Believer-based or open enrollment at Christian schools?

Recently CSI asked me to create a paper explaining the differences between the traditional enrollment policy of Christian schools, which I will call covenantal or believer-based, and missional or open enrollment policies. What is the origin and thinking, the theology and philosophy behind each of these approaches? What might be the best approach for your school?

For starters, the practice of many of the schools served by CSI is that they are operating under a covenantal approach – their enrollment policies state that at least one parent must be a believer and assent to the vision, mission and beliefs of the school in order for their child to be able to attend.  This may be further verified by requiring a pastor’s letter to indicate that the parent is practicing their faith through church attendance. In the paper I trace the history and thinking undergirding this model.

There are CSI member schools that operate using a missional or open enrollment policy. There is no belief requirement from parents who want to have their child attend the school, they simply must assent to the fact that their child will be instructed according to the stated mission, vision, and beliefs of the school.

Some schools use a blend of the approaches, usually specifying the percentage of families that will be allowed to fall into the missional enrollment category.

The paper seeks to shed some light on each approach and concludes with several discussion questions. This short and provocative paper can be used with faculty, parents, or boards to examine the history and issues around each approach. The paper can be accessed here.  Please use the comment section for further discussion – thank you.


Filed under change, history, leadership, mission development

2 responses to “Believer-based or open enrollment at Christian schools?

  1. Ali

    I would really like to say thank you such a lot of for your job you have made in writing this posting. I am hoping the same perfect work by you later on as well.

  2. “…non-believing parents would need to assent to having their child be educated from a clearly articulated Biblical perspective, as well as agree not to undermine the Biblical perspective at home.”

    From a reformed perspective, isn’t a non-believer completely incapable of doing anything good, Godly, or holy? I believe John Calvin called it Total Depravity. If that is true, then there is no way a non-believing family could make that agreement without breaking it immediately. Everything they do is contrary to God and His purposes.

    I feel like you did a great job not showing too much bias in the article itself, however the discussion questions seem to heavily favor a missional/evangelistic school.

    I have worked at both. I can see both sides of the argument and I certainly did struggle for a little while when I switched from one to the other.

    I believe the biggest challenge is when the school (which is not an institution set up by God in His Word) begins to take over the responsibilities of the Church (the institution of God’s people all over the world) or the Family. Both types of schools have advantages and pose challenges, but the most important thing is that the schools maintain a Biblical foundation. If a school is firmly following the Bible and teaching a Biblical worldview, I don’t see how anyone could really complain…

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