Every now and then, I get a random idea that doesn’t leave my brain for weeks. Almost 2 months ago, I wrote two blogs on the gospel, Christian parenting, & education options. I received a lot of positive feedback on both of them, and it led me to continue thinking through how certain models of education that parts of the church pursue could be moved toward improving education amongst the poor.
Poor areas of the city are notorious for poor education scores and in great need of investment that goes beyond what government can provide. Only the church has the long-lasting motivation of the never-changing God and His gospel of hope and salvation that can sustain long-term transformation.
There are quite a few families in the church that are pursuing homeschooling alternatives and classical Christian education. This has led me to wonder how the benefits of these can be leveraged to improve the quality of education in our cities. While I believe the church must engage in the public schools and assist students in need, I also wonder how these families and Christian education providers could partner together to serve their city.
The TOMS Model
TOMS Shoes was founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006 after he traveled and connected with children in Argentina that had no shoes to protect their feet. The company matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. According to their website they have “given over 1,000,000 pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world.”
Whatever your view of TOMS shoes, it’s obvious that they are a business created to bless people around the world. In the same way they have blessed kids with shoes, they are now seeking to bless the world by improving eyesight through selling sunglasses.
Why not for Christian education?
This has me wondering if the same idea could be applied to Christian education, whether it is private schools, homeschooling, or classical Christian education options, similar to Veritas.
Christian families that seek to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ desire that their children know God, have a great education, and share Jesus with the world through declaring the gospel and demonstrating it through mercy and justice. Many of them pursue these education opportunities to do just that.
What if these curriculum providers partnered with local families to provide curriculum and resources at a different cost to provide a better alternative to schooling? Much of the content has already been created and the information technology today provides an opportunity to distribute this content in innovative ways that reduce cost.
Could parents pay a little more than usual and curriculum providers partner for merciful engagement of one of the biggest needs in our day? Each homeschooling or classical Christian educating family could participate in the education of another child in their area. This invites Christian families to take ownership of the education of those around them, seeking to extend the benefits they receive from education to others.
I know that Christian private schools provide a limited number of discounted tuition and scholarships, but what if the pricing structure changed for these schools, co-ops, and classical Christian schools to seek renewal of a city through education? The church’s mission is to participate in the gospel of Jesus Christ as it renews broken systems, structures, and institutions just as it addresses personal needs.
Education is one of these systems and institutions in need of innovation and investment from the church.
Bob Lupton in his book, Theirs is The Kingdom, writes about how his family and church’s investment in a local public school transformed the grades in that school.
Four years later, when the children of Slaton Elementary School took the California Achievement Test, a national standardized test, parents and teachers alike were overwhelmed at the result. The average test score was in the seventy-second percentile, an increase of more than forty percentage points!
I genuinely believe that the church is a powerful force in addressing injustice and can do so especially well in education. My hope is that churches invest in public schools as well, but I also know that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be displayed through every schooling option.
This is a great time of opportunity for the church to think innovatively in how they can meet the needs of their neighborhood.
I wonder if the TOMS model could be an opportunity for Christian education in seeking to improve the quality of education that the poor and marginalized receive. It could be a great partnership between the church, Christian families, and Christian schooling providers to renew a broken area of our society that is in desperate need.