On April 26, 2004, T.C. Pinckney and Bruce Short submitted a resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution committee which, in essence, pointed out some of the problems involved in what they saw as a growing philosophical conflict between the teachings of Christianity and the daily education provided in the public school system.  The resolution itself was never brought to the floor of the convention, and an amendment added into another resolution to attempt to put some of its content into form failed. 

At the time, I was opposed to the SBC making a statement like that.  In 2004, I was an administrator in a Christian school operated by a Southern Baptist church.  I thought the resolution was too heavy on what was wrong with the public school system, and only vaguely pointed to the existing available alternatives.  If even half of Southern Baptists with school aged children pulled them out of government schools, there would not be room for more than a fraction of them in the few Christian schools operated by Southern Baptist churches, and most of those would be far to costly for most families to consider.  If Southern Baptists are going to address this issue, I thought, they should do it in such a way as to look at making their own Christian day schools affordable and accessible to their own constituency.

I think the time has come to revisit this resolution.

We are in the middle of a crisis, with no apparent solution, relating to the loss of young people from our churches.  This resolution cites research which shows that 88% of children raised in the churches of the Christian faith leave the church at some point after their 18th birthday.  The resolution correctly attributes at least part of this problem to the education that students receive in public school.  Had I not spent time as a teacher in a public school classroom myself, I might have trouble swallowing that.  But after 14 years as a teacher and administrator in three different Christian schools, I believe that a Christian school classroom is an effective means of discipling young people.  Spending 6 hours a day, 180 days a year in an environment where the gospel message is integrated into the curriculum, and the philosophy of education is based on the fact that God is our creator is a ministry tool that we are not using to stem the tide of young people leaving the church.

If this resolution is presented again, I would like to see it include encouragement to Southern Baptist churches to find ways to start their own Christian schools.  I haven’t seen any research to show that students who attend Christian schools, particularly the “thoroughly” Christian schools the resolution mentions, are any less apt to leave the church between their 18th and 23rd birthday, but my own observations would lead me to believe that the figure of those who do leave isn’t anywhere close to that 88%. 

Home school is also a viable option, but it is not for everyone.  In fact, home school is probably only feasible for less than 10% of families.  And at the moment, only about 5% of Southern Baptist churches operate a Christian day school of any kind.  The challenge that we face in this area of ministry is first to get enough churches involved in starting schools to make a difference, and second, to find ways to finance them so that they are affordable for the average families in our churches.  There are some successful models of this, and we have both the infrastructure and the organization in place to help churches do this.  It grieves me when I see church buildings standing empty for 90% of the time during the week, and Christian schools struggling with capital campaigns and tuition increases to pay for building their own campuses. 

I would also like to see a future resolution acknowledge our existing Christian schools, as well as the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, SBACS, which is an organization still in its infancy, but which is working tirelessly to make education the realm of the church once again. 


About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

14 responses

  1. Do you really think that kids who attend private Christian academies are to any meaningful degree less likely to leave the Christian faith than kids who attend their local public school but are also active in their local church?

    My experience with kids from private Christian schools are that they are just as wild, just as hedonistic as public school kids. The private schools kids, due to their greater wealth, often had more access to the liquor and drugs.

    I went to public school. My parents went to public schools. I intend to send my kids through the public school system. But, I’m not opposed to private schools. Heck, if I were living in a big city like Atlanta and could afford a top notch private Christian school – I’d do it in a hearbeat. But the Christian schools in rural Georgia are 9 times out of 10 academically inferior to the public school system. That’s likely not the case in mid-size and large cities.

    I want to instill in my future kids Christian values (etc) but I’m not going to send them to an inferior school in the name of “faith and learning.”

    I think we have to recognize that all public schools are not alike. Houston public schools might be AWFUL. But, the public school I came up through was run by administrators and teachers who were faithful Christians. The majority of the adult women in my church were public school employees. And we had quite a few men coaches and math teachers attend as well. Baptists of all stripes should encourage parents to just do a better job at home…

  2. Tim Dahl says:

    Personally, I would send my kid(s) to a good private school, if that were a viable option. Right now, I just don’t have that option. Most of the private schools that I’ve seen were poorly done, taught by undereducated people, being paid an amount that was equal to a joke. I don’t want my kid(s) to go to a place like that.

    However, the public school in my area isn’t that great either. For many reasons, to long for a comment, I’ve no desire for my offspring to attend here either. Homeschooling isn’t an option, because it would be impossible to live on just one income at the moment. So, what is a parent (pastor of a small church) to do?

    Finally, the biggest influence in a kids life is still his/her parents. And for reasons that I don’t entirely understand, the biggest influence is still dad. This hurts us in our area, for it seems that most of the dads have totally disengaged from their children. I don’t see this problem getting resolved by a resolution.

    Tim Dahl

  3. Lee says:

    You both have good points. And no, I don’t think one resolution will solve the problem. But it is a start.

