themselves, thus the motivation critique is legitimate. They develop a lone-ranger attitude that is elitist and thinks it is better than everyone else.

      I have only had one home-school family that was willing to do it right. I wish I had a different experience with home-schoolers, but this is the way I have found it to be, and I’m someone that says I’d like to be a help. I could tell you many, many stories.

      I used the Greg Harris book because it is a staple home-school book. What home-school book or criticism of church schools has been written by an independent Baptist?  I would be glad to use it, Art. I won’t argue the why of a church school because my first three posts covered that. The Bible doesn’t talk about anyone teaching math, so it is no wonder that it says nothing about a church school teaching math, so that is a moot point. If math is in the context of truth, then I have a verse—1 Tim. 3:15. I’m happy you are sold out to your local church, but I think a lot of our ministry is teaching and preaching to those outside of the church. A lot of evangelistic ministry today is pre-evangelism because of the horrible condition of the soil. I believe that the present pastor of Spurgeon’s church in England, Dr. Peter Masters, has good material on this. Most children are not converted, so they are not in the church anyway. If they are rebellious against the gospel, anyone, than that is a problem. That is when we come to deal with the unchurched. Besides that, like with our own church people, we enforce the standard. Everyone must follow the leadership or they will not continue in the school, which is why our school is relatively small.

      I think having different leaders is the weakest too, but I believe it is legitimate. Some young people can obey their parents, but they won’t obey other leaders and they are rarely even given the opportunity in most home-school situations that I have seen. If someone has an employer (Eph. 6), he will need to obey the employer—different leaders prepares for this.

      I’m happy to consider the wrong motives for church schools. Here’s what I’ve found about money and church schools—they don’t make money; they cost money. Most church schools are cutting it very close. I would admit that many with day cares are making money from them, but we don’t have a day care, despite having the facilities to do so, because we don’t want to encourage moms to work outside of the home (Titus 2). So to have a church school is sacrificial. So what other wrong motive opportunities are there? I guess someone may start a school just to compete with others, to have what all the other “big-time” churches have. I’ve never personally ever met someone like this.

      I stick with the loss-of- team critique. I don’t believe there is an advantage of thinking for himself with a homeschooler. He can regurgitate back what his parents are thinking because he never has anyone but his parents to teach him.

      I don’t know how you don’t see the John and James’ mother application. She needed the perspective of Jesus. James/John’s mother revealed a weakness that can occur—motherly smothering and over-protectiveness of the sons. Moms very, very often think that snookems can do no wrong.  Dads can help with this, but often it doesn’t happen.

      Lack of evaluation is not a guess. I’ve been pastoring for 20 years and have found this in common with many other pastors I know when we compare. A potential weakness of the home-school is that they do not open themselves to evaluation. You take SAT’s and allow someone evaluation from outside your home. Great. This is not always the case.  They have a very convenient school that has a very convenient way to make the grades look better.  I don’t assume this, just observed it.  Observed, not guessed.

      I don’t argue that home-schooling can’t be argued from Scripture. Of course, I made that point right away. But your “period” at the end of that, I don’t believe. This is what I’ve heard from others that home-school, being dogmatic to the point of no other education is in the Bible.  That is the Mary Pride viewpoint, and her last name is tell-tale.  I think one needs conviction about it if he is going to do the home-school route, but to say church education isn’t in there is some head-in-the-sand. I’ve given at least as good of arguments for church education as there is for home-education. I believe some combination of the two is God’s will. The home-school movement is a movement. Traditional education is called traditional for a reason. It has been how it has been done, even by Bible-believers. I’m open to being proven wrong on this, so prove away.

      I could add one more critique, and I didn’t, but I think it should be there. I rarely run into a home-schooled boy who does not struggle with masculinity. Often he spends a lot of time with his mom and he doesn’t get the opportunity to get put down by another boy. This can be remedied by a home-school parent, but it often is not, so I’ve met many, many effeminate home-school boys. Of course, we have more effeminate boys period in the world, but I have seen this more-so with home-school boys. I would love for this not to be the case, but it is what I’ve seen.

    3. April 30, 2007 at 7:16 am

      Brother Kent,

      I appreciate the honest and straight-forward way you answered my concerns. I have always believed that Christians have nothing to fear from honest “conversation” about disagreements.

      I am not against church schools. I was pointing out that the “authority” of your local church does not extend to people who are not members. If I were to start a church school, it would be a “closed” school. I understand your reasoning for your approach, I just respectfully disagree.

      You are right, people who homeschool for the wrong reasons, with pride attitudes, and rebellious hearts toward God’s church are a real problem. My argument is that home-schooling is most Scriptural and best, not that all home-schoolers are. Probably, not even most. You have done me a great service in causing me to think about this a little more.

