If Adam Smith Ran a Christian School

Adam Smith is acclaimed by historians as being the “father of modern economics.” His 1776 treatise, The Wealth of Nations, is still published and widely read, and its influence seems hardly diminished over time. Its ponderings have bolstered generations of subsequent economic thought. Margaret Thatcher was reportedly such a devotee that she would regularly carry a copy of Nations in her ever-present handbag.

Among Smith’s lasting contributions to microeconomics is the concept of “economies of scale.” Theorizing about the characteristics of free-markets, he coined the enduring idiom “the invisible hand.” What can those who lead 21st century Christian schools possibly learn from an 18th century economist? My belief is “Plenty!”

A tale of two schools

Trinity Christian School sits at the crest of a gentle hill in a largely residential suburb. Founded in the mid-1960s, Trinity moved from the inner-city to its present location slightly more than a decade ago, after the members of its sponsoring church voted to rebuild on more acreage. Its current facility—a wing of the new church complex—is spacious and well-equipped. Nevertheless, the decentralized new location likely hastened declining enrollment. Students once numbered over 600; today there are about 200. The school’s budget is now stretched tight, with revenues scarcely meeting essential expenses. Raising tuition to increase revenue doesn’t seem feasible; the administration fears that doing so would force some current families to leave. Although there is no imminent crisis, church elders have privately discussed the possibility of closing the school should its financial situation worsen.

Horizon Christian School, in another suburb, is approximately ten minutes away from Trinity via freeway. Now in its fortieth year, it has about 155 students. Like Trinity, Horizon was once larger. Its facilities in its sponsoring church’s building have some obvious deficiencies, and much of the school’s equipment and furnishings are in need of replacement. Short of receiving a large bequest, such non-budgeted expenditures are not likely to be considered anytime soon. Nevertheless, current families stoically overlook these shortcomings because they strongly believe in the school’s overall benefits to their children.

Each of these schools wishes it could do more, offer more, and provide more—and justly so. Christian schools that take their mission seriously will never be self-satisfied. Yet a simple truth is that many Christian schools have little or no capacity to undertake additional endeavors. Though they may lack neither the motivation nor the will, they often lack the means.

Adam Smith’s solution

Although it dates from the year of America’s independence, The Wealth of Nations expounds sound economic principles that remain applicable today. When Smith delved into free markets, the division of labor, productivity, and other kindred matters, he perceived economies of scale. In the sphere of traditional Christian schooling, substantiation comes from the specific cost savings and efficiencies that ordinarily accompany rising enrollment figures.

Is it really that simple? Enroll more students, and Christian schools will be strengthened as budgetary strains are incrementally eased? Well, yes and no. If it were simple to increase enrollment, then Christian school classrooms would presumably already be full. Growth sometimes demands change.

A momentous decision

Picture a scene: Margaret, Horizon’s principal, is admiring Trinity’s gym from a vantage point in the visiting team’s bleachers. On the home team’s side, Ben, Trinity’s headmaster, sits wrestling with the knowledge that tomorrow he must inform the faculty that salary increases will not be possible next year. Down on the court, their varsity boys’ basketball teams are closing in on halftime. As the buzzer sounds, Margaret walks over to chat with Ben. “I really do like this gym,” she declares. “Horizon could certainly use one like this.” Ben lets out a tense laugh. “Well, if we can’t increase enrollment this one might be available soon.”

In that moment, a mutual epiphany occurred. Startled by its implications, neither one initially fully comprehended it. Yet a shared idea had just taken root.

One week later the telephone in Ben’s office rang. Somehow the call was not unexpected. “Ben, this is Margaret from Horizon. I’m not sure how to begin. I spoke yesterday with our church’s elder board, and we have a proposal we’d like to present to you. Would you be available next Thursday night to meet with us?”

Several productive sessions later, after both church boards—aided by a church-member attorney—worked through numerous details, a statement was ready: “Trinity Christian School and Horizon Christian School are pleased to jointly announce the establishment of a new school starting next fall: Trinity-Horizon Christian School.”

A consolidation case study

Facilitating this merger was the fact that both churches belong to the same state ecclesiastical association and both schools belong to the same national Christian school association. No serious differences in doctrine or operational philosophy stood in the way. Once the proposal had been agreed upon in principle, numerous essential decisions awaited.

