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Knowing I’d be away this past week attending an American Vision Board Meeting, I invited my good friend, Pastor Cole Thomas Westwood, to provide a guest article from his unique perspective. It’s a valuable one and will benefit many. We thank him greatly.
Pastors, just like the rest of society, hold various views on homeschooling. Even so, I assume most visitors to the American Vision website would not be willing to submit to shepherds who only view homeschooling as a passing phenomenon or who might suggest that homeschoolers are somehow substandard. I’m sure most of you readers sit under men who see home education as an acceptable option. In fact a growing number of congregants are served by shepherds who champion home education as the best option for raising God-honoring children.
In my opinion, however, ignorance and pew pressure continue to fuel the debate over whether home education is simply another alternative to government schooling or if it’s the best way to educate children and engage the culture for Christ. Some sincere but mistaken men comfort their consciences by saying that while not perfect, at least public schools are making progress. They imagine that things can’t be that much different from the days when they and their children attended, refusing to own up to the reality that government education is less effective academically and more detrimental spiritually than at any other time in history.
However, having graduated 18 years ago from a small public school situated squarely in a conservative part of the Midwest and with a senior class of 65, things were very bad in my day and are much worse now. Additionally, many if not most ministers serve congregations that include public school teachers. This acts as a significant check to many pastors who might feel at least some obligation to warn against the paganism of public schools but fear for their livelihoods. While I am thankful for the little bit of light that Christian teachers do shine into those pitch-black settings, it should be obvious that Christ is not welcome in the government schools. Christians need only look at the news headlines to see that the humanist gristmills that are the government schools are heading toward a crisis of their own making. If this sounds defeatist to those who expect Christian kids to reclaim public schools, let me encourage not only an examination of the facts but also of the rationale for sending children to do what most adults are unable or unwilling to do—accurately articulate their faith before hostile audiences.
While Christian schools are a better option, they are by no means the best choice. Although academic and spiritual standards may be higher, the socialization children receive is often anything but healthy. The same ungodly influences walk their halls as well. John Milton had it right when he said, “The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.”  Homeschooling embodies this biblical principle making it the best option for educating children.
From the perspective of a pastor and father of five with 11 years of homeschooling experience, let me share three ways that similarly convinced Christian parents can pastor their pastor and change the world. You can tailor the first two suggestions to fit friends and family members who may be uninformed if not skeptical of homeschooling.
First, initiate opportunities to acquaint your pastor with your homeschooling family. One of the most natural ways is to invite him over for a meal. I remember a college chapel service where the guest speaker boasted of how well his congregation cared for him and his family. So much so that he no longer looked at the leather around his waist as a belt; rather, it had become a fence for a chicken graveyard! Many pastors and people in the pews are amazed to hear that home-schoolers are active outside the home…often much more so than their public school peers. Encourage your pastor to join you for one of your sporting events, spelling bees, fair showings, or such. Remember, the best advertisement for homeschooling is homeschooled children!
Second, introduce him to helpful materials on homeschooling. Like a free meal, I have yet to meet a pastor who would refuse the gift of a book. There is no shortage of serviceable resources. One that should be on every Christian’s shelf is Bruce Shortt’s The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, available through American Vision. Read it and pass it on to him. Equip the one who spends himself equipping you and look for later opportunities to engage him in discussion.
Third, investigate ways to start or strengthen homeschooling ministries through your church. Many “graying” congregations recognize the need to attract and disciple younger families. Thus homeschool “support groups” for home educators are an excellent means to accomplish this while at the same time not requiring pastors to clean up after dancing bears or to shave their heads in fulfilling their part of the bargain in “pack-a-pew” campaigns. Our congregation has seen five families embrace home education over a three-year period due in some part to my family’s influence.
As an unashamedly proud parent, let me say again that the products speak for themselves! Seek your pastor’s blessing for a monthly meeting in your building both for current homeschoolers and those interested in the possibility. Then promote it through well-done but inexpensive advertising in your community. A resource you can personalize for your ministry is the brochure titled, “Why you should be considering homeschooling.” However concerned we may be that pastors stand in hard places on hard issues, I believe that God is much more concerned. Because of this, we can be confident that He will bless our efforts to shepherd shepherds.