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Where do I send my child to school?

February 20, 2024
By Denver Daniel

After nearly thirty years in education, I can confidently share that education is best done when parents understand that education is their primary responsibility. That isn’t to say that educators get a pass, as they are charged with preparing students for the next of their lives - whatever the student’s next will be. Yet, parents who truly understand education will see a school as a supplement to their home and will never believe that the responsibility of educating children shifts exclusively to the schoolhouse. Scripturally, there is never an option for a school to supplant the education from home with the one given in the classroom, and for the most part, schools realize this. Teachers provide students with skills the parent may not have the time or ability to do and support the values first taught at home. Most people have no problem with this vantage point - the problem arises when the skills are coupled with an underlying value system that opposes what is taught at the dinner table. One of the reasons parents are looking for educational alternatives now more than ever stems from many school systems deciding to jump in front of parents and become a community’s value arbiter. This wasn’t always a problem, as a biblical values system was in place even amongst teachers who were not believers. However, the incongruence between the values taught at school and those taught in the Christian home is growing, and we should not be surprised. Public institutions of learning are reflections of public thinking, and this truth should lead Christian parents to ask serious questions before deciding where their children will receive an education. Several key important questions should emerge when reflecting upon where to send your child to school.

1) Will my child be instructed in a system that reinforces the truth of God’s word through academic content?

What is good, beautiful, and true will have origins from God. Therefore, all learning, including academic content, should point to the truth and validity of a biblical view. Much more could be written about this, but a parent should be aware that all truth is God’s truth and that all content worth learning should have a biblical principle behind it. If the school doesn’t provide it, you must.

2) Will my child be taught by people who believe as we do, and if not, do I have the time to actively monitor the worldview ideologies being taught that will contradict my own?

This matters a lot. Our children will encounter teachers, coaches, and mentors who respect, oppose, or believe our worldview. As parents, we constantly vet the responsibility and ability levels of those teaching our children. Should we not employ the same considerations for our children’s spiritual care? A child’s spiritual formation is not exclusive to church, Sunday school, or youth group. Children are being formed spiritually, positively or negatively, by their interactions. Don’t forget that.

3) Will my child have the breadth and depth of opportunities that reveal how the Lord is gifting?

Education should prepare a student to discover their gifts and abilities. As such, care should be given to ensure your chosen school provides ample opportunities for your child to be stretched while being taught. The mission statement at our school stresses that we “Equip Disciples through Exemplary Education.” Our goal is to disciple students through education. We want them to learn how a biblical worldview works in all facets of life. To do so, we need to provide a breadth of experiences in and out of the classroom. Parents should want the same.  

4) Will my child be known or be a number?

Large or small is relative. However, the size of a school and, more importantly, a teacher’s classroom do matter. Does the class allow your son or daughter to be known academically, spiritually, and socially? If the school is too big for the adult to know the child, the school is too big. 

5) Will my child be taught in a school that values excellence?

Beware of any school that shies away from excellence. Ask the school how they define excellence. Your definition may be different. Our school values excellence by having breadth and depth of programming, but never at the expense of striving to have a biblical community. I am the first to cheer for a national merit scholar, an all-state athlete, or a conference championship. These things matter, but they should matter for the glory of God and for the students entrusted to our care - not for the headlines of a paper that will be recycled at the end of the day.

6) Will my child be taught in a school that honors the Bible’s definition of family?

Who would have ever thought that I would be writing this question? I’ll leave it at this - we are commanded to love and honor everyone as those created in God’s image. Not only is it a command, but the mark of a believer is one where we should desire to do so. Additionally, parents are responsible for ensuring that God’s truth is continually being upheld. One clear pattern that has emerged over the last several years is that God’s definition of family is consistently being challenged, and often that challenge is taking place within schools. While there may be many new definitions of family, Christians cling to and teach our children the definition of family that is God-given and provided in His word. You want an educational system that doubles down on that truth.