    BDW, after spending 14 years in Christian day school education, I can say that putting a kid in a Christian school is not a guarantee that it will keep them in the church, or anchored to the faith when they leave home and head out the door to college. As I said, I don’t know of any research that has been done related to this field. But it is my observation, at least among those I’ve taught, that the percentage of those who do stay in church and in the faith is much higher among those who have gone to Christian school, or who have been homeschooled, than it is among the kids in the church who have been in the public school system.

    There is a difference between private schools which cater to the wealthy, and Christian schools that are dedicated to education that follows a Biblical model of discipleship. There are “segregationalist” academies that dot the deep South, created for the purpose of keeping white kids out of integrated classrooms. What I would like to see is the SBC focused on helping its churches establish schools on the Biblical model. There are a lot of those out there. There are also models where parents aren’t put into beggary by the tuition and fees, but the teachers are well paid. My wife teaches in a Christian school that is committed to discipleship, and pays its staff almost as much as the local public school system does. They are actively engaged in financial development as well, with the goal of being as absolutely affordable as possible.

    The basic educational philosophy of the public education system is that there is no God, and that humankind is capable, through education alone, of solving all of its own problems. That philosophy is embedded into the curriculum, and regardless of how many wonderful Christians there are in the classrooms, they are forbidden to teach anything else. There is also a bias against Christianity. Other world religions can be freely discussed, and taught as cultural elements in a public school classroom. Christianity is censored. You can’t talk about it in a classroom the same way you can talk about Islam or Buddhism.

    And as far as the academic quality of home schooling and Christian schools goes, the evidence is very prevalent that those environments produce a level of academic excellence that far exceeds that of public education, and it is not all just because of where they draw their students. In spite of low teacher pay, most of the teachers in a Christian school environment are there because they chose to be, and are committed to that type of education. Christian schools in most states have been freed from having to “teach to the test” because public schools don’t want their scores to skew the norms upward, so they can actually teach curriculum objectives. The schools are free to hire whomever they choose to teach, and are thus able to put people in a classroom who know something about their subject area. State teacher certification is one of the biggest jokes in education, and it is clearly no guarantee that a person who holds one can teach. All you have to do to get one is maintain a C average and pass a test that a sixth grader shouldn’t have trouble passing and, bingo, you’ve got one. As a group, Christian school students, and home schooled students perform from 20 to 40% higher on nationally normed tests, and on college entrance exams, than their public school counterparts. The Christian high school where I taught here in Houston for eight years produced three times as many national merit scholars each year out of a graduating class of 60-80 students as any of the nine public high schools in this district did out of classes of 400+.

    Home school support is also important. Our church has been involved in that ministry for about five years now, providing assistance and support, and a cooperative, for parents who choose to educate their children at home. That avenue also produces students who excel academically and who, for the most part, have a head start on staying committed to their faith.

  4. Jack Matthews says:

    As a parent of one teenaged boy, and legal guardian to three others, I can say that Christianity is a faith that is “caught” at least as much as it is taught, and that the example that parents set in the home in the way they raise their kids is the most important factor in the way they handle their commitment to their faith when they get out from under our protection. A good home environment, and a church that ministers to parents to help them provide one, is the best hedge against the extreme dropout rate we see among younger people during their college years.

    But, there are some tools that can be provided to help parents, and let me tell you, the Christian school where we send our kids is a major factor in that. We live in Nashville, and the first Christian school we chose turned out to be mainly wealthy, spoiled brats, and cost $11,000 per year per kid. So we looked around, at almost 20 different schools before settling on where we are now, in a small (435 students in K-12)school operated by a non-denominational church. They do not require state teacher certification, they do not pay their faculty as well as the public schools, though here in Tennessee, there’s not a lot of difference. But I have seen a major difference in the attitude and behavior of our boys, and major improvement in their academics, since we’ve been there. The academic environment is rigorous, and the belief is that students, if challenged seriously, will rise to the occasion. They do. And while it might not be a guarantee, the fact that they are involved in a systematic Bible study every day, that scriptural truth is taught as it relates to other subject matter, and that they pray together and worship together definitely has a positive impact on their faith.

    I’ve been on the board for two years now, and am glad to be contributing to the development of the school. We have a sliding tuition scale, based on income and need. Tim, you need to look around in your community. There is probably a good Christian school that would work with you on tuition, maybe even waive it, as a result of the work you do. We have about 20 pastor’s families in our school community and we work with each one, in some cases, the church is willing to help with a benefit, in other cases, we secure donors or find scholarship money.

    As far as academic quality is concerned, in looking for a good school, we didn’t find a single Christian school that we looked at to be inferior in any way to even some of the top academic public schools in our area.

  5. Tim Dahl says:

    If I could start a school…

    I would want the kids that the public school doesn’t want. I want the kids that either have, or are very likely to drop out.

    I would like it to be endowed so that very little has to be paid out by the parent.

