"Our kids have grown up in boxes; sheltered homes, sheltered schools, sheltered colleges"

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kirkedoyle's picture

We have homeschooled our daughters (7th and 5th grade) from the very beginning but recently they have been going to the local public school for a couple of music classes.  When I see them interact with the other kids and see the limited presence of believers among the hundreds of children it makes me wonder if I'm missing something.  I want to protect my girls and give them the "greenhouse" opportunity to plant deep roots without being faced with too much temptation, but they are going to grow up and have to know how to interact with people who have drastically different viewpoints than they do.  I can't help but wonder if it makes more sense for them to begin experiencing that while they still have mom and dad to guide them through some difficult situations.  Also, the public schools are full of sweet kids that I desperately want to see come to know Christ.  My girls would have a much better opportunity to share His love with them than I ever will.  Am I hindering Christ's work through my kids?  Is the great commission only for adults?  These are not easy questions and one of my great fears is that I will make the wrong choice out of an incorrect motivation.  It's too easy to not do it because I'm afraid what other people in our church might think, or to do it because it sure would be nice to save $2000 a year and give them access to more educational opportunities.  At this point, I think we are leaning towards sending them for their sophomore years onward... still begging God for clarity until then. 

JC's picture

Kirkedoyle,

Raising kids and parenting is the ultimate form of discipleship.  The world is full of people who will make generalisations and strong statements such as "You must never send your kids to a public school because they will never end up following Jesus" or "You must send your kids to a public school because homeschooling is isolationist and Christian schooling is anti-evangelism"   Both positions are extreme.  I think your logic of homeschooling young, while introducing them into public social situations is sound.

BTW:  I was homeschooled from year 8-12 and turned out fine.  In fact, I now base much of my work from home (I run my a Human Resource consultancy).  Homeschooling prepared me well for this.

Don Johnson's picture

The problem of the public school system is the indoctrination of the world system, in my opinion. We homeschooled our kids, they all played sports (hockey, soccer, a little baseball) and worked at McDonald's. They got plenty of opportunity to interact with other kids and had good testimonies and witnessing opportunities. They are all serving the Lord as adults.

If Matt means some kind of total isolation by his article, then he's right, that's not helpful. Otherwise, he's probably wrong.

By the way... where in the world do we have sheltered seminaries??? I've never experienced one of those. Every seminary I've ever been aware of has pushed involvement in some kind of ministry outside the four walls. Most seminarians are working their way through somehow, working "in the real world". Not sure what he is complaining about there.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry Nelson's picture

 

I'm sure that most everyone here is familiar with the annual "See You At The Pole" event which is held at schools nationwide.  For those who may not be familiar with it, here it is in a nutshell: Christian kids gather around their school's flagpole on one well-publicized morning each year to pray together for their schools.

In public schools, this has numerous repercussions. It serves as a visible witness to the campus.  It gives Christian kids a unique leadership-opportunity at their schools, since these must be student-run events at public schools.  It helps Christian kids identify other believers at the school.  It also serves as a reality-check of the student's convictions, for it requires them to identify themselves as Christians in an atmosphere in which doing so may open them up to scorn & ridicule.  These aspects are what makes SYATP effective: they can prompt a Christian student to take bold steps of courageous faith to participate.

Many Christian schools also hold SYATP events, but for what purpose really?  At Christian schools, SYATP events are school-sanctioned.  (The ones I've seen are scheduled on the school's events calendars, and promoted on the school's websites, for example.)  It would be expected to see all students present--to not be present would be considered the exception.  Who on campus would consider it unusual for students to gather to pray?  On a Christian school campus, SYATP does not serve the same purposes, with the same outcomes, that it does on a public school campus.  It's just another example of complacent Christianity.

So how to correct this?  Why not have Christian school students gather around the flagpole at a prominent public park, or civic institution, or someplace else off-campus where their presence can serve some of the same purposes that SYATP does on public school campuses?

 

 

 

sbradley's picture

This article feels like a straw man built by someone who  took northland in a  less sheltered direction.

