Christian education: investment, sacrifice, or obligation?

This is the time of year for budgets, annual parent meetings, and staff hiring.  A lot of time, energy, and discussion are put into financial matters related to the cost of Christian education. What is the language used in our discussions with parents, board, and each other? Let us consider some thoughts around the words investment, sacrifice, and obligation. If our language conveys our values and really matters, then we should choose our words wisely.

It’s wonderful to hear parents talk about investing into the lives of their kids by giving them a Christian education.

When I think of “investment”, I think of these phrases:
Seen as a good thing to do with money – ex. The parable of the talents
Are a plan for growth and the future
Don’t always turn out like we planned, but we still make them anyway
Potentially impact future generations

When I hear parents describe their choice for Christian education in a negative tone as a “sacrifice,” I think of these phrases:
Something I have to do
Sometimes grudging obedience rather than my heart’s desire
Something I am giving up, not always cheerfully, to maintain something else
Sense of loss rather than choice
Sometimes used in “guilting” – “I sacrificed so you can have this”

I realize that the attitude of the heart is what determines how these words are used. I can also be forced to make investments for good (taxes come to mind) and do so with a resentful attitude.  I can also make a joyful sacrifice – the kind that is pleasing to the Lord, such as the Abel offers, or one at the cost of my life, such as Samson. On the other hand if I view sacrifice as obligation it may be like the cheerless Pharisee who tossed into the collection plate in large measure and made sure it was publicly visible. In Jesus’ observation, the widow “sacrificed” but she did so with a grateful and joyful heart as an “investment” in the work of the kingdom.

How we and our staff approach our work is also key. Do we focus on our “sacrifice” to work at a lower salary or do we see our work as an opportunity to “invest” into the lives of the kids and into our community and world?

The language we use and allow others to use really surfaces our values and our level of commitment. The Bible says that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also,” and provides many very clear stories of biblical characters who ran into trouble confusing obedience and gratitude – investment, sacrifice, or obligation.

What attitude does our language convey about how we approach the opportunity for a Christian education that can equip our children to hear the redemptive call of God on their life in personal and corporate ways?


Filed under distinctively Christian, leadership, parenting

4 responses to “Christian education: investment, sacrifice, or obligation?

  1. Vince Bonnema

    I too am convinced of the importance of our choice of words, and perhaps more importantly, our choice of attitude. One additional thought…I’ve always thought my own children will be more inclined to choose Christian schools for their children if my wife and I freely share the blessings our family has received from this investment. We have never sacrificed anything for Christian schools. Our privilege to invest, however, has blessed us abundantly as employees and as parents.

  2. John Kitur

    A mind-engaging post, thank you!

  3. Michelle Tuinstra

    This is a timely article since there are many families contemplating the public school when faced with financial challenges. I used the words of this article to encourage another person to re-enroll for next year.

  4. Trent DeJong

    Although I agree, notions of duty and sacrifice can be counterproductive in many spheres of life, certainly in our culture. I think we must be hesitant to abandon them altogether; sacrifice is central to our faith, and duty can occasionally be the only thing that gets me to do what must be done — it can be rooted in discipline. I wonder if these concepts should be a part of a radical Christian Education. Further, the adoption of the word “investments” is also a little problematic in that it is an economic term and we tend to reduce value in our culture to mere economic value. Also, investment implies that I’m getting something back — Christian Education is justified only in its utility. This is a troublesome concept. I’m not sure what to do.

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