Home Sweet Home School

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A CHURCH REMODELED

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However, there are a number of friction points that can develop
between home-schooling families and their local churches. For
instance, home-schoolers can present a church with programming
issues. How can a woman attend the daytime women’s Bible study
where the young mothers tend to fellowship if she’s home schooling
her children? Many home-schooling parents have valid concerns about
negative socialization and peer dependence. How can children’s
ministry leaders support kids of all kinds learning to fellowship
and learn together — and support parents who may be outspoken in
expressing their concerns about mixing children? Creating a church
environment where home-schooling families can become an integral
part of the ministry takes intentional effort.

Here are practical tips for working through any friction.

“Educate yourself. Even if you find yourself philosophically
opposed to the whole idea of home schooling, you may find it
helpful, especially if you have a growing population of
home-schooling families, to give yourself a crash course in home
education. Spend a portion of a day at a home-schooling conference
(pastors can often attend for free) or a local home school support
group meeting.

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“Don’t make home-schooling a point of contention. If you’re a
ministry leader who home schools your kids, it’s crucial to
minimize this choice as much as possible at church. Church members
tend to see your choice as an implicit endorsement that your choice
is best. Support each family’s biblical responsibility as the
primary educators of their children, and encourage them to seek God
for how he best wants them to accomplish that task.

“Follow the motivation trail. It’s worth doing a little
fact-finding to see if you can discover why people in your church
have chosen to home school their children. If they’re home
schooling because they want to give their children a better
academic alternative, are interested in integrating spiritual
training into their studies, or have a child with learning
disabilities who would be better served by one-on-one tutoring,
their relationship to their local church and the home-schooling
movement will be very different than if they’re home schooling out
of fear of the evil one-world government that’s bent on trying to
brainwash their children. Parents will perceive your children’s
ministry differently based on their motivations.

“Seek to integrate home-schoolers into the ministry of your
church where possible. When the mother involved in setting up the
children’s ministry Christmas concert at the nursing home let her
pastor know about a niche ministry she thought other home-schooling
families could fill during the daytime hours, he encouraged her to
be a liaison between the group and the church, letting the church
staff know about needs that the residents expressed during their
weekly visits. The children were occasionally invited to share
their experiences with the rest of the kids in Sunday school. The
home-schoolers were able to effectively extend the ministry of the
church beyond an occasional program.

“Think out of the program box when it comes to ministering to
home-schooled kids. A youth pastor of a mid-size church needed a
sound and PowerPoint slide person for Wednesday night youth group.
His answer came in the form of a technologically savvy 12-year-old
home-schooled boy who was a computer whiz with the schedule
flexibility to come in on Wednesday afternoons and work with the
youth pastor to set up the audiovisuals. This nurturing
relationship has given the boy the confidence to lead others in
this service ministry.

“Understand that home-schooling families can present a
contradictory mix of needs and problems. Some mothers, tired from
the demands of home schooling all week, may be reticent to
volunteer to teach Sunday school. On the other hand, many
home-schooling parents are intensely interested in what’s being
taught to their children at church, and they may offer strong
opinions about the structure and content of children’s and youth
programs.

Because of the 24/7 nature of home-schooling, relational issues
within some families tend to get magnified. At the same time,
authority issues, pride, or mistrust of involving outsiders can
prevent a family from asking for help.

Though these are all stumbling blocks for most people when it
comes to asking for help, they may be ratcheted up a couple of
notches for some home-schooling families due to the self-imposed
expectation that home schooling should make their families stronger
and better.

By simply being aware of these contradictions, you may be able
to hear the real struggle behind the words of a home-schooling
parent who presents a concern to you.

“Funnel all demands for additional ministry through the vision
of your church. While some churches may gladly devote resources to
supporting their home-schooling families (providing academic
enrichment activities for home-schooled children so the mothers can
attend the daytime women’s Bible study, for instance), other
churches simply don’t have the time or inclination to meet those
needs. Communication based on a clearly stated (and oft-revisited)
vision statement can help minimize false expectations on the part
of the home-schooling families in your congregation — and can keep
your church’s ministry “on task.”

The gift the home school movement brings to the church is the
holy reminder that parents are their children’s first and most
important teachers. The gift your church brings to the home school
movement is its unique ability to be God’s school, equipping
believers and demonstrating the love of Christ to non-Christians.
In God’s eyes, there are no subsets. There’s only Jesus’ aching
prayer for all of us in John 17:11: “I will remain in the world no
longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you
gave me — so that they may be one as we are one.”

ONE MOM’S VIEW

Home schooling is based on the conviction that God has ordained
us, the parents, to be our children’s protectors and teachers. As
such, home schooling is both an energizing delight and a fatiguing
challenge — sometimes all at once. The church can be a part of
both truths. As a home-schooling family, we’ve struggled with the
church, not just one, but many over the years and miles. Pondering
the situation, I’ve come up with several reasons and even a few
solutions — for the church and for us as a family.

Having chosen to keep our kids out of the flow of general
juvenile society, we have high expectations for kid behaviors and
exposures. We expect children in the church to exhibit quiet,
respectful, submissive behaviors, not to model the world and its
activities. We need a supportive environment for our kids to learn
God-honoring group interaction and study skills. The kids need to
see an expectation for them to respond to other adults in a quiet,
modest manner. Often the church doesn’t expect such behavior of its
children, nor provide the forum.

We spend much of our day in biblical teaching. Thus, our kids
are bored with the average children’s curriculum or presentation.
Some churches do, however, provide great programs such as Bible
Quizzing and opportunities to live out specific scriptural
teaching.

We try to model worship for our children. I believe children
naturally learn to be responsible, worshipful adults in an adult
environment better than in a kid environment. We need to know our
children are welcome in worship services. Often, we’ve known they
aren’t.

Children’s ministries often take the approach that social time
is simply play, talk, or movie time. Why shouldn’t children be
guided into individual or group acts of service, appropriate for
their age? Too often, we forget that children are here to serve the
Lord and his people — not to be served — and that if we don’t
teach them to serve while they’re young, they won’t serve when
they’re adults. Service is something God’s church could be more
dedicated to — perhaps something we as a home-schooling family
could help facilitate.

Not all home-schoolers face these issues in the same manner we
do. Each home-schooling family is as unique as any other, with
unique needs and responses. May God bless you as you minister to
your home-schooling families and allow them to minister within your
body.

– Debbie L. Barker

– Michelle Van Loon is a children’s minister in Waukesha,
Wisconsin.

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