7) Will my child be around peers whose parents see the world through a worldview similar to ours?

Many of your child’s friends will come from school. Sleepovers, best friends, first dates, etc., often have a nucleus of school. Prayerfully discern where you most likely will find families with values similar to your own. This is not intended to be divisive or elitist, but the Christian family will always have in mind their God-given command to instruct their children to love God completely. It makes sense then that we want our children to have relationships with others who believe the same. Nothing will be fully congruent, and differences can prove beneficial in conversations at your dinner table. Still, a variable for choosing your child’s school should be what educational system is most likely to provide deep relationships that further support your responsibility as a parent.

8) Will your child be exposed to sin where they attend school? 

Sounds like a silly question, but not really. The answer is yes. There is no such thing as a “sin-free” school. The real question is how the school treats the issue of sin. Do they use the Bible as a compass for determining right and wrong? Do they minimize sin or give a license to continue in it as perfectly appropriate? Do they lovingly address sin, lead to repentance, and call students to something far greater than the seasonal pleasure that sin provides? These hard questions are all important as you decide who you want to influence your child and partner with you in their education. 

9) Will your child go to a school that reminds them that their life is not their own and that life extends past time on earth? 

Ecclesiastes shares that a young person should soak up the joys of youth. The word rejoice is used to describe how a young person should view this season of life. Joy, however, is not intended to be gained recklessly or without restraint. The young person is equally reminded that they will give an account to the Lord for choices made with the opportunities given. This truth changes everything. Education does not run through the “what’s in it for me?” filter that is rampant today. Rather, good schools teach that we gain knowledge, experience success, and collect opportunities with full knowledge that our time, treasure, and talent have been given to us by the Lord. We recognize that this life is the shortest time we live as eternity is much longer. Christian parents want a school that reinforces this truth you are teaching at home. A gentle nudge - make sure you are teaching this at home, as the cares of life and deceitfulness of riches can crowd out that truth from our own lives with ease if we are not careful.

10) Will your child attend a school that is interested in you?

The primary audience of a school is the student, yet a good school will recognize that the student is present because the parent has entrusted them to its care. Asking questions about you, providing parenting resources, and always seeking partnership should be an expectation for your child’s place of learning. There will be times of imperfection for certain, but there should always be a striving on the part of the school to partner with the parent and assume your best intention. Similarly, educators love it when parents also assume the best in their efforts - even in times of disagreement.

Some may criticize the questions above with their corresponding answers as an attempt to sway a child toward a certain worldview. My answer would be guilty as charged, as that is what Scripture instructs Christian families to do. I often share that education has an end - educators are educating towards something. Christian parents educate their children so that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. This is our end game - we want our children to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ where the outflow of that relationship causes them to sacrificially love others. We give license to others to support us in educating our children, but never at the expense of our first priority.

A couple of concluding thoughts…

A particular thought pattern to avoid is the one that places your child as the “discipler.” I beg you, don’t send your child to a school whose values differ from yours because you want them to be “salt and light.” As one who worked in a non-Christian educational environment for nearly twenty years, I can safely attest that your child will run into some amazing Christ-honoring educators who treat their workplace as a mission field. I never stopped being a Christian when I went to school. However, there is a significant difference between an adult who understands who they are and understands the opportunity to witness to others versus a child sitting under a teacher's learning. Your child is being formed by the interactions they experience. They will experience teachers and coaches you have taught them to respect. Will they be mature enough to discern truth from error in their instruction? During the teenage years, will they be in an environment where peer pressure will lead them to cling to an alternative worldview as a form of rebellion, or will they be in a place that honors the challenges of being a teen yet doesn’t give license to run away from biblical truth?