TylerR's picture

Editor

** Deleted by author! I should have chosen my words more carefully instead of arguing from silence Sad **

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

  • I've never really seen seminarians sheltered (good point Don). Having  both been to seminary and being at a church with a seminary. The seminarian men are working hard to balance earning income (often times from multiple part time jobs) + family / marriage + school
  • Avoiding the public school / Christian day school / home school debate: parents have to decide what is best for their own situation which includes: 1.) availability and ability to home school (I'm not convinced every mother (upon whom this task might primarily land) has the ability and temperament for this; 2.) a decent CDS (some are super ... many are not); 3.) the necessary finances for CDS. With three kids it could cost $15,000 more or less. I conclude that the public school children are not sheltered. Probably the CDS students tend to be. And perhaps the HS'rs may or may not be. 
  • I don't think Northland is less sheltered. I really think the school has both a great history and a viable future if they can complete the transition from fundy U to C.E. U. Their struggle will be their remoteness, low enrollment, competition from other C.E. schools like Campbellsville University in KY. Also I don't think the direction Northland took was all Olson. I think the Patz family drove it. But I digress
  • Pastors aren't sheltered
  • The sheltered ones could be the ones who work for large Christian institutions where all of their social lives center there.
Jay's picture

Don had a terrific point.  Thanks for sharing, Don.

This is the part of the article that I thought was kind of the real key to where Dr. Olson is going: 

When they attempt to enter the world, they are incapable of functioning outside the protective box – their “safe house”. And then we lose them. We lose them to repeat the same thing for their children – and often we lose them from Christianity altogether.

I've seen this myself even though I'm not in FT ministry.  Kids grow up in the church, going to Sunday School, Church, Youth Group, Christian School / College / Grad School, and then they flame out and reject everything afterwards.  Why?

Here's where I think that the issues lie:

  1. The parents of the kids assume that putting them in Christian structures will automatically make them strong Christians.  It doesn't...those organizations can't take the place of good parenting and Deut. 6:6-9.  They assume that doing that will protect their heart and help them love God the way we all should, but they are wrong.
     
  2. The parents isolate the children from the world, and then they start opening up the constraints when they become teenagers.  The teens hearts are seduced by the world (because it's not as bad as the parents made it, or whatever), the parents are unaware of what's going on, and the teens run towards it when they're on their own because there are so many different hooks and ways for the world to steal them away from the faith, and all of them are far more interesting and compelling than the life of discipline, self denial, and following Christ.

There are very, very, very few, I think, kids that just abandon the faith entirely all of a sudden.  The groundwork and foundations for doing that are laid long before they're old enough to deliberately choose to go a different way in spite of their parents' teaching.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

I think Jay makes a good point as well, especially the idea of parents leaving the discipling to institutional Christianity. While the church surely has a role to play in this, the primary responsibility for discipleship lies in the home. Make the home saturated with the Word, talk to your kids about what's going on in the world, in the movies/media the family is exposed to, etc, etc. Have the courage to discipline and correct misbehaviour and wrong thinking. Never give up because the kids seem to not be getting it. Show long term consequences that come from worldly behaviour (seemingly innocent at first).

I could go on, but it really would take a book and several have been written already.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Newman's picture

While I respect Dr. Olson, I think the "box" analogy - whether we are being accused of putting "God in a box" or "living in a box" is almost bound to be a straw man. The sheltering instinct of parents isn't all wrong, nor should it be. The real question is how we can disciple kids so they can be "in the world...and not of the world". I think if we offer sanitized world substitutes, we aren't any farther ahead. We have Christian celebrities, Christian music that is just like the world's, but with vaguely different words. It runs parallel to the world system. 

James Benner's picture

This article feels like a straw man built by someone who  took northland in a  less sheltered direction.

The SI snapping wolves can usually find something to eat from their favorite menu of, someone else’s school, home school, public school, translations, music, someone else’s organization, disagreements on finer points, etc.….  Today some had a meal of someone else’s school.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Olson is really dealing with two issues interchangeably that should be kept separate. 

1. Christian adults insulating and isolating themselves in a "box"

2. Christian parents rearing godly children

On point 1, Olson makes sense. Isolating ourselves in our little church subculture is counterproductive to fulfilling the Great Commission. That, however, doesn't translate directly to point 2 and the way we raise our kids. Don and Steve both mentioned discipleship. Every parent has a box of some sort. To argue otherwise is ridiculous. The question is what will we allow in the box. If we are living as disciples of Christ, we should be reaching out to the lost in some areas of our lives. If we are discipling our children to be disciples of Christ, they should be involved in some way with some part of our personal ministry to the lost. That does not mean that they are salt to be thrown into the world to sink or swim; it means that part of their training involves learning how to fulfill the Great Commission.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

