I haven’t blogged in quite a while & I haven’t written a blog on one of my most passionate topics in a while, so I am going to do both now!
Over the last two plus years I have had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Pacific Union Conferences’ Executive Committee. Every committee we receive reports. Reports on baptisms, tithe, race demographics, education. Let me just say all of them are scary sad…well the race demographics are good if you’re not Caucasian, us white folk need to learn how to share Jesus…but that is another topic for another time…but the rest are frightful.
The statistic that saddens me the most, because I credit Adventist Ed and praying friends and family with leading me to Jesus, is the consistent decline in Adventist Education primary & secondary enrollment! Consistent decline, not an aberration, a trend, a consistent trend. And from what I hear it’s not just our Union in North America that is experiencing such declines.
So what do we do? Well take ’em or leave ’em here are 13 of my thoughts on what should change in Adventist Ed in no particular order.
- We should go back and analyze all the principles of the book “Education” by Ellen G. White and ask ourselves, “is our school applying and living by all these principles. Some methods may be different, but are all the principles from this book being incorporated and maintained within our schools?”
- As parents we should never criticize the teachers in front of our kids! And even if we side with our child we should not do it in such a way that our children will learn to disrespect their teachers. Just within the last 5 years I have found out there were times my parents went to bat for me with a couple of my teachers. I’m actually glad I didn’t know this then; if I had I might have been even more disrespectful than I already was. In our home the rule always was, the teacher is ALWAYS right, even when they aren’t, because he/she is the teacher. Unless they ask you to do something immoral or they physically abuse you, they are the teacher. Period!
- We need to remember that our education system was established to serve the church, not the other way around. What do I mean by this? Our schools were established to develop missionaries (in whatever field God lead them in to) for Jesus through the church. This means that the children were taught that the value of a career was only found in as much as it gave opportunity to lead people to Jesus and connect with His body, The Church. This also means that schools should not have their calendars dictate the calendar of the church, rather school calendars should be built in such a way as to decrease the time students and their parents are away from their local churches. Third, schools need to recognize that the growth of the schools is dependent upon the growth of the church, thus a financial system should not be put in place that would hamper churches from providing ministries and training that leads to growth.
- When I was a child many of the teachers in the schools also taught Sabbath Schools. Now almost not a one can be found. To at least some extent this may be in part to number 2 above; if you’re criticized by parents at school why would you want to come to to church and be criticized as well? That is a fair enough point, but often the reasoning I hear that teachers don’t teach Sabbath School is because they need a break from the kids. Again though the counsel we received in the founding of our education system was that school teachers should also instruct on Sabbath mornings so that children would see their teachers in service to God & His church. Yes, it is hard and wearisome, but maybe that could be lessened by the following…
- Decrease the busyness! This needs to happen in church and school. We are doing far too much of unnecessary things! I speak with parents all the time that are run ragged (and their pocketbooks are shrinking) by all the extra events they are taking their kids to at our schools. Both church and school need to impress upon families the value of being at home and spending time in a home environment. This can’t happen if there are a million different activities happening week in and week out at both church and school. Also, our teachers are then exhausted and the last place they want to be on a Sabbath is with the kids…but that is exactly where they need to be on a Sabbath, at least for that one hour of Sabbath School time.
- We must change the way finances are managed within our schools it is a stress that pastors nor teachers should have to deal with, in fact here is the counsel given, “This matter should not be left to ministers or committee men, who have no time to take this burden. The teachers are not to be left with this responsibility. These matters of school business call for talent which has not been provided (she is saying not provided by the conference which she says it is their duty to provide).” 2TT 474
- Of course we must also acknowledge if we are in financial difficulties why that is, “If our educational work had been carried on in accordance with the instruction given for our guidance, the dark shadow of heavy debt would not today be hanging over our institutions.” 2TT 474. This is a repeat of number one. If the system as a whole is suffering then the system as a whole must have gone off course at some point. Let’s get back to the basics of who we are what we’re about.
