A New Evangelical Engagement with Public Schools

What part do evangelical Christians play in the mission of public education reform?  Often not a big one.  But this article, by Tom Krattenmaker on the Huffington Post, highlights two inspiring instances of churches partnering with local public schools to improve education.  Here’s an excerpt…

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

“A New Evangelical Engagement with Public Schools”, written by Tom Krattenmaker on the Huffington Post, highlights how a new generation of evangelicals is partnering with public schools to improve education.

Why would evangelical Christians want anything to do with public schools? Judging from decades of culture war rhetoric, these are bastions of secular humanism where God and his fearers are unwelcome. School prayers — not allowed. Teaching creationism — verboten. Abstinence-only sex education — few to be found. Sharing the gospel openly — forget about it.

Little wonder, then, that many evangelicals withhold their support, and kids. And through their support of conservative politicians and policies, evangelicals have been, broadly speaking, part of a political dynamic that has shrunk support, financial and otherwise, for public schools.

But there is a serious problem with this flight from public education. Evangelicals are realizing there are real human beings in those left-behind schools who are struggling to teach and learn against difficult odds, and the future well-being of those kids and our communities depends on their success. Shouldn’t Christians with hearts full of love and compassion be helping them?

Read the rest of the article here.

It’s too early to tell if the efforts that Krattenmaker points out will be effective.  Churches that want to serve in low-income communities and their schools have to manage the tension between ministry and paternalism.  But it can be done.

I sometimes think evangelical Christians will look back on the movement to reform public education and ask, “Why didn’t we do more?”  If efforts like the ones outlined in this article provide healthy examples, then there is reason to hope.

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