In the fall of 1957 (yes, that dates me, but that’s OK) when I entered first grade in Union Springs Adventist Elementary, I was scared and shy. So shy that I was unwilling to raise my hand to use the bathroom, and the worst happened—liquid under my desk.
Though my education started poorly, the good memories are there: The teacher who introduced us to the insides of dead animals, such as a lamb, a chicken and a cow’s eye I carried around in my lunch box. The teachers who would come to our home and just relax with us. The teacher who, at the end of the year, made time during the last day to individually pray for each of us and request Jesus to develop in us the skills she could see.
All these things are the value-added benefits of Adventist education, things very uncommon in the public system. Adventist education is not just what is contained in the lesson plans. It also includes the moments when the teacher seizes the opportunity to point our youth to Jesus and His love—to nudge the student to a full understanding of the need to remain close to Him during the good and very bad.
Utilizing available resources
In his latest editorial Elder Tom Lemon addresses some of the barriers confronting families making the decision whether to place their children into Adventist schools. He mentions four: cost, convenience, lack of information and quality.
For those thinking that the average yearly cost of elementary tuition ($3,300) or $16,000 to attend a boarding academy is impossible, let me share that our schools and churches across the Mid-America region collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for student aid each year. If you want your student in an Adventist school, there is almost always a way to do it.
We only have strong influence over our kids’ minds once, and for a short few years. Who is influencing the development of right and wrong ideas and attitudes in your kids? Moses said he would not leave Egypt without taking their young with them. Are we willing to risk having young minds influenced by someone who does not agree with or uphold our beliefs?
We now live in a world that expects convenience, yet it is surprising how we can obtain most things we want if they are a high enough priority. No, we do not have schools in every community where there is an Adventist child, but there are ways to direct those young minds to Jesus just the same. The Adventist Learning Community is a growing source of resources for all church ministries. This source does not provide a complete school curriculum, but will provide parents with resources to use with their student who is attending a public school.
The North American Division has produced promotional print materials for conference schools to use in informing constituents.
For digital promotion, each school in the NAD has a simple website through Adventist School Connect that can be personalized. The URL to access these sites is cumbersome, but schools can purchase their own URL relatively inexpensively through sites such as godaddy.com and register.com. There is likely someone in your church or school community who would maintain the site.
Demographically the number of potential Adventist students is also declining. Many of our schools have become mission schools because of the number of students from the community attending. So what will happen to our schools as the enrollments keep declining? I do not have the knowledge of God to know that. But I do know He is blessing in big ways in our schools, both tiny and large. And as I walk the grounds of our campuses, I am confident in the future leaders I see there.
This article was also published in the July/August 2015 print edition of OUTLOOK. It was written by John Kriegelstein, director of education for the Mid-America Union.