Growing interest in Christian instruction as parents seek education alternatives

Growing interest in Christian instruction as parents seek education alternatives

Growing interest in Christian instruction as parents seek education alternatives

While parents in many public schools struggle with questions of curriculum in the classrooms and values in the worldview, one group is advocating to increase the number of Christian schools in America – and another is helping several hundred public schools legally include Bible-based education during the school day.

The connection between the Christian faith and education predates the founding of the country. But as public education grew, Christian influence in schools waned – and in 1962 the Supreme Court voted to remove prayer from schools.

"For over a thousand years it was the churches that did the educating. They were the ones responsible, and they sustained the Christian worldview through that process," David Goodwin, president of Association of Classical Christian Schools, said on Washington Watch Thursday.

ACCS promotes the importance of classical education – an emphasis on math, science, the arts and higher thinking skills – and Christian training on a national level.

"What we're calling for is a form of Christian education called Classical Christian Education," Goodwin explained to show host Jody Hice, "which seeks to restore that form that was existent before the American public school system developed. We would love to have churches across the country join with us in building those schools."

ACCS has operated for 30 years and currently has a membership of 500 schools.

Goodwin, David (ACCS) Goodwin

"The demand is really, frankly so high at this point that we're dependent on church buildings and church resources to get these schools started," Goodwin shared.

"'Classic' is one of those words that you don't really know what to do with it. There's Classic Coke and classic cars, so you think classical education must just be old. In reality, it was a form of education developed in the Church after the fall of the Roman Empire. It sustained the Church as the primary form of education until about 1830," he explained.

Interest in the schools has mushroomed since the pandemic, according to the ACCS president. "Before 2020 we were bringing in about 20 to 30 new schools a year," Goodwin said. "In the last two years, we've brought in about 200 new schools."

No reason to be intimidated in starting a school

Getting a school off the ground isn't as difficult as some church leaders might believe, according to Goodwin.

"It may seem daunting, but really, education has been made a little bit overcomplicated by all the bureaucracy and all the systems that have to be there for things like public schools. Really, all it takes is a room, a teacher and some kids," he stated.

Goodwin emphasized the importance of selecting a spiritually gifted teacher, but ACCS provides resources to help churches get their schools started. "Most of our schools start with between three and 12 students the first year," he said.

Home schooling and private school education are not realistic options for all families – but there's still an option for those students.

In the 1952 case Zorach v. Clauson, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that religious instruction time was allowable. An Ohio-based group, LifeWise Academy, is taking advantage of that little-known federal law which allows public school students to receive Bible-based education during the school day – provided parents give consent, the training is off-campus, and it does not use taxpayer money. It's referred to as "released time" religious instruction.

Penton, Joel (LifeWise Academy) Penton

In four years, LifeWise has grown to serve groups in more than 300 schools across 12 states.

"It's the single greatest missed opportunity of the American Church to reach the next generation with the Word of God," founder and CEO Joel Penton told Hice. "We teach them a Bible lesson, and we take them back."

Released Time groups also need help

Released Time groups, like Christian schools, need the help of churches or private Christian groups – and they must first obtain permission of the local school board. In some cases, Released Time classes can count as credits toward graduation.

According to Penton, LifeWise classes are having an impact not only in the lives of students. He was speaking in a church recently when a woman shared a story.

"She said, 'My kids and I are in this church because of LifeWise. We got connected because my daughter started going to these LifeWise Academy Bible classes, and just a couple weeks ago we got baptized." We hear the stories time and time again from parents and from students," Penton said.

"What we're seeing is that there is a hunger," he continued. "Most parents want religious instruction; they want Bible education as part of their kids' public school day. However, most just simply can't do the home school or the private school thing; and so in large quantities, they're taking advantage of programs like this."

Information and resources are available through the LifeWise website.