James,

Are you eating your own words here? I've seen mature discussion about ideas relevant to the Christian walk going on in this thread. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

** Deleted by author! I should have chosen my words more carefully instead of arguing from silence Sad **

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

** Edited to remove the quote that was taken down and the accompanying encouragement **

Carry on Biggrin

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

At least I haven't been called a "cold hearted snake" yet . . . ! Smile

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

If I only had a brain...I could come up with something witty to add here.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dmicah's picture

Tyler is correct that the article was too shallow, or at least too short, to be substantive. Tackling this concept is tough, especially in three paragraphs. Chip is also correct. The real issue is Christian sub-culture. And to that, I can agree with Olson. This affects our children because it affects us. When we live and breathe too much church/parachurch air, we lose a sense of the real world. (By that I mean institutional gathering - not Christ's real body) When we don't function in the real world, we rarely live lives of faith because it takes little faith to operate in the sub-culture. When we don't live lives of faith, our children pick up on that. Then they leave the sub-culture. And we wonder why. Maybe this is what Olson is trying to say?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Fred Moritz, one of my Seminary professors, said once, "Brethren, we're called to separation, not isolati​on." Olson may well be warning against this, and if he is, I understand and agree. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

My son invited me to watch M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" a few years ago. When the movie reached it's climax i looked across the room to see him looking at me. All he said was, "We used to live there, didn't we?"

It may not be a box, but  for me it was a village. Anything outside the village was dangerous. The culture of the village was to make the residents distrustful and fearful of anything from outside and often misinformation was used to strengthen those fears. My favorite line in the movie is when Ivy meets someone from outside the village and says,  "You have kindness in your voice. I did not expect that."

In a side note, as a longtime Christian school administrator, I remember hearing leaders saying that they were proud of sheltering their student bodies and referring to their schools as greenhouses. I had a number of students over the years admit that they didn't have any "unsaved" friends.

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

James Benner's picture

I chose to post in a VERY blunt manner in hopes of making a point. When a person interjects opinion and bias into a discussion, the desired outcome is to win at all costs.  This only causes harm, and does not edify the body.  Would any of you stand up in the middle of church and castigate you spouse because of a disagreement?  Like I said, blunt!  So far I have been ridiculed and sent a threating email.  I ask you is this is Christ like, and emblematic of what you what SI to be?  

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Jim's picture

James Benner wrote:

I chose to post in a VERY blunt manner in hopes of making a point. When a person interjects opinion and bias into a discussion, the desired outcome is to win at all costs.  This only causes harm, and does not edify the body.  Would any of you stand up in the middle of church and castigate you spouse because of a disagreement?  Like I said, blunt!  So far I have been ridiculed and sent a threating email.  I ask you is this is Christ like, and emblematic of what you what SI to be?  

Who has ridiculed you? Go public with it? I did send you a PM. Is this the threatening email? Go public with it (I still have it in my S/I inbox). 

Honestly you come across as a pouting prima donna. 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Even when Christians 'evangelize', it is often at arm's length. Cold calling, street preaching, and passing out tracts is still 'in the box' to me.

Kids who attend public schools can remain inside their Christian bubble if they choose, just as other cliques refuse to acknowledge others not of their socio-economic class or ethnicity or belief system, remaining distant and aloof.

It isn't the physical proximity of the unsaved/unchurched, but how we interact with them that defines, IMO, whether or not we live an in-the-box sheltered life. 

When discussing children and their need to be a Christian witness, I think parents should be careful to make sure kids understand that they themselves must be converted. Christianity isn't something that children obtain by heredity or osmosis. Too many church kids make shallow and impulsive professions when they are young, and because of our firm stand on eternal security, we refuse to entertain the idea that they weren't truly converted. We encourage them to be junior missionaries, when the person that needs saving is them.

If a parent believes that their child is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually mature enough to truly evangelize and disciple, then they can  feel confident in helping their child find appropriate opportunities, be that in their community, local organizations, school, place of employment, etc. . .

rogercarlson's picture

Hi all,

I did not read the article, but read all of the comments.  3 of my 4 kids are in public school and my other will be there soon.  It was not always that way.  Our oldest is a Freshman at the local community college and graduated from public high school.  Our older son is now a freshman at the public school. My younger daughter is at a Christian School that my wife teaches at ( the two older ones graduated from the 8th grade there as weel).  My youngest has autism and we have no choice but to put him in public school.  We also homeschooled until our oldest went into 4th grade.  So I think I have a pretty good understanding of these issues.