Although it may have appeared a foregone conclusion, it was necessary to decide where the combined school would be located. Trinity’s newer, larger facility was the clear choice. As summer began, staff and volunteers from both churches moved necessary items from Horizon to Trinity.

Standardization of tuition and fees prior to the annual reenrollment period was another necessity. As always, some students from either former school would not be returning (but no families cited the merger as the reason). Nevertheless, enough new students registered so that the new school had nearly the same total enrollment as the two former schools combined. When the preliminary enrollment figure was available, the most difficult aspect of unification began.

At any Christian school, salaries are the biggest expense. To gain much of the benefits this merger promised, overlapping positions needed to be eliminated. Normal annual attrition would account for some of these, with one teacher retiring and four others leaving for various personal reasons. Individual grades/classes would now be larger than at either component school yet would still be within acceptable levels, with three elementary grades now containing sufficient students to be divided into two sections. To fill some positions, a few teachers would be reassigned to different grade levels. Two administrators were superfluous; Margaret elected to assume an open secondary faculty position in her teaching specialty. Unfortunately, three other faculty members could not be retained. Overall, the number of staff members declined from a pre-merger total of 39 to a post-merger 30, resulting in substantial savings.

Further savings come from one facility’s more concentrated usage of public utilities and auxiliary services. Consider electricity. One classroom of 22 students uses less than two similar classrooms of 11 students each. Heating and cooling one active school, rather than two, is likewise more efficient. (Rooms at Horizon’s former facility are now maintained at less moderate temperatures during their extended times of inactivity.) Water, sewer, and trash removal are exceptions; volumes for these are typically proportional to the number of users. A merged school also eliminates duplicate telephone and internet services. Overall, Trinity-Horizon calculated it reduced expenses in these categories by 23% in the first year after the merger.

Additionally, there are numerous other operational and administrative areas which produce savings through economies of scale. Although smaller individually than either salaries or facilities savings, these add ongoing value. Altogether, the financial benefits of a successful merger are considerable.

However, along with benefits often come drawbacks. Some former Horizon students must now travel farther to school. To mitigate this inconvenience, carpooling has become more common. For Trinity’s families, tuition did rise slightly, although the new school’s budget provides for waivers of the increase in cases of demonstrated hardship.

Not an ending, but a beginning

As much as this merger benefitted these two schools, unless it initiated further change it merely postponed the inevitable. Both schools were struggling because they were failing to offer a truly competitive educational product. Adam Smith would have discerned in their dilemma the invisible hand of the marketplace. Unfortunately for these two schools, it had lately been leading many potential families toward schooling options more attuned to their expectations and needs.

A successful merger can give struggling Christian schools both time and resources to remedy some common deficiencies that lead to decline. This next phase is vital, or the previous pattern of decline will likely continue.

The takeaway

My focus in this essay has been on the economic realities of operating a Christian school. In treating Christian schools as businesses, I have in no way intended to diminish them as ministries. The key point is that if Christian schools are not operated well as businesses, they can quickly cease to operate as ministries.

Let me be frank. If a Christian school is trending toward closure, and its leadership unreasonably rejects the idea of a viable merger, they made a decision. They chose to let the school die. Now, I am convinced that in some circumstances the closure of a Christian school may be in accordance with God’s will. Those instances should be acknowledged, and it would be folly to even attempt intervention. But I am equally convinced that most closures are the result of human intransigence.

I believe that two human responses are the primary hindrances to Christian school mergers. The first is fear (or indecision, if you prefer). A merger will undoubtedly be difficult and require making some hard choices. However is it not much more traumatic to completely close a school? The second is pride (I won’t sugar-coat this one). It can be unpleasant to admit that we need somebody else’s help. I submit that it would be a false sense of nobility that would cause one to stubbornly go down with a sinking ship, rather than to send out an SOS to attract a potential rescuer.

My hope is that this essay will serve as a conversation starter for some. I know there are cases where panic, desperation, or even hopelessness has set in at Christian schools. By God’s grace, it does not have to remain that way.

Larry Nelson 2015 bio


Larry Nelson is a graduate of Fourth Baptist Christian School (Plymouth, MN), holds a BA in history from the University of Minnesota, and has been employed in banking since 1990. He is a member of a Baptist church in the Minneapolis St. Paul area.

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M. Osborne's picture

Jim wrote:

What has held it back? I mean you would think larger schools would swallow up smaller ones? 