One concluding question - is education a “one size fits all” proposition? The answer is no. The Lord does not prescribe a certain form of education. Even within the Christian educational community, there are varying approaches to which parents should become familiar. Homeschooling, Liberal Arts, Classic, Covenantal, Evangelistic, or a combination of them are approaches that immediately come to mind. Give yourself time to learn and prayerfully process where you believe the Lord is leading. Ask questions, experience the school, study - be careful on this one as a school (I lead one) will share their best attributes. You wouldn’t want anything less. if I can’t be the strongest believer in the school, why should I expect you to be? However, what you really want is discernment as to what is the best, not perfect, fit for your family as you raise your child to have deep reverence and love for the Lord. Be willing to investigate a school that builds its foundation upon teaching with eternity in mind, even if all you ever wanted was for your child to play football at your alma mater. As special as that experience may have been for you, your high school has probably changed. The mascot and colors may be the same, but you have no guarantee that the value system has remained the same as what it was ten to twenty years ago. Do the homework and base your decision upon the truth of God’s word - not temporal trappings that will one day fade away.

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Learn more about Open Door Christian Schools at odcs.org
Subscribe to Denver’s blog at Office of the President - Open Door Christian Schools
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dldaniel/
Twitter: @presidentofodcs

Beating Up the Workplace...

February 13, 2024
By Denver Daniel

Are you beating up work more than work is beating up you? Our culture increasingly seems to oppose what God intended us to do - work. The never-ending barrage of articles that discuss “work/life” balance generally portray our vocations as intrusions to living a complete and whole life. “If only I didn’t have to work, I could…” is a constant refrain from many. Don’t get me wrong - we easily can be out of alignment with balancing our responsibilities, but the notion that work, even with its challenges, can not be part of a joy-filled life is simply in error. The false pitting of work against life fits nicely into the adversary’s plan to steal, kill, and destroy (John 14:6). When he steals the purpose of work in our lives, the natural result will be emptiness and resentment. Work is not a necessary evil, nor is it a punishment. Often, it’s our perspective, not our work, that needs to change. Here are three reminders of the world of work that prayerfully will lead you to enjoying the vocation to which God has called you.

1) God, before sin entered into the world, intended us to work. 

Sometimes I believe that people want to blame work for what really is a sin issue. Man’s sin fractured everything. Nothing, including our work, was left unscathed. Our relationship with God, others, ourselves, and the creation that God gave us to steward were all negatively affected. Everything became harder due to sin - including our work. However, that doesn’t mean we weren’t made to work any more than sin’s fracture of relationship means that we shouldn’t try to have friends. God intends us to redeem sin’s fractures by living empowered lives in them. Our challenge is to show the difference between how a new creation in Christ Jesus approaches the duty of work and can find joy in it. We were called to work.

2) Different capacities equal different thresholds.

There seems to be a cultural striving for “less is best.” Routinely, I see people attempting to stifle the abilities of others because they don’t have less of the same gift. We need to remember that God has given us different gifts, and varying degrees of ability within them.  Truth be told and potentially a knock to our pride is that there will be others who have a greater threshold of ability that allows them to achieve more. Accepting this truth will keep us from trying to impose our limits on others. Do not say no to someone else because you need to say no to the same thing. Be empathetic when you ask, but do not exclude someone else from an opportunity because you base their answer upon what yours should be. 

3) Laziness can be just as evident in our conduct as in our product.

Growing up my father regularly shared that the hardest part of life is not having someone else to blame. I don’t know if that is an original “Dad-ism” or one he caught from someone else, but I do know that I use that same sentiment at least three times a week. Work is often blamed for bad behavior or stress. While this certainly can be the case, it is not always. Over the years, people have given me a pass for poor behavior because my job is stressful or the hours are long. While both are true and leave me vulnerable, I have found that most of my bad behavior is due to laziness, not workload. It’s easier to be stubborn. It’s easier to not listen well. It’s easier to be short with people. A lazy faith gives a pass when these things emerge. But here’s the thing - God doesn’t. He expects far greater from us because He has equipped us with far greater than us - Himself. Apostle Paul in Galatians speaks to the fruits of the Spirit being evident in our lives (Galatians 6:22-24). The Lord doesn’t suggest the fruit may be evident. Rather, God shares they will be. That tells me that our jobs can’t be used as an excuse for bad behavior. Besides that, Christ also shares that if anything is so much of a problem that it causes us to sin, it is worth leaving (Matthew 18-7-9). Interpretation - if you can’t keep it together at work, maybe it’s time to find a new job that suits your ability so that you don’t lose your Christian testimony in the job you have now.

