by Dr. Kevin Jones
In a recent article by The Washington Post, the alarm was sounded for the mental health crisis in our public schools. There is a nationwide shortage of mental health workers in middle schools, high schools, and universities alike. The article states that our schools are 100,000 people short of mental health workers.
Who is to step in? It’s you and me. It’s the teachers, the social workers, the Christ-followers who must bring hope to these dark places and difficult times.
God Is Watching, and the Work Is Not in Vain
Francis Schaeffer knew this when he said, “Regardless of a man’s system, he has to live in God’s world.” This is God’s world, so whatever systems are being implemented, disputes or clashes are taking place, they are occurring under the authority and sovereignty of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Whether disputing global warming, immigration laws, school choice, or school culture, all disputes are seen and governed by God.
This truth gives the Christian great comfort. A comfort that our work is not in vain. A comfort that God is watching, and He will reward those who diligently seek and trust in Him. It is also a comfort to know our God is a God of justice and righteousness, and we are to search out, fight for, and practice these truths as the Lord gives us capacity, especially in the classroom, a clinic, or social service agency.
The Capacity for Change
God is sovereign, but He has given us capacity for change. Pastor and scholar Carl F. H. Henry said it best: “If we seriously hope to shape these times, we cannot remain in a state of suspended animation between ecumenical pluralism for which enthusiasm has died, and evangelical unanimity that accommodates observable disunity.”
And that is why our School of Education and Social Work exists. Our students are trained to shape the times by allowing their doctrine to drive them to duty for those in need.
What’s the Big Deal About Education?
Education is important because God has given us the capacity to learn, think, and reason, and Christians believe these things should be done unto God. Non-Christians believe these things can be done with whatever one thinks is morally right or economically advantageous. Education is important because it is within the parameters of what we understand about reality that drives what education should or could look like. So, important questions to ask are, “What values are driving the process of education?” and “What and whose agendas are driving the process of education?” I cannot fully develop the answers here but will offer a birds-eye view and a few reasons why we need more Christian teachers and Christian social workers all around the world and serving in the public square.
Most people do not have an issue with education; the only issue is when a person's goals, desires, or values are not lived out in the educational system in a way that is agreeable and palatable for them, especially when people pay into a common pool to support education. For example, most people would say it is important to teach children to read. Although not always the case, there is a common value in teaching children to read. However, one may value a certain curriculum approach to reading that others do not value. That is where the problems arise. So,
we can all say together, “Let's teach children to read.” The friction only comes when we have to decide on
The approach shows what one values. When values are not met, resentment, disenfranchisement, bitterness, and separation occur. So, the problem of education can be seen as a value problem. You can replace the word “reading” in the above paragraph with writing, mathematics, morals and ethics, or chemistry, and the same will remain true.
Why is there so much focus on what is happening in schools around the nation?
Albert Einstein once remarked, “We live in a day of perfect means and confused goals.” The Holy Scripture tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish” (Prov. 29:18a, KJV).
There is a focus on education because people have agendas: political, social, emotional, spiritual, and financial. However, the people articulating the goals are articulating goals in opposition to what we know is true, and the vision is not for God’s kingdom to come.
There is focus on education because schools provide a captive audience. What better place to plant seeds and hope for growth than with a stationary and somewhat intellectually vulnerable population under the guise of helping children. Those who are concerned with moving an agenda, whether godly or ungodly, are focused on schools.
The believer is focused on schools because we love all image-bearers and understand what is at stake: God’s glory. Therefore, believers should have a heart bent toward schools and social agencies. We understand that children, who know nothing of public policy and politics, can be taught with the knowledge of the world or the knowledge of God. Christian teachers and social workers serve children at higher risk for being forgotten by society. I have witnessed our students in the field engaging, loving, educating, and caring for God’s children. We need more students to serve as His ambassadors to the lost. Not only in the United States, but in Cambodia, Zambia, Guatemala, Ireland, and Haiti.
Much Is at Stake
There is a lot at stake when we talk about education, particularly K–12 education. Today, entering classrooms and social care facilities all over the nation are little children — boys and girls of all ethnic backgrounds — who may not have the same access to food, water, loving parents, counselors, pastors, or equitable opportunities as someone a few miles away from their home.
The Cedarville University School of Education and Social Work prioritizes putting God-fearing people who love Jesus and love His glory in places to love people. We exist to lead people through our daily activity to the throne of grace and feet of Jesus.
Equipping Christian Teachers
Teachers are expected to further the social and intellectual understanding of their students. They assist with the safety, health, and other concerns that influence the education of their students. Moreover, society expects teachers to offer some form of moral development to students. All of these opportunities are a high calling.
However, what the world sees as having a high moral calling, the Christian educator understands as wanting to be salt and light; they want to cultivate hearts, not simply toward a more ethical calling — although those things are good — but to have the hearts of children turn toward God.
How Cedarville University equips Graduates who stand for truth in the classroom
It is important for Cedarville to equip our students well!
Without the right equipment, work is harder — sometimes impossible — and is almost always dangerous. My children play soccer. Without shin guards, a player's legs are vulnerable to either an accidental or intentional kick from the other team. They wear cleats because the cleats give them the footing they need for success and safety. So, soccer players wear shin guards and appropriate footwear to keep them safe and performing optimally. It would be reckless for me as a parent to send Kennedi and Kevin, Jr., to a soccer field half prepared for a game. How much more reckless for us to send students to hard places not rightly fit with the armor of God?
So, we equip our students with theological weaponry, which is the Word of God, and pedagogical tools. Theological truths come through many means. We have chapel daily where our students sit under the preaching of the Word; they take part in discipleship groups, class devotions, and a host of organizations that point hearts toward King Jesus. The greatest need we have is to know Christ and accept Him as LORD, Savior, and King. We train our students to understand that all men are as grass and knowledge as nothing before a holy and righteous God. What is a perfect grade point average if you do not know Jesus? Nothing.
In closing, I offer another thought from Carl F. H. Henry: “Educators should therefore confront value clarification in public schools where one person's values are frequently seen to be just as legitimate as another's and where a relativistic view of morality all too often prevails.”
Henry does not tell us to run and hide but to confront. Confront spaces that would diminish the glory and worship of Christ. Confront values that lean away from God. After all, this is God’s world, and we are His servants.