People committed to Christian education tend to have high ideals and convictions re: philosophy of education. Merging two schools = merging two visions, and so sacrificing some of the particulars to accept a common denominator, which is hard to accept. I hear anecdotes of churches splitting (or losing members) re: the parachurch school. I can't offhand think of any anecdotes of mergers.

I attended a Christian school K-12, which was then in the Massachusetts Association of Christian Schools. Just by observing the other Christian schools we played against (MACS, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, unaffiliated), I could tell that the cultures could vary quite a bit from school to school. Schools committed to more expositional biblical instruction versus more "camp-y" revivalist / pietist schools, schools looser in standards versus no-pants-on-women-ever-ever-ever schools, KJVO schools, schools where graduates went to PCC and schools where graduates went to Northland or Cedarville or BJU... Not to mention chapel music!

I'm more distant from the Christian school climate nowadays, but back in the day (80s & 90s), I would think those school leaders weren't about to give up those cultures easily.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Jonathan Charles's picture

One thing that holds consolidation back is that Christian leaders of Christian schools often hold out hope for a turn around, a miracle.  I don't see it happening, not with cyber schools and homeschooling, and the financial situation of many Christian families who cannot afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to send their children to Christian school.  I think the only hope for traditional Christian schools is that vouchers become widespread. 

Ron Bean's picture

Probably the same mindset that prohibits the consolidation of struggling churches. I was in a financially stressed town of 4000 that had four independent fundamental Baptist churches within a mile of each other. None of them could support a full-time pastor and they refused to do anything together even though none of the differences between them were fundamentals. (Even if you exclude the one that were Calvinists because "they didn't give invitations", that still left three.

The "fundamental" differences between schools like uniforms, curricula, and/or Christian colleges recommended are enough. Then there's the question of who's going to be in charge.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

mmartin's picture

The key point is that if Christian schools are not operated well as businesses, they can quickly cease to operate as ministries."  Bingo!  Well said!

I know of two ministries that chose to ignore multiple basic financial and business principles.  One closed and the other is paying a severe price with closure in the conversation.  In one case they tried to have their cake & eat it too and it blew up in their face and unnecessarily created significant ill will.  I read too often of people rejoicing at the changes made while ignorant to the effect of those changes on the business side.  They fail to realize that the life of an organization isn't that simple.  You can't ignore one or the other.  As you said, Mr. Nelson, if organizations are not operated well as businesses, they can quickly cease to operate as ministries.

When I speak of business principles I am talking about everything from marketing to customer/constituent management to simple cash management. 

In a broad sense Nothing in ministry or life happens that doesn't involve money.

Too many Christian leaders either are disinterested or are frustrated by budgetary constraints and again, basic financial & business principles.  An effective, sustainable ministry needs to find and maintain the proper balance between ministry & business.  If it becomes out of balance in either direction it can be disastrous for the organization.

Money doesn't grow on trees and you can't be incompetent with scarce resources.  When I took Economics in college the principle that kept appearing was that you can't have your cake and eat it too.  Unfortunately too many people - including the leaders of many Christian organizations ignore that truth and are paying the price.  Sad!

Ron Bean's picture

It seems that there are different financial states for most Christian Schools.

#1 Generates enough profit to support its church as well as itself

#2 Relies upon its church to subsidize  its operation

#3 Makes ends meet by keeping operating costs low, especially teacher salaries and the quality of education suffers.

None of these are going to be interested in anything that would allow others to see how they operate.

Then there are the truly good Christian schools with quality academics and credible faculty whose pay reflects their professional status. 

Maybe we need survival of the fittest.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

ChristyM's picture

To say this struck a nerve is putting it mildly.  I am a product (K, 4 - 12, and undergrad) of Christian institutions.  I attended public school in grades 1 - 3 in the goofy warm n fuzzy early 1970s.  There were a variety of reasons my parents chose Christian school, but one was the lack of focus on academics in the public schools of the time.  It came at great financial and personal sacrifice to my parents.  Meantime, the public schools got a wake up call, and renewed focus (maybe over focus on the basics) on academic work.  I am now a public school teacher and it pains me to say this, but currently, a motivated, hard working student will get a better education at the public school, in terms of actual subject matter and preparation for college or work.  I am not discounting the social benefits to having teachers free to pray openly, a teaching staff and parents working together to disciple their children, and students who have the glory of God presented as a goal, rather than mere money and acclaim. 