No one claims work is easy, but no one should say we shouldn’t work. That sentiment may be a cultural outcry, but we don’t serve culture. We serve a King whose word is filled with numerous instances of working as an act of worship. We will have a really difficult time worshiping our King when we constantly find ourselves complaining about the thing He has given us to provide for our families and further our Christian testimony. Challenges from the workplace may be our Heavenly Father’s way of revealing that the real problem is you. Allow Him to uproot what lingers in us from the kingdom we will leave one day, and replace them with the Kingdom behaviors we now represent (Matthew 5:3-12).

 

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Learn more about Open Door Christian Schools at odcs.org
Subscribe to Denver’s blog at Office of the President - Open Door Christian Schools
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dldaniel/
Twitter: @presidentofodcs

The Sum of Your Life: Three questions that will reveal the sum of your life.

February 06, 2024
By Denver Daniel

Here’s a sobering thought: Your life will pretty much be summed up with three questions…

What did you pursue?
Your life is largely characterized by what you deem significant enough to pursue. You can quickly learn much about a person by what they pursue with their time, talent, and treasure. Your pursuits reveal your priorities and the degree to which you are willing to follow them. People who are passionate about what they want or who they are will leave other things to chase after their priorities. The depth of our aspirations is measured by the degree to which we pursue them. Pursuit always will tell the tale of what is important to you.

For what were you willing to persist?
It is one thing to pursue an interest, but a greater story is revealed for what you are willing to persist. Many people have initial interests, but they are quickly tempered by other competing interests. You reveal what is important by your persistence.  When challenges surface, passionate people dig into what matters to them. Many families will gather for a photo, but the committed family is one who persists through life's challenges and clings to one another. What we are willing to persist in reveals much about us.

What did you promote?
People are willing to champion what is important to them. Proof of that can be found in stadiums around the world where thousands adorn the apparel of their beloved team and scream for their success. There is a reason why family portraits are on office walls and living rooms. There is a reason my “I love my wife” bumper sticker has traveled from office to office with me for nearly thirty years. It’s simple - what adorns our walls, dominates our conversation, and what our lifestyle shares clearly demonstrates what we promote. People champion what is meaningful to them.

After over thirty years of “adulting”, I pray people will know I want to educate in a student-centered way where each student under my care knows they are important to me. I pray people will know that my family is a treasure. In both cases, I want people to see I have chosen to live, imperfectly for sure, a life that reflects the pursuit, persistence, and promotion of students and my family.

One more thing: as a follower of Jesus, our pursuit, persistence, and promotion of Him is above all else. Jesus gives that as the expectation for those who would follow him. Paul shares his passion when he shares, “I have done all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:23).  Peter shares, not only my feet but all of me (John 13:9). The picture is clear. Disciples of Jesus, amid competing interests, have committed themselves to pursuing, persisting, and promoting Christ above all things because they realize the treasure of knowing Him is greater than any other offerings the world can give.

You know this though, right? You know the emptiness that follows pursuing, persisting, and promoting even good things. You know the emptiness of chasing things that ultimately don’t matter or last (Matthew 6:19-24). The reality is that our hearts long for a purpose and passion that will drive us throughout life and its circumstances. This purpose can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Living a life for the Lord marked by pursuing, persisting, and promoting Him as Savior transcends the temporality of life and brings you into full purpose only found in Him (John 14:6)

So why not begin the adventure? Why not invest your life into someone who is truly worth your pursuit, persistence, and promotion? Many who read this may not understand, but let the one who does cling to what ultimately matters most: Christ and His Kingdom.

