March 8, 2006

Read My Hand

s I was speaking with two new friends one Saturday night, the topic of Christian education came up. I became quite animated--using my hands in the lively style that brings the comment from my husband, Roy, “Yep, she has Italian blood!”
What is it about Christian education that excites such animation in me?
I would say that it’s because I am a product of Christian education. My parents sacrificed greatly to send me to Adventist Christian schools. My church and school gave generously to supplement what my parents could not afford to give. My employment during academy and college also assisted me in paying my bills. Because I invested my time and money, my education became a part of me.
Yet I understand why some parents have chosen not to place their children in Adventist Christian education. The reasons are varied. One reason given is that they cannot afford it. Another is that they do not believe that the church school near them offers quality education. Still another is that the church school near them does not offer special education for their children with exceptional needs.
“If parents were really dedicated to their children having an Adventist Christian education, they would sacrifice for it,” some say. This may be true. Parents of today may not value Adventist Christian education as prior generations of parents did. But, unfortunately, these words are often voiced by those who receive a substantial denominational discount for their children. I know that we have some schools that do not have the resources to offer a “full-course” education. All of these conditions exist in our educational system. But I am more convinced than ever that the solution is not to give up on Adventist Christian education. If we want our parents to value it, we as a church must value it as well.
What makes Adventist Christian education so valuable?
Many voices seek to answer that question. Ellen White, a familiar voice on education, has so much to say on the subject that I encourage you to read her book Education if you haven’t already done so. She speaks a lot about “true education.” She states: “It [True education] is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”1
Another voice speaks from the Baptist denominations, and has this to say about Christian education versus public education: “There is no such thing as ‘neutral’ education. All education is religious and imparts some worldview or other. . . . We find there remains a castle we keep defended by a final deception--that how we educate our children doesn’t really matter all that much spiritually. Of course, this is obviously untrue. Not only does the Bible tell us that we are to train up our children in the way they should go all of the time, it also tells us why--we are what we think and that we will reflect what we have been taught.”2
Do we as a church value Adventist Christian education enough to spend the time and energy seeking creative ways to make it more financially accessible to all of our members?
Do we as a church value Adventist Christian education more than merely a training ground for future pastors, doctors, and nurses, but as a training ground for all Adventist Christians?
Do we as a church value Adventist Christian education enough to use it to teach our children why they are Adventist Christians, how to think, and how to make choices to affirm that worldview?3
Unfortunately, attendance in our schools cannot save children; only Christ can. But we can do everything in our power to offer the environment of what Ellen White calls “true education” to all of our children.
Is Adventist Christian education worth fighting for?
Read my hands.
1 Ellen White, Education, p. 13.
2 Bruce Shortt, “Will Your Kids Be Christian?” December 20, 2005, found at
3 White, p. 17.


Bonita Joyner Shields is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review.