We sent one of our children to the same Christian school I attended.  Since she graduated, we have not been involved, nor has our involvement been solicited. Financial and personnel mismanagement has brought that school to the breaking point. They have not gone after the parents and grandparents of graduates, but simply have kept borrowing to keep the school running. Other posters are correct that there are too many other options available to an ever-shrinking enrollment pool for a traditional-style, affordable, quality, K-12 Christian education to be available in every community. 

Ron Bean's picture

First of all there are some good Christian schools that provide a quality education with qualified teachers but they are few. These schools provide a quality product that is worth the tuition paid. Sadly this is not the case for the majority of Christian schools.

When I was first involved in CE nearly 40 years ago the majority of Christian schools had teachers with degrees in their field. Today there a few Christian schools without a qualified science or math teacher on their secondary staff. Because of low pay, most have no males on their faculty. In the 70's the introduction of the ACE curriculum perpetrated the concept that qualified teachers were not a necessity. While their curriculum has waned in popularity the concept hasn't. 

Responsible parents will not pay money for an inferior product.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think one of the conflicts that churches and Christian schools face is charging the tuition needed in order to provide a quality education. By default this means some will not be able to afford a Christian education, and who wants to be the one to deny a struggling family the means to provide a Christian education to their child? 

Then you have the choice - run the school as a ministry (which, sorry to say, usually results in a lower academic quality) or charge folks for the quality education and deal with turning lower income people away and letting them fend for themselves. 

 

Larry Nelson's picture

ChristyM wrote:

To say this struck a nerve is putting it mildly.  I am a product (K, 4 - 12, and undergrad) of Christian institutions.  I attended public school in grades 1 - 3 in the goofy warm n fuzzy early 1970s.  There were a variety of reasons my parents chose Christian school, but one was the lack of focus on academics in the public schools of the time.  It came at great financial and personal sacrifice to my parents.  Meantime, the public schools got a wake up call, and renewed focus (maybe over focus on the basics) on academic work.  I am now a public school teacher and it pains me to say this, but currently, a motivated, hard working student will get a better education at the public school, in terms of actual subject matter and preparation for college or work.  I am not discounting the social benefits to having teachers free to pray openly, a teaching staff and parents working together to disciple their children, and students who have the glory of God presented as a goal, rather than mere money and acclaim.

We sent one of our children to the same Christian school I attended.  Since she graduated, we have not been involved, nor has our involvement been solicited. Financial and personnel mismanagement has brought that school to the breaking point. They have not gone after the parents and grandparents of graduates, but simply have kept borrowing to keep the school running. Other posters are correct that there are too many other options available to an ever-shrinking enrollment pool for a traditional-style, affordable, quality, K-12 Christian education to be available in every community.

Christy,

About a year ago I wrote a much longer (and much wider ranging) essay about Christian schooling, which SI published as a 5-part, sequential series:

http://sharperiron.org/tags/series-cars-and-christian-schools   (Note that the read counters were reset on SI's older articles just recently.)

If you have the time and interest, it addresses many of your concerns.  You'd find that I share your concern about the quality of education in many Christian schools.

 

 

RickyHorton's picture

ChristyM wrote:

I am now a public school teacher and it pains me to say this, but currently, a motivated, hard working student will get a better education at the public school, in terms of actual subject matter and preparation for college or work.

I agree with this to an extent.  At least in our area, I wouldn't be able to say that all Christian schools have had declining enrollments and deficient academics.  However, I have definitely seen this trend among the Christian schools associated with IFB type churches.  The schools unassociated with a church seem to be thriving.  Granted, these schools usually have a much higher tuition, but the academic results and number of students are much improved over the IFB type schools. 

Larry Nelson's picture

RickyHorton wrote:

I agree with this to an extent.  At least in our area, I wouldn't be able to say that all Christian schools have had declining enrollments and deficient academics.  However, I have definitely seen this trend among the Christian schools associated with IFB type churches.  The schools unassociated with a church seem to be thriving.  Granted, these schools usually have a much higher tuition, but the academic results and number of students are much improved over the IFB type schools.