    I would want an emphasis on languages, the Arts, and physical education. As the students got into “high school” it would turn to a “great works” education. Wouldn’t it be great for seniors to be reading Cicero in the Latin and Plato in the Greek?! I think so. We would have to start Latin and Greek very early in the educational process. We would hit modern languages in high school.

    Every teacher would need to be a college graduate, with a major in their field of teaching. Curriculum would be written by the teacher.

    Oh, and did I mention that a large endowment would be needed for this? Yeah, I bet cost is the most prohibitive thing for private schools. I wouldn’t want to have a dime of state or federal funds.

    Tim Dahl

  6. Ken Coffee says:

    A lot of good points here in the original post as well as the comments. First of all, I have never seen any credible evidence that public schools drove kids away from the church, as was stated in the resolution. That is pure supposition. I believe there is a place for both the public and the private schools in our society. I have raised two very strong Christian kids in the public schools. One of them strayed from church until she had a family, at which point she felt she needed to get her children in a church. My son’s two daughters were home schooled by their mother who is a certified teacher, until they were in Middle school. They both have excelled in public school and are dynamic Christians. I believe there is much more evidence that the discipleship being done with the kids in church and at home is much more influential than the public school in so far as remaining in church is concerned.

  7. KGray says:

    Discipling done at home is probably the greatest factor, and one problem with public school is the high percentage of children — and increasingly, teachers — who have had no discipling at home or church, for various reasons.

  8. Chuck says:


    I’m guessing your private school would be a private school, but not a Christian school?

    Which would your private school teach? Evolution (per Baylor’s Biology Dept. statement), intelligent design, or creationism?


    Would a Christian school, or private school operated by a Christian, which teaches evolution stay on your short list of possibilities for your children to attend, or for recommending to other Christian parents?

  9. Lee says:

    At the last two Christian schools where I served, as a teacher in one and as an administrator in the other, we taught every aspect of evolution as a theory. Our students could tell you everything about it, as a theory, and they could also point out the clear cut scientific flaws in it, as well as where it falls short of what the Bible says. Christian schools should teach evolution, as a theory, point out its shortcomings and flaws, and let the kids know why it isn’t viable science.

    Classical Christian education, which involves instruction in Greek and Latin, among other things, is growing in popularity. There is an Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) and they have about 20 schools in Texas.

  10. JoAnn says:

    I am proud to say that I sit on the front row of a Christian school classroom and watch my students grow academically and spiritually. I am amazed at both of those achievements in my students. There are Christian schools who aren’t the greatest when it comes to academics. You have to search out the right one for your child/family just as you would any school you sent your child. Our students on all age levels are involved in hands-on mission activities through our school. Last week I went to our high school graduation and students are required to have 25 hours of community service for their diploma. The Salutatorian had a litany of amazing mission events in which she had participated. My students learn Bible verses they can recall for situations that come to their lives. We integrate Biblical principles into every subject in our curriculum. Check us out at .

    Will they stray away from the faith they have been taught? I hope not since their parents and the staff of my school have put so much effort into their life. I know it is a possibility that they could go the wrong direction. However, I just have to think of that verse about training up a child and how they will not depart from the teaching.
    Yes, you are so correct when say that the parents have so much of an influence on their spiritual development. It seems to me that sports and other family oriented activities have taken the front burner of kids hanging out at church with the youth group. I hear lots of excuses about why they aren’t involved in church youth groups. I can say I would not be the person I am today if I had not been in that group where we learned Bible knowledge and turned our knowledge into projects that would eternally affect our city for Christ!

    Wherever you decide to educate your children, we need to do a MUCH better job of family and church education. It won’t be long before the missionaries are being sent to our country from other nations to evangelize us!

  11. Tim Dahl says:

    Just a word of note…

    The nations are sending their missionaries to evangelize us. We are one of the most decadent, non-Christian, nation there is. Maybe we aren’t “the” most, but we rank in the top 5.

    Tim Dahl

  12. JoAnn says:

    I think you would have to be living under a rock not to recognize that. So….thanks for making my point for the need for Christian education. I would say that it is needed in a huge way.

  13. Tim Dahl says:


    You said: “It won’t be long before the missionaries are being sent to our country from other nations to evangelize us!”

    My point is that: It has been happening for quite a while now.

    I’m sure that unless someone has living under a rock, they would have picked that up 20 years ago.

    Be Well,


  14. JoAnn says:

    I got your comment. Then I said that is the best case for Christian education that has been made here. If we had parents and churches teaching children how they used to, then there would not be a need for Christian schools. Times have changed and therfore we need those schools to be teaching children. Parents are busier and some of them not as involved in church. (some not at all) Churches feel the pinch to entertain more than they used to. Churches for the most part aren’t teaching Lottie and Annie anymore. It has got to come from somewhere. I suggest that a Christian school environment could teach the Bible, missions, and all the academics! They sure aren’t going to get in the public schools.

    Not under a rock and doing well. Thanks for making my point.