- We need to stop trying to raise money through gimmicks: raffles, benefit concerts, special meals, etc.. We should do as was done in the Bible, place the need before the people and then pray for God to sustain. By doing the events above we actually make it harder to receive the next time. We are teaching our people to give only if they have received.
- Devalue sports! I am one that absolutely loves sports! I played organized sports all the way up into my first year of college. In our schools though sports has become of far too much value. These “friendship tournaments” are not so friendly. But even if they were, they are just another thing that take away from the true purpose of our schools, which is not competition but service to Jesus. You want to take kids away multiple weekends a year, take them to serve the poor, not serve themselves in sports. Take them to spend time in nature or at prayer conferences. Not sporting events that we try to make pseudo Jesus centered by having a church service with all the teams on Sabbath morning. I again love sports, I don’t mind folk playing sports, but in most of our schools where one maybe two days a year are given to “community service days” isn’t it shameful that one to two days A WEEK are given to sports either through games or practices? Also, am I the only one that finds it sad that we can afford an abundance of sports activities yet most of our schools are now lacking those who teach outdoor education: gardening, camping, whatever? Isn’t it sad that most our schools no longer have true home economics instructors, true librarians, true shop and wood working teachers? Is anyone else depressed that there aren’t high quality bands and choirs in ALL our schools? But hey, we have sports. This saddens me.
- We need to stop being silos! Churches and church members need to affirm ADVENTIST EDUCATION, not a particular school! By the way churches should stop being silos too! A pastor that tries to make a member feel guilty for going to another Adventist church should go into a closest and pray ’till their priorities are straightened out. But I digress…the question shouldn’t be, “which Adventist school are our kids going to?” The only important question is, “are they attending an Adventist school.” And guess what, this includes home schooling! Adventist parents that home school should be as soundly affirmed and prayed for as those that teach within our school systems! (And Adventist teachers that teach outside of our Adventist schools should be affirmed and prayed for as well since they are local missionaries in a foreign field!) I believe we have devalued Adventist education by fighting over schools! When you make the thing of value the institution, the structure, the building, the location, rather than the message and the movement, then ultimately that value will fade; because the only people that value institutions, structures, buildings, and locations are the people that built those institutions, structures, and buildings. Teach people to value a philosophy, affirm the ideals of Adventist Ed above all, criticize no one, and all our schools will ultimately benefit!
- Pay teachers more! I wish somewhere along the way we had created a system where every time the health institutes fork out higher salaries for their administrators they had to at the same time set some aside to increase the pay of our Adventist educators. I pick on the Adventist health system b/c they are paid a lot more than the rest of us and thus must have the money somewhere. But somehow we need to compensate teachers better…
- That said, I think we should screen better for teachers as well…a pastor has to explain his/her calling, talk about their faith in Jesus, share his/her commitment to the teachings of our church, discuss their views of evangelism and reaching people for Jesus all before we are hired (and yes I know some bad ones are still hired). Having a Dad that was a teacher in the Adventist Education system for 35 years. A sister that has been in the Adventist Education system for 13 years. Having dated some teachers pre-marriage, I can guarantee you these questions are not often if ever asked. Even having two former teachers on my church staff, I have been told that they were never expected to know what we believe and why we believe it, they were never even firmly taught what we believe and why we believe it…well they had to know that the Sabbath was the Sabbath & we sleep when we die, but as far as the expectation of really teaching our students what we believe and why believe it. They were not held accountable on church attendance. They were not asked about their personal daily devotions. They were not asked if Jesus was their absolute best friend. If Adventist Education is truly about educating for eternity, shouldn’t these things come up?
- Last but not least, to make it a nice even 13…our schools should be prayed over in every single Adventist home!
Take ’em or leave ’em as a parent that will soon have three kids in Adventist Ed, these are my thoughts.
P.S. I would encourage everyone to click on this link and buy (after Sabbath of course) the documentary “The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education it is wonderful! In spite of all our difficulties I still think Adventist Ed is the best option, but we could be so much better and not dying a not so slow, but oh so painful death!