We were dragged kicking and screaming into the public school.  Neither my wife nor I ever attended one.  But now looking back, we are grateful for God's path - make no mistake about it, it is God's path.  A few above have said that all 3 choices are legitimate and I would agree.  But I can tell you that our interaction would be no where near where it was, unless my kids were in public school.  Less than a month ago, I had the privilege of preaching the funeral of a 15 year old boy who was accidently killed (that boy was a close friend of my son).  There were 2500 people at the visitation, and 650-700 people at the funeral.  God allowed me to give the Gospel to that large of a group, and I have less than 50 that come on a Sunday Morning.  God be glorified.

Now to the issue at hand.  I used to be in an environment, where I did not interact much with the lost.  There are many of our fellow pastors who don't.  We all know that is true.  There have been times when even when we interacted, it was at great arms length.  We all have to work against that.  I believe that can and should be done no matter how we choose to educate our kids for God's glory.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jim's picture

http://www.toastmasters.org/

See [Find a Club Near You} in upper right 

I got the idea of joining from  Dr. James Maxwell (former President of Faith Baptist Bible College). He is a Toastmaster

  • The clubs are small because they are supposed to split when they get to 40. 
  • The club of which I am a member has about 15-20 in attendance. All are IT or project management people at my company
  • They meet once a week at the noon hour 
  • I joined in June of '13. I am working through the 1st book called "Competent Communicator". There are 11 speech challenges. The speeches are 5-7 min long
    • The first one is "Icebreaker". I was able to share my testimony 
    • Near Christmas time I had a speech entitled "Why I don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, and Santa Claus; but why I believe in Jesus"
    • My last speech challenge was called a persuasive speech. My speech title was "Don't be a Scrooge". I spoke on giving and that we are motivated to give to improve the human condition and that  men are made in the image and likeness of God. I used a PowerPoint slide set and had several Bible verses in it, one being Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them". 
    • My next speech has a theme of "International". I am not planning any Gospel reference for this one. (This next Tuesday)
    • My May speech (which I am working on now) is to be an "Inspirational" speech. I intend to speak on the Christian answer to racism (building on the image of God introduced previously)
  • Note: Our Toastmasters club meets at work. It is a [my company - which is a major financial institution] sponsored event and the sell-same pays my dues. How great is that!

I've:

  • Met new people
  • Learned some speaking tricks (like how to say something in 7 minutes!)
  • Plus it is fun (we had a Christmas (they called it "a Holiday") party 
rogercarlson's picture

I finally read the piece.  I don't think it is a straw man for, at least part of the Fundamentalism that I grew up with.  It has taken years for our church to get away from that.  The bubble is real in many churches and needs to stop.  Yes, we need to guard against wordliness, but we also need to be aware of isolation in our lives.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It really isn't a simple issue. Trade offs in all directions. The "box" strategy was being vehemently criticized when I was a kid under the label "sheltering" or using variants of a greenhouse analogy. Mainly at the time, the criticism was aimed at the whole idea of a Christian day school. So two perspectives clashed: a. the best way to prepare Christian young people to hold to deep convictions and live holy lives in this world = to raise them in a protected environment. b. the best way to prepare them is to expose them strategically. In their most extreme forms the two strategies are quite distinct. As you moderate them, they blur in to eachother. So the role of the Christian school--it can play a part in moderate versions of either strategy.

What I've observed:

  • Lots of kids grow up with the box strategy and eventually turn out just fine  and no longer living in an isolated way from unbelievers and their "world"
  • Lots of kids grow up with the box strategy and collapse as soon as external constraints are removed
  • Lots of kids grow up with the "strategic exposure" strategy and eventually find that there is really no difference between their way of life and that of the unbelieving world
  • Lots of kids grow up with the "strategic exposure" strategy and turn out just fine

My conclusion: either approach can be tweaked to the point that it is somewhere in the middle. And either approach, even in its extreme forms, can be implemented poorly or effectively. 

And both approaches can fail even if carried out pretty much flawlessly, because people are not mechanical devices that can be assured to "turn out right" if we just get solid quality control assurance in the factory. There is no way to mass produce faithful disciples out of children.