A Gift that Keeps on Giving: Why I am Grateful for a Christian Education
Before I begin, I would like to say that I recognize that religion can be a very touchy topic; I am risking stepping on toes and distracting some from my main point and so I have made a list of what the message of this article does not discuss.
What this article is not about:
1. It’s not about being affluent.
2. It’s not about bragging rights.
3. It’s not about being private and prominent.
4. It’s not about being churched or the vigilant or the exceptional.
5. It’s not about bashing public schools.
6. It’s not even about #privateschoolprobz
Whoa, I am glad we got that out of the way!
I grew up in a public school system - from the first day of preschool to the end of ninth grade. Then I moved. And like a typical grade school student, I transferred to a new school. In my case though, I transitioned from a public to private school.
Although I spent a majority of time in public school, I was still able to see both sides of the public versus private (Christian) school debate.
I attended Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama. Go Lions! Initially, private school was a culture shock, but from my perspective today it has been a gift that has continued to minister to me even after I graduated.
I still tell others that receiving a Christian education was and still is so valuable to me – especially at the secondary school level. It shaped, molded, and equipped me in ways I never fathomed.
I should also preface by stating that I realize this article can never speak to a Christian education across the board; it’s not a one-size-fits-all article. These are simply my experiences and insights.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity, and I pray others have the same experiences with which I have been blessed. Here’s why.
1. Christianity isn’t just a “Sunday Subject”
Why? It’s not something we can check off our to-do lists after Church. It’s something that you have to work at every single day. I am thankful that this was incorporated into the curriculum as a required course.
Let me take a moment to dispel a myth; Bible class wasn’t about indoctrinating a student. Besides, the millennial generation hates feeling like they are getting preached at or judged. Myself included. Jesus’ message was presented to us in a way that encouraged us to live in a real relationship with Him. It was about studying the Bible and debating contemporary issues. We were invited to raise our hands and ask difficult questions – which is something that you cannot do during Sunday service. Also, something that you do not learn in church is about other religions and their beliefs – and we were able to learn those lessons in senior bible. That was a valuable experience, in and of itself.
Teenagers nowadays are hit with so many different challenges than those who have come before us. Older generations may dispute this, but it is true. And no – it’s not just acne outbreaks or hormonal changes or even how unfortunate we sometimes look in our Snapchat selfies. It’s being negatively influenced, peer pressured, tempted, bullied – and some of those encounters are in newfound ways (i.e. cyberbulling). Teens also are experiencing more anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This is another reason why being equipped with a Christian education is so important. Brokenness happens, and yes, it happens in every community, income level, and walk of life.
Let me now tell you how my education has helped me cope with frustrations of the psyche.
I know like most, I have struggled with anxiety and stress. I believe it’s not something I have been able to manage by myself. I have chosen to believe that God is bigger than any problem I have and may face. I comprehend that He has had a purpose and calling for my life long before I ever realized it (see: Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) (side note: this message is crucial to hear as a senior in high school).
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
And I realize that when life has constantly thrown curveballs in my direction, the power of prayer has delivered and rescued me from those storms. And while all of that sounds like commonsense – those lessons are very countercultural.
2. Culture (in a private, Christian school)
The term culture in a small, private school setting is defined a bit differently. Commonly referred to as “the bubble,” it is this glorious (I use this term lightly) environment often described as a place where students are sheltered and naïve from the outside culture or world. And some students absolutely hate it. I cannot imagine why that is.
Obviously, I can.
I would defend the bubble, though. To some degree, it was more helpful than toxic. And it’s probably because I have seen the distinction between having it and not.
Were there times when I felt it was all too extra or that I was being overly sheltered? Absolutely! For the most part, it was also very beneficial – and I realize now there are pros and cons to every scenario (even being in a bubble). In this case, I can see how the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
In the sheltered environment, I can tell you honestly I felt more encouraged, uplifted, and inspired than I did elsewhere.
For instance, in one of the subjects I absolutely despise – that subject being math – we took time out of class time during homecoming week to discuss much BIGGER problems than math problems. No pun intended.
The teacher gave each of us a bible verse on an index card, and she tailored it to each individual student. On mine, she wrote…