      “Traditional” does not mean right. Also, with all respect, just because other Bible-believers do something doesn’t make it right, either. The period behind my statement was not meant to be arrogant, just making a point. There is no example in the Scriptures of God’s people teaching their children in other than a home situation. Again, God’s silence on the “church school” does not necessarily make it wrong, I was just pointing that out.

      I agree with you 100% that there should be a combination of the two. But, are there really very many examples of this today? I would wish that there were.

      As to your last statement: where do you live that you have seen this effeminate behavior? Every one of the home-schooled boys I know are not the least bit effeminate. In fact, many of them are a little “too much” boy, if you know what I mean.

      My bottom line is this: Home-schooling done incorrectly bears bad consequences. I personally believe that there are more problems inherent in doing a church school correctly.

      Brother, I believe you mean what you say, and I appreciate your stand on your convictions. Probably, the students who attend your school are getting a great education. But, I think it would be the rare example. To quote you, “I would love for this not to be the case, but it is what I’ve seen.”

    4. Anvil
      April 30, 2007 at 12:56 pm

      Pastor Brandenburg, as brother Art observed, it seems to me you have some somewhat skewed viewpoints of what does or should be happening in the home-school environment.

      I would agree with you that people should not home-school because of the cost or out of some sense of pride, but if there is no sense in which the home-schooler thinks he is doing the right thing or in which he believes he can do a better job than the alternatives, then the decision to home-school was a poor one.

      Regarding independence, leaders are to be trusted only insofar as they meet the standards under which they have been granted leadership. God and his word are to be trusted. Even the pastor’s leadership is trusted only as he follows the word. The Bereans were commended because they did not simply trust Paul (who was an apostle, with authority beyond that of a pastor), but compared everything he said with the word.

      I grant that “loss of team” can be a problem, but I would much rather have that problem than the problem where a child cannot do anything on his own without having most or all of his peers in agreement with him. Being able to stand up and do right against what the mob is saying is an asset, not a liability.

      Under “loss of help,” your complaint is a bit off the mark. I wouldn’t miss being part of church because of the school any more than I would work, though I’m sure some would (and your observation is not entirely true — many people take off work to participate in school functions), but I also would not accept any claim of authority from my employer over what I teach or how I conduct my home-school any more than I would from anyone else — those in my church included. Help in the form of friendly or biblical advice is welcome. Dictating policy is not.

      There may indeed be home-school groups that get together to shape what they know about the Bible and doctrine that could violate the separation you are referring to, but most home-school groups get together to do things like figure out how to teach French more effectively. Getting together with them is no different than allowing your child to play little league or belonging to an investment club. This is not at all about how to undermine the church. You make it sound as if you are against the idea of any counsel outside that provided by the local church and its leadership. You would be correct that the unity of purpose of such a group is educational, and separate from God’s church. How is that a bad thing in this context?

      Under “lack of accountability” are you saying that if children are never disciplined by anyone but their parents, then they are not receiving sufficient discipline? Do you see school discipline as the appropriate response to some parents mollycoddling their children?

      On “lack of evaluation,” given your experience, California must be one of those states where outside evaluation is not required. In my state, it is. Not only must the students take standardized tests not administered or graded by the parents, and the results sent to the state, but the department in charge of home-schooling also can come visit you, examine your curriculum, and evaluate the students. Even if your observation is true in some places, it certainly is not true for all.

      How does church discipline or the Lord’s table directly affect a home-school? Those are church functions, not school functions. Also, while the pastor should lead the church, that does not in any way make him the principal over any home-school except his own. That would be stepping across institutional boundaries.

      Finally, I realize that this is the end of the month, so there probably will be no article, but what is home-schooling done right according to your view?

    5. April 30, 2007 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Folks,

      I’m glad to have home-schoolers looking at these things, because just like church schools should listen to criticism, so should home schoolers. I realize that church schools are problems all over America, but for our church, home-schoolers have not been good. They should be great, because we want to be a help, but they haven’t been. This is an opportunity for some of them all over the country to consider who they are and where they stand.

      Art, I believe there is a Scriptural basis for church school and if you look back at all of the articles I’ve written, you’ll see it. I’m not arguing from silence. I’m sure there are very masculine home-schoolers all over the country and men who are engendering this in their home-school sons. I think having a son home with his mom all day from K-12 can result in the effeminate that I have seen. I’ve seen it all over the country, everywhere I have traveled to preach, etc., but I am in the SF Bay Area, and I’ve seen it here. I support the home-school movement and home-schoolers. I appreciate them over many church-schools and I would home-school if I had no church school. That should answer what I think of home-schooling.


      If you read the end of this article, you’ll see me list four home-school strengths. That would answer your last question. I don’t know if you read the actual article or not. Then when you go to the previous weeks, you’ll see me defend home-school. On every one of your answers and defenses of the weaknesses, I appreciate your doing something about them, just like we have done something about what can be the weaknesses of the church-school.