Locally, here in Minneapolis/St Paul, these are the six largest Christian schools:

   
School Name (Year Founded): City: # Students:

1. Minnehaha Academy (1913) Minneapolis 895

2. New Life Academy (1977) Woodbury 786

3. Maranatha Christian Academy (1978) Brooklyn Park 611

4. Legacy Christian Academy (1976) Andover 525

5. Heritage Christian Academy (1981) Maple Grove 460

6. Calvin Christian School (1961) Blaine/Edina/Fridley 448

 

Together, these six enroll about 3,725 students.  None of these are IFB (you have to drop down to the 11th place on the list before you get to an IFB school), but New Life, Maranatha, and Heritage are all (evangelical) church-affiliated; and Legacy (loosely) is too.  So that's 3 or 4 out of the 6 largest.  Some of their enrollments dropped slightly during the recession, but I would still consider all to be thriving.  (For example, Legacy recently moved into a new building, and New Life just opened an expansion.)  IMO, all offer excellent academics.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

 

Here is an association of Christian schools that sets the standard for academically-motivated Christian schools:

http://www.accsedu.org/

About 236 schools serving over 40,000 total students, and exhibiting steady growth.

The one in Rochester, MN, Schaeffer Academy, is a school of nearly 400 students.  The average ACT composite score of its 2013 graduates was 28.1 (the 90th percentile), which blows away any of Rochester's public high schools.

------

ADDED: By the way, the headmaster of Schaeffer Academy is a graduate of BJU, and the faculty includes several graduates from BJU, Pillsbury, Faith, and Northland.

ChristyM's picture

I believe I read the series when you first posted it.  This is just a strong issue with me right now.  I have seen the CDS (Christian Day School) movement, particularly in its Evangelical-Free Church form, rise, reach its peak and now seems to be falling.  Many (not all, of course) Christian schools have not recognized the market has changed. Smaller families mean a smaller pool of students.  Energized public schools and a focus on making students college- and business-ready have taken away the allure of superior academics, perceived or real.  Smaller student bodies make the arts less competitive and frankly, less fun for the students and instructors.  Locally, one small school freely admits they stay operating on the strength of a pool of large immigrant families.  But, the instructors at that school are not trained in language acquisition techniques, so those students will not score well on university placement tests and not receive admission to the highly selective universities.  That may not matter now, but in a few years it will matter to those families.  So I can pretty much predict where that school will be within a decade.  I do not want to hijack the thread with a discussion of new language acquisition, but short version is social language vs. academic. 

So, in an attempt to survive, many CDS are reinventing themselves as prep schools at bargain basement prices.  They pretty much fail at each IMO.

ChristyM's picture

Good to hear that not all Christian schools are circling the drain.  There is a place for them.  There is a place for high end prep schools.  There is a place for supporting Christian teachers working in the public schools, along with supporting students from Christian homes who attend public schools and encouraging ministries targeted at reaching public school students.  I have been on the receiving end of criticism for accessing the public schools, both for our child whose educational needs could not be met in the Christian schools nor at home, along with our older child attending (and graduating with honors) from one of our excellent state universities.  That really should not have happened; respect for our needs as a family and recognition of economic realities would have been appreciated.

mmartin's picture

A question I have in my mind is what defines a "Good" Christian School education?

I went to Christian school (IFB types) for all but two of my school years and graduated from high school in the 80's.  (Love the 80's, but that is for another SI thread.  :-)!  ) 

I doubt my school would show up on anyone's radar for having high quality academics.  

In my graduation class one student became a chiropractor, another a public school teacher, a successful business woman who has received numerous awards in a large metro area, a business manager of a large organization & I myself have received numerous promotions through my work career.  In the class behind me one is a VP of Operations for a medium sized business in a large metro area.  I don't know of anyone in my graduating class that couldn't find a job or have a reasonably successful career because of the quality of the education they received in my IFB Christian school.

I am also familiar with another large Christian school, one that has very, very high academics.  While I'm sure many of the kids graduation from that school go on to good universities, I don't really hear about the successes or achievements of their graduates today that make me think they are outperforming the 80's kids from my IFB school.

So, what does it mean then to have a "quality" Christian school education?

Doesn't the quality inherent in the student himself/herself have a large say in this conversation?  What about the quality of the student's family as well?

To put my point another way, it is like the saying about parenting that parents can't claim too much credit for their child's successes and too much criticism for their child's failures.

I get it that there are schools, Christian or otherwise, that have bad academics and aren't worth any money to attend.  But after a certain point on the academics quality scale, how much does it really matter?

I'm not an educator.  Just asking.

mmartin's picture

Above Jim listed a few websites of schools in Minnesota.  They were poor in appearance and in content.  I also looked at the websites of a couple schools via the link Larry Nelson posted a few comments above.  Big difference between the two.

