Siskiyou Christian School
Siskiyou Christian School
530 926-1784

1030 W.A. Barr Road Mount Shasta, CA 96067

Christian Schools and the Hothouse Issue
by Dr. Paul A. Kienel, Founder and President Emeritus Association of Christian Schools International

You've seen them, those semi-translucent glass or plastic structures called "hothouses" or "greenhouses." They are specifically designed to protect seedlings from the extremes of freezing cold or the scorching heat of a burning sun. Without greenhouse protection, young plants destined for vital food production would be stunted, gnarled, or even burned or frozen out of existence. One Christian educator describes the hothouse issue as follows:

Picture a tomato seedling that you plant in your greenhouse in hopes that it will become strong and healthy enough to transplant into your garden (the "real world") in the spring. You want it to bear fruit next summer, and you know it is better to start the plant in a protected place. It would be foolish to set it out in the harsh elements, subject to cold and wind. of course, you don't want "greenhouse tomatoes. " You are simply preparing the seedling for transplantation at the appropriate time. In the same way, a child will be much better prepared to make his way in the world and stand firm in his faith if he's had a chance to develop in a protected environment.1

There are two "comeback arguments" we often hear when we suggest that children from Christian families should be educated and trained in Christian schools. The first argument is:

1. "I don't want my children protected. I want my children educated in the 'real world.'"

Let me give you a few talking points should you encounter people using what I call the "real world" argument.

  1. If I may coin a word, a school is a "confirmatory." Students in school are conforming to other students, to their teachers, and most certainly to the school's philosophy. Luke 6:40 reads, "everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. " The clearly stated mission of a Christian school is to inspire students to conform to Christ, the Master Teacher. Some schools claim to have a "neutral philosophy," especially as it pertains to Jesus Christ. According to Christ Himself this is impossible.  He said, "he who is not with with me is against me. . ." (Matthew 12:30).  Therefore, since neutrality is impossible according to Christ, schools which do not declare themselves to be for Christ are, intentionally or by default, against Him. How then can Christian parents enroll their children and young people in schools that are against Christ?
  2. Many parents and all too many pastors claim that children will grow spiritually stronger if they are educated in non-Christian educational institutions. To the surprise of some, there is no known Scripture supporting this view. The Apostle Paul said, ". . . be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil" (Romans 16: 19). On this important matter I commend to you the good counsel of Dr. D. James Kennedy, who said:
 I would say to you, dear friends, it may require some sacrifice, but I urge you to send your children to godly schools. . . to Christian schools that they might receive a godly Christian education. Train up a child in the way that he should go, and, my friends, if we don't, in our old age, that will be our greatest heartbreak. I have never seen any people more unhappy than fathers or mothers who have come to me and said, "Where did we go wrong? We gave him everything, and now he's turned his back completely on everything we believe. " Yes, they gave him everything but a Christian education!2
  1. Exposing Christian children to non-Christian schools sponsored by the "real world" is like teaching non swimmers to swim by throwing them into a lake and saying to them, "now swim." Some may actually learn to swim that way, but common sense tells you that is a risky way to teach swimming. Non swimmers are not prepared to face the obvious dangers of water until they are knowledgeable and fully prepared for the inherent dangers When a swimmer or student is "fully trained," then and only then is he or she ready to swim in the real water of the real world.

2. But what will happen to non-Christian schools if Christians abandon them?  Shouldn't we send our Christian children to non-Christian schools to witness for Christ?

Again, the following counterpoints may be helpful:
  1. Christians should. not abandon any part of society, including non-Christian schools. The question is, are children who are not "fully trained" prepared for the task? Dr. D. James Kennedy says, "You don't send an eight year-old out to take on a forty-year-old humanist."3 Not all humanists, of course, are forty years old, not all teachers and administrators in non-Christian schools are humanists, and not all opportunities to witness are limited to adults. It seems to me, however, that the best strategy for an effective witness in non-Christian educational institutions is to call on adult professional peers who are strong Christians to do the job. We don't send children to evangelize any other segment of society, so by what logic do we assume that children are the appropriate ones to evangelize the religion hardened world of non-Christian education?
  2. We need to recognize that the task of evangelizing non-Christian schools is a formidable one even for adult professionals who are Christians. There are more Christians per capita who are teachers, principals: or superintendents in the non-Christian school world than in almost any other secular profession.But no other secular workplace has more intimidating regulations against aggressive evangelism than non-Christian schools. Two things emerge from this: 1) We need to pray earnestly for Christian educators in secular schools, and 2) we should not expect children to do an adult job.
I don't know about you, but I believe strongly that Christian parents should send their children to Christian schools!

1 Harris, The Christian Home School.
2 D. James Kennedy, "Training Your Children, "a sermon.
3 Ibid.

PO Box 35097 . Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3509

1997, Association of Christian Schools International
reproduced here by permission of the Association of Christian Schools International.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).