On August 22, 2022, the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chicago, Illinois, United States, voted unanimously to make tuition free for families wanting to give their children access to a Christian education.
In the announcement, local church pastor John Boston II said the goal was to “do everything we can to give the children of Chicago the best chance we can give. Nothing does this better than Christian education.”
The Chicago Seventh-day Adventist Christian School is nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Southside and since 1913 has served generations of pre-Kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
Boston recently provided a rationale for a decision that has garnered positive reviews since its announcement.
“We couldn’t afford not to do something in this area. The Southside of Chicago is riddled with violence on the news. This Adventist school is probably one of the most viable opportunities to make a difference in this community,” Boston said. “Many urban Adventist schools and churches are not doing well. We believe at Shiloh that our path to heal our community is through Christian education. Right now, we have begun speaking with local and international agencies fighting human trafficking: 16,000 young girls are trafficked in Chicago each year. That’s two every hour. This was the time for us to step out and stand in the gap. Jesus is coming soon, and we need every available tool to reach the hearts of the people around us.”
After reminding church members that “salvation is free but ministry costs,” Boston explained that the school has a limit on the number of children the school can handle to keep the student-teacher ratio in harmony with policy. “We want quality education for all children and a meaningful experience for the whole family,” Boston said in explaining how the enterprise will be funded. “The historic Chicago Shiloh church decided to step out in faith, and God has not disappointed with provision,” he said. “We are utilizing the entire evangelism budget for the rest of 2022 and the first half of 2023. Christian education is probably the most effective form of evangelism and discipleship we have. In addition to this, the church has historically set aside a considerable amount for the ministry of education, and there are several donors that have given to this area over the years.”
Boston added that the final piece comes in from donors in Chicago and around the world who want to be a part of making this kind of difference. “This is a need-based scholarship. Once a family applies, we apply the spiritual care necessary to make sure we make room for their children every way we can,” Boston said. “Some parents can afford to sacrifice money to place their children at this school, but we want to make sure they don’t have to decide between meals, gas, rent, and tuition. We step in to get the tuition where they can’t handle it. For some that means 100 percent; for others that will mean much less. The bottom line is that we will not allow tuition to be an obstacle for any family that comes to us,” he said.
According to Boston, one of the goals of the local church is to achieve exponential growth. “We want the floodgates of change in our community to pour through the church and the school. Jesus is coming soon, and if we are going to make a radical difference, we must take some radical steps.”
As part of the local church goal, Boston mentioned that the church would like all of the children in the community to learn of the Lord. “We will do it through the school, Sabbath School, Pathfinders, Adventurers, Family Ministries, Vacation Bible School, and everything that we are led to pursue,” he said. “We would also like to see the church experience a powerful transformation in the wake of exercising this type of faith and sacrifice.”
Boston acknowledged that the church is in search of a sustainable model. In that sense, the recent decision to offer free tuition should be “the birth of a model that can be scaled and sustained,” he said. “I believe we are on miracle territory since this announcement, and the story has yet to be told. We have no idea what will happen at the end of this story, but we do know we intend to give it our all and watch God do something unbelievable.”