Perhaps a quick litmus test of the seriousness of effort the school puts into their program is the appearance of their website. 

Kind of like judging a book by its cover, I know, but still.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

You know you've received a good education when you are successful because of your academic foundation, not in spite of your lack of one. Smile

I agree that an education is something a student obtains for themselves, and a parent holds their child accountable for. But schools always make claims about the quality they provide and the academic services they offer, so it's still their job to hold up their end of the bargain, regardless of what anyone does with it after that.

Brenda T's picture

In an earlier comment you listed some schools in the twin cities area and designated some of them as evangelical. It made me curious about your definition of evangelical. Also, Legacy is not in a new building. It's still in the same building it was when the school began. Several years ago they talked about a new building, but that didn't come to fruition.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I tend to agree with the author on understanding the business aspects of a school. I attended a Christian school (Harford Christian School in Darlington MD) from 4th - 12th grades, graduating in 1981. At the time this school had over 700 students, K-12. Now, it's quite a bit down from that, I'm guessing around 330-350 students, but they are still thriving, in good financial shape, and turning out quality graduates.

This particular school is in a very rural area (mostly farms and farming communities), just south of the PA line, though it is also close enough to a large military base (where my father worked) and a few mid-size towns that there was a pretty good population to draw from. The population has also grown a lot from when I lived there, as much of the county is now bedroom communities for commuters to Baltimore and Washington D.C. Although it is largely a ministry of a single church (Reformation Bible Church, formerly Evangelical Methodist Church, which was my church growing up), it draws students from a number of churches in the area including IFB churches, located in at least 3 MD counties and one PA county. The man now the principal of the school is a BJU graduate, and he was in my graduating class at HCS.

There really wouldn't be much possibility for them to merge with another Christian school, as there isn't one in that area that is close (at least that I know of). However, since they are not exclusive to students from the sponsoring church or churches exactly like it, they have always had a reasonable pool to draw from. In addition, tuition, while not $18,000 (!) as may exist at some schools, is expensive enough to be able to pay the staff decently and keep the school active in arts, sports, etc. I'm sure they would like more students, and I'm sure that they miss out on some that cannot afford it, but they do need to keep the school in the black without sacrificing the "extras."

When my wife and I were looking for schools for our kids (I no longer live in Maryland) we did use one of the local Christian schools for elementary education. However, once the oldest was going to start 7th grade, we started to homeschool to better be able to tailor the curriculum as well as strengthen it from what we saw at the school. I would have loved a school as strong on academics as the one I attended, but that option was not open to me, and the public schools in our area are pretty bad, except for the few charter schools, and even they didn't really have the kind of environment we wanted for our children.

Even if it would have been hard for us to afford it, I wish that there was a Christian school that had been overseen by a whole partnership of churches to get enough students, and at least charged enough to pay teachers decently. I realize that that might price some families out of the market, but I think the alternative is a school that likely isn't going to be strong enough for the students or may not last long. The school our children had attended was affordable, and great on Christian principles, etc., but (in our opinion) couldn't give us the educational quality we were looking for. Homeschooling ended up being right for us for high school, but I believe there is still a place for Christian schools if they can do it right (and stay afloat). Maybe some should consider consolidation. It may not allow for a school with a particular very specific doctrine, but isn't that what the local church is for?

Dave Barnhart

mmartin's picture

Susan R wrote:

You know you've received a good education when you are successful because of your academic foundation, not in spite of your lack of one.

I agree that an education is something a student obtains for themselves, and a parent holds their child accountable for. But schools always make claims about the quality they provide and the academic services they offer, so it's still their job to hold up their end of the bargain, regardless of what anyone does with it after that.

Then I would say I received a good education at my IFB Christian school.  :-)!

Larry Nelson's picture

Brenda T wrote:

In an earlier comment you listed some schools in the twin cities area and designated some of them as evangelical. It made me curious about your definition of evangelical. Also, Legacy is not in a new building. It's still in the same building it was when the school began. Several years ago they talked about a new building, but that didn't come to fruition.

Brenda,

I was under the impression that Legacy had built the new building.  Thanks for correcting me on that.  Knowing that now, I'm more impressed at how well the school is currently doing, still being in the old building.

In regards to the three schools I called "evangelical," not knowing which one(s) you may feel aren't, I'm not sure how to address that.  Hopefully I'll address the concern.  Here goes.