      I think leadership should be trusted unless it gives you a good reason not to. I think parental discipline is required, but how do children respond to other leaders who are not in charge of their discipline. Do they only obey the ones who can hand out the discipline? I want to see how my children respond to someone besides myself. I see this as an advantage in a church school. The “home-school group” isn’t a Scriptural entity like the home and the church are. I see it as a danger. I have noticed them exerting and causing more bad influence than others. They tend that way since they are inviting such a widespread influence. Those often are the greater fellowship of the home-schooled young person over the church. I agree that home-schoolers can be under the discipline of a church like those in the church school and should be.

      That’s all, Anvil. Anything else, let me know.

    6. Bobby Mitchell
      April 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm

      Kent and others,

      As far as the masculine/effeminate thing goes . . .

      I was homeschooled, but I definitely was NOT home all day with Mom. One of the blessings of homeschooling was that I could do a lot more work than the traditional-school kids. I had paper-routes (2-3 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the evening–on a bicycle), mowed lawns, worked on farms, painted barns, worked with a mason, and did other labour while the other kids were sitting inside classrooms. I also was able to spend a lot of time shooting guns and fishing and hunting deer, turkey, and squirrel. Most of the homeschooled boys I have known had the same type of experience.

      We are Baptists who happen to homeschool, but we are not part of the “home-school” movement. The movement is another mess that belittles and undermines the local NT church. We are not Pearlites or followers of any other homeschool guru. I’ve seen a ton of problems among homeschoolers, but I’ve seen a ton of problems among Christian schoolers too.

    7. May 1, 2007 at 8:10 am

      There’s one of the advantages of home-schooling that I mentioned, that is, flexibility. Bobby Mitchell could do all those things with the supervision of his parents, and get tremendous experience that would have been difficult in a church school. Let’s do this with what I wrote, and this was my intention: Look at the strengths and weaknesses I mentioned, examine what you are doing, and make sure that you aren’t fulfilling the weaknesses. We thought the home-school critique of church school was legitimate and did something about it. If you are a home-schooler, just look at your home-school. That would be the blessing of this.

    8. May 1, 2007 at 10:34 am

      Brother Kent,

      We have disagreed a little, but I appreciate what you wrote. It made me think and look at the Scriptures. Anyone who does that has done me a great service.

      Brother Art

    9. Randy Hartinger
      April 4, 2008 at 5:18 am

      I want to contend with the phraseology “home school movement.”
      Let us be careful. There is a ‘public school movement’ and a ‘Christian school movement’, but homeschooling predated both. People will say that we are part of the courtship movement, but ACTUALLY they are part of the DATING movement. People say you are part of the King James movement, but actually they are part of the NEW VERSION movement. The old paths, the landmarks of old, they have NOT moved. Society has so moved and we are so brainwashed now that we call evil good and good evil. Proverbs warns to meddle not with those that are given to change. The New Athenians (Acts 17) want new things, but as the Psalmist says, “I shall not be moved.” Paul said, “None of these things move me.” Paul was accused of being a ‘mover of sedition.’ but the movement was all around him.
      So, I’m not part of any homeschool movement, I just reject the public school movement, etc.
      I’m not part of any courtship movement, but reject the dating movement.
      I’m not part of any King James movement, but reject the modern version movement.
      Often when somebody wants to call you a movement, they are the ones doing the moving. (Similarly, when you don’t keep the ways of a cult, people call you a cult, and when you don’t keep superstitions, people call you superstitious… Kinda funny when you think about it…)
      My stake’s in the ground, brethren, and I’m trying to avoid all the movements.

    10. April 4, 2008 at 11:59 am


      Probably a good thing to do here is what you did a few other times, and that is to ask what we mean by Home School Movement? Someone who is homeschooling is not necessarily a part of the home school movement. There is a homeschool movement in the country that is not tied into the origination of homeschooling or the idea of parents taking responsibility with their own children. I support home schooling, but I don’t support a lot of things in the homeschool movement. Thanks for the concern though.

    11. April 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm


      Brother Brandenburg and I had a long and even spirited string of posts and comments on this very subject. Believe me, he is not painting godly home-schooling parents with any sort of “bad brush.”

      I am just glad I live in Virginia, and I don’t have to deal with a few of the “Evangelical Homeschooling” people he has to.

      God bless,
      Art Dunham

    12. Randy Hartinger
      April 5, 2008 at 7:37 am

      Art, I live in Virginia too. Hey, what are the ‘Evangelical Homeschooling’ people? This is a new expression. I understand the meaning of ‘evangelical’ and ‘homeschooling’ but was wondering what characterizes this group when you combine the two…

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