Salt and light.
Most of us have encountered the idea that the government schools are a critical mission field and that our kids, growing up in God fearing homes should be “salt and light” in those dark halls. For years I struggled with responding to this call. Having worked in public schools I knew full well the need for godly folks to walk along side the students who spend their days in a context that largely rejects the creator God. I also knew that my own children needed opportunities to share their budding faith in Christ. But the idea of sending them into that fray seemed wrong to me and it took a few years before I could articulate why. Clarity came when my then 7 year old son Ben became enamored with the idea of being a soldier. It was so clear to me that it would not be until he was physically mature, emotionally mature, had proper training, was fully equipped, and surrounded by a band of like prepared brothers with great leadership that I would be willing to let him march off to serve his country as a soldier. Our public schools are perhaps one of the most challenging mission environments I can think of. Students are relentlessly bombarded with secular ideology masquerading as “neutrality”. Students regularly get the message that a open declaration of faith in Christ represents a disruptive, unwelcome, and even unconstitutional intrusion of religion in the public sphere. All this while the daily drum beat of secularism is to be swallowed whole. For 10 years I worked as a missionary to a local public school, and during that time I became acutely aware how challenging that environment was and how vulnerable the student leaders I worked with were. Things came to a head for me when a rock star student leader broke down and despaired that “we talk so much about influencing this school for Christ, and yet it is they that influence us”, said as she held out her fore-arms to show the invisible scars of the spiritual battle that raged around her. The “great commission” in Matthew 28 calls us to make disciples of all men, and it is clear from scripture that the discipleship of children is the domaine of parents. For a parent to prioritize the discipleship of the children under their roof is obedience, not selfishness. If a parent feels a call to reach the students and faculty in a government school, then it is obedience for them, in their maturity and with the support of their church and perhaps even a missions organization to respond to that call. But like a war zone is no place for 7 year olds, so to is a public school no place for a young, immature Christian.
Ultimately we need to recognize that while yes, we are called to be fishers of men, we were never called to use our children as bait.