I referred to New Life, Maranatha, and Heritage (or more specifically, their sponsoring churches) as being evangelical.  Those three schools are all affiliated with the Association of Christian Schools International (the ACSI), which I'm sure you know is the largest association of Christian schools that are doctrinally evangelical.  All three schools meet their criteria for membership.  New Life Church of Woodbury and Living Word Christian Center of Brooklyn Park are both doctrinally evangelical.  (Having said that, don't get me started on Mac Hammond.  I'm not a fan!).

The other school I mentioned, Heritage, is operated by Grace Free Lutheran Church, a church that, while bearing the name Lutheran, is also doctrinally evangelical.  (They shouldn't be confused with the ironically named ELCA; let's put it that way!)   As an indication of their orthodoxy, Fourth Baptist Christian School in Plymouth maintains a "faith test" in their admissions process, and the school currently has students whose parents/families belong to GFLC (meaning that Fourth acknowledges them as being evangelical in belief).  I personally know some folks who are @ GFLC; I don't doubt that they are believers & my brothers/sisters in Christ.

     

 

 

 

Brenda T's picture

Thanks for the explanation. I was just curious when I looked at your list and saw who you designated as evangelical and who you didn't. Don't get me started on Mac Hammond either : )

There are other schools in the Twin Cities area besides New Life, Maranatha, and Heritage that are affiliated with ACSI. Last I checked on the ACSI website, Legacy is listed as one of their affiliated schools.

Larry Nelson's picture

Brenda T wrote:

Thanks for the explanation. I was just curious when I looked at your list and saw who you designated as evangelical and who you didn't. Don't get me started on Mac Hammond either : )

There are other schools in the Twin Cities area besides New Life, Maranatha, and Heritage that are affiliated with ACSI. Last I checked on the ACSI website, Legacy is listed as one of their affiliated schools.

Yep, Legacy is ACSI also (and there are several other ACSI schools in the Twin Cities too.)  Calvin Christian School is affiliated with Christian Schools International (CSI), which is an association of Christian schools of the Reformed (Christian Reformed Church) variety.  Minnehaha is not affiliated with any of the four major Christian school associations (ACSI, AACS, CSI, or AACS), but they are an old school, founded before any of those associations began.  They were founded by the Evangelical Covenant denomination.

Ron Bean's picture

I understand there are good Christian schools offering credible academics in every association. Am I seeing differences between groups like ACSI and other evangelical groups and more fundamentalist oriented groups like AACS? 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry Nelson's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

I understand there are good Christian schools offering credible academics in every association. Am I seeing differences between groups like ACSI and other evangelical groups and more fundamentalist oriented groups like AACS?

I could probably write a lengthy post on my thoughts/opinions on that question, but to start, let me just post links to each of the major Christian school associations for the perusal of those who may not be familiar with all of them (in no particular order):

 

1. Association of Classical & Christian Schools (ACCS): http://www.accsedu.org/

2. Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI): http://www.acsiglobal.org/

3. American Association of Christian Schools (AACS): http://www.aacs.org/

4. Christian Schools International (CSI): http://www.csionline.org/home

 

These are the four big associations of Christian schools in the U.S.  What differences do others perceive among these?

 

RickyHorton's picture

We were looking for a different option last year for our children.  We found a great option in a university model school.  To explain, the following is from the school's website:

"Imagine a school that reinvents education, restores the relationship between parent and student and rekindles the desire to learn.  Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy is a college prep, private Christian school that partners with parents to affirm their role as the primary influence in their children’s lives. By using a university-style course schedule in which students are on school campus (central classroom) three days each week (M/Tu/Th) and complete professional instructor-prepared lessons at home (satellite classroom) the remaining two days, this effective model provides families with much needed time together."

The tuition is roughly the same as many small Christian schools in the area due to the fact that it is a 3-day a week schedule.  The academics are incredible and they are taught from a Christian perspective.  

My point is that there are means of keeping a school academically strong, Christian, and with a positive bottom line while still keeping tuition reasonable.  Like the author, I too believe that many existing schools should merge in order to create a stronger and better school.  However, I don't see that happening anytime due to the idiosyncrasies of the different schools. 

 

Ron Bean's picture

It's encouraging to see a school that understands the need for parental involvement and of a healthy working relationship between everyone concerned. After seeing parents who willingly surrender their responsibilities the school and schools that resist parental involvement in the educational process (field trips are fine but stay out of the classroom), this is refreshing.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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