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?