Parenting, Education and Mission

September 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

Recently, I was chatting with a member of our church who has been intentionally living on mission for several years amongst unreached people groups in Austin.  He has children that are similar in age to mine, so we struck up a conversation about school.  In that conversation, I was incredibly challenged by his faithfulness to consider the schooling choices of their children in light of the mission, and I asked him to write his thoughts for me.

We have deliberately kept his identity anonymous because of the sensitive context of his ministry, but I pray that his story encourages and challenges you to live all of life in light of the gospel!

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Parenting and Missional Communities

Am I a good parent?

When we began to consider where to put our son into school, we were sobered by the many options and opportunities.  What would a good parent do?

Our life in Austin had placed us among a diverse group of friends and we saw many positive routes to go whether it was public or private schooling or homeschooling.  We saw great parents in all those options.

So the question came, “what does God want for us – for our son?”

Initially in preschool, we used some Christian schooling options.  These were positive experiences and quite honestly, there was a number of non-believing families that chose to place their kids there.

I had heard some sermons on the internet by a pastor I had great respect for.  He teaches his congregation that parents must choose a specific schooling option in order to faithfully steward their children.  But do we place this same expectation on “goers”?  Do you expect the missionary to keep his children out of the culture he is seeking to reach?

As we approached the decision about entering Kindergarten, we began to ask many other folks to pray with us about this decision.  We desired to make a decision that was not based on the advice of others, or the desires of our heart – but rather the priority of The Gospel.  God has demonstrated so much  kindness and forgiveness to us.  We believe that the worship of His name among all peoples should take priority before any other.  He is worth that.

I have experience with many believers serving overseas and have seen many of them rely on either ex-patriot private schools or homeschooling.  However, I also met some who were sending their children to secular school.  They believed that this would better prepare their children to be witnesses for Christ, both learning culture and language.

In the end, we decided to send our son to a school that is run by people with an entirely different worldview than our own so our entire family can continue to live and minister amongst those whom God has called us to. Practically speaking, it’s been hard!  We have to invest more time in discipling our son, and also are having some conversations that are difficult for a first-grader to grasp.  But we know we’ve been obedient.

Our heart really wrestled and prayed over the decision we made.  Honestly even as my son approached his first grade year, we continue to ask ourselves if we’re doing the right thing.  But the answer always brings us back to The Gospel.  We could make a decision based on what is in our children’s best academic interest alone.  We could not make a decision that gives us the most comfort.  The Gospel called for us to follow Jesus no matter where He led.

Choose Against Comfort 

Jesus gave up His royal status in heaven – a place of privilege and everything due Him.  But he chose against comfort.  He chose to love those who were different from him – sinners.  He chose to love people outside his own culture.

In our experience with the Gospel, we have found that we must bring every decision to the light of the Gospel.  Decisions on how to discipline.  Decisions on how to instill character and cultural manners.  And yes, even decisions on how to educate academically .

Should our son be protected and kept apart from the secular world?  Should he not learn discipleship and evangelism from a young age?

And as a parent, do I compartmentalize the decisions for my children?  Those decisions which are only for me and not for them? We asked ourselves, “Can we separate our lives and decisions from the truth of Revelation 5:9-10 and God’s plan for Jesus’ return contingent on the preaching of His Gospel to every people group on earth?”

Recently we planned for my son’s birthday party.  We realized many of my son’s friends have lots of vowels in their names and they look nothing like him.  He shared with us recently about one of his best friends who doesn’t like it when he talks about Jesus, but he shared a Bible story and his friend really liked it.

So are we good parents?

The Gospel reminds us that we are not good people or parents.  In fact we are sinful parents who desperately need the Gospel to guide us in all matters.  So our hope is not in making the most shrewd academic or social decision for our son – our hope is that he will be a part of God’s worship party when every tribe and tongue are present.   That he will be used in greater ways than we can imagine to bring God more worship.

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 responses to Parenting, Education and Mission

  1. i really enjoyed this post, especially as our kids are preschool aged and we are considering these things. while i appreciated a look into his situation and perspective, it also came across in the end that putting your kids in school is the right, gospel centered thing, and (while not directly said) that homeschooling is not congruent with the gospel. also, forgive me if im wrong, but it made it seem that homeschooling was a ‘comfort’ choice and public school would be out of the comfort zone. when i look at both, homeschooling seems so much harder and therefore less easy and convenient. but i agree, sending my kid to public school has its own list of fears.

    i know there are a lot of christians who promote homeschooling as the highest and best choice, which can feel like its the 11th commandment or something, but this seems to be going the other direction, with a moral high ground that the public school route is the right choice for the christian family. i don’t think there is a right and wrong, and think it can be done well either way. i think one important point is to live on mission no matter how you chose to educate your kids. there are unique benefits to both. it’d be cool to follow up with another post of homeschoolers living on mission, just for the balance in perspective.

    • Kaye,
      Thanks for your thoughts…the intent was never to pit one versus the other, but to demonstrate how this parent was considering school choices through the lens of the gospel. He wasn’t making statements about right or wrong for others, but about conviction for himself. Hopefully that clears it up!

      As far as a homeschooling post, I honestly don’t know anyone who has made that decision, but I’d love to hear how homeschooling and mission coincide with one another!
      Todd

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