Volume 8, Issue 1: Africanus
In contemporary Christian circles, when the subject of boarding school comes
up in discussion,sooner or later someone will quote Mark 10:29 or Matthew 19:29
out of context and commend the missionary for sending off his
children for the sake of the gospel. After such discussions some will go home
marveling at such commitment, while others will have forgotten the discussion
long before brushing their teeth and going to bed. And, if a rare individual's
thoughts do indeed stray to some horror story they heard about a missionary kid,
most will only go as far as to cringe at the thought of sending their little
Johnny away. As with so many other areas of our lives, very few of us have sought
to understand this topic in light of God's Word. Unfortunately we have developed
a "cut and paste"approach to the Scriptures, and texts like Mark 10 and Matthew
19, once applied, seem to stick while no one's eyes are on the Book.
With today's Christian family increasingly opting for home schooling or private
Christian education, the tide is turning against those missions and missionaries
that send their children off to boarding schools. In our sue-happy society,
lawsuits against missionary organizations that required parents to send their
children off are not unheard of, with the missionary children doing the suing!
As the pendulum swings, without a biblical understanding of the issue at hand,
we will likely err on the other side of the arc.
Trying, then, to relate Scripture to the topic of boarding school, one does
not get far in one's study before realizing that nowhere has God said that sending
your children to boarding school is unlawful, or a sin. Perhaps
the most convincing texts for keeping them home are found in Deuteronomy 6 and
11, where the Israelites are told to diligently teach God's commandments to their
children and talk of them "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way,
when you lie down, and when you rise up." However, does this mean that a parent
may never be absent from his children? Certainly not. In the God-ordained conquest
of Canaan, because of the nature of war, fathers were no doubt very often gone
from their families. 1
Though some would still like to argue that boarding school is wrong, they miss
a more central question. Who is responsible for how our children turn out?
I can well imagine that there will be some of today's home schoolers --
not to mention missionaries -- who, having kept the children home and then seeing
them rebel and leave the faith, will say to themselves and others, "We did all
we could; after all they have their own free will." However, Scripture does
not leave us that option. The Bible teaches that parents -- ultimately, fathers --
are to take the responsibility for their children rebelling against them and
the Lord. The example is set for us in 1 Timothy and Titus, where elders are
required to have reverent, obedient, and believing children. Not having reverent,
obedient, and believing children is equated with a failure on the father's part.
If this is the case with an elder or a man aspiring to be an elder, he is disqualified
on the basis of his inability to run his house well. Running your household
well is one of the requirements for running God's household, the church. The
responsibility lies with fathers, like it or not.
This principle is applicable to everyone. If our children do not turn out, we
are to take full responsibility. For those that are or would be elders, there
are public consequences. Most missionaries function as elders even if they are
not sent out as such and should be held to the standards of elders. If their
children do not believe and rebel, they should be asked to leave the field; and
if they refuse, they should be disciplined by the church or churches which sent
them.Approaching the subject of boarding school this way, the question immediately
becomes, "Is it wise to send your children to boarding school?" and not, "It
is a sin to send your children to boarding school?" Theoretically, if a parent
can see to the nurturing of his children in every respect -- morally, physically,
emotionally and spiritually -- while trusting them into the hands of others, then
all power to him. However, from my own personal experience with boarding schools,
most parents abdicate their responsibility and desire that the school do the
nurturing. At the boarding school a dilemma arises: with more than ten students
per adult, it becomes impossible to keep the standards that the parents have.
With several dozen or more children, coming from families with different sets
of standards, it is obvious that the boarding school can only enforce a common
denominator -- in short, "parents get less than they think they're getting."
Having grown up as a missionary kid and having spent eight years in boarding
school, I personally cannot trust my children to those who will not be held responsible. The
stakes are too high!