 

- Denver Daniel, President, Open Door Christian Schools
Learn more about Open Door Christian Schools at odcs.org
Subscribe to Denver’s blog at Office of the President - Open Door Christian Schools
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dldaniel/
Twitter: @presidentofodcs

The Relevance of Rest

January 30, 2024
By Denver Daniel

We live in a crazy world. One where the pace of life and its demands are front and center. Often the pace is reckless as healthcare professionals across the globe continuously share that the current pace of life borders the unsustainable leaving many with both mental and physical health issues. Could it be that the Lord’s concept of rest, which so many deem antiquated or marginalized, has been right all along? There’s no denying we need it - so what exactly is it?

  1. Rest is a reorientation to reverence. (Deuteronomy 5:14,15)
    Sabbath is supposed to be about God - not us. Most of our issues stem from pride consuming our minds to think that we are self-sufficient and capable of meeting life’s demands on our own. Deep down we all know this is folly. Resting God’s way reminds us that we are stewards of the gifts He alone has given. We see that we truly depend upon Him and intentionally set aside time to honor the Lord as the giver of gifts. In a real way, rest is a right-sizing of ourselves.
  2. Rest is emptying ourselves from effort. (Deuteronomy 5:14) 
    Taking a break from our efforts breaks down the illusion of our control. Don’t misunderstand - God expects us to work and maximize the gifts He has given us. We should put forth much effort to grow our gifts, but building an intentional pause from our efforts reminds us that God is in control - not us. We are called to reverence God for the giving of gifts, and we also need to recognize that God, not our efforts, is in control of them. Ceasing from work reminds ourselves that we ultimately rely on Him and not ourselves.
  3. Rest is separation from stuff. (Deuteronomy 5:14)
    There will naturally be a separation from our daily rhythms if we pause from the marketplace of life. We separate ourselves from life’s “stuff” to reorient to the other Kingdom we represent. Rhythms can become ruts and the ruts can become so deep that we can’t see the horizon. The daily grind serves as a shovel that just keeps digging the rut deeper. Resting God’s way reminds us that the stuff we will do after resting is to be a reflection of God’s majesty and His Kingdom’s will.
  4. Rest is time spent together. (Deuteronomy 5:14) 
    God’s sabbath rest affected the entire community. He called the leaders to stop working and to ensure those under their care stopped their efforts as well. Sabbath was a holy calling intended to be communal. One reason the fellowship with believers is so vitally important, including on a day of rest, is that you are with others who reorient themselves to reverence God. The collective weight of a community taking time to rest together, when the majority of our time is spent in communities where this is not the case, adds collective strength to our reverence, our emptying, and our separation.

There are many who would dismiss rest as no longer required, antiquated, or simply not possible. However, what would happen in a believer’s life if we built in sabbaths that intentionally separated us from the grind of life? Would we not be stronger believers? Would we not be healthier? Would we possibly get a full night’s rest? All of these issues are common to the citizens of the kingdom to which we are strangers. As Christians, we are intended to be different. Maybe one place to take a serious look at the difference is how you will intentionally plan to rest the way God intends.

Learn more about Open Door Christian Schools at odcs.org
Subscribe to Denver’s blog at Office of the President - Open Door Christian Schools
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dldaniel/
Twitter: @presidentofodcs

Multiple hats do not look good in the mirror

January 18, 2024
By Denver Daniel

Multiple hats don’t look good in the mirror. Seriously, how many people do you know who would be bold enough to be a fashionista and adorn more than one hat at a time? So silly - correct? Yet figuratively, we do it all the time.

If I had a nickel for every time someone shared that I was wearing too many hats, I would have been able to retire years ago. Over a particular season of my life, well-meaning people regularly shared with me that the pace of my life was anything but normal. The problem - it seemed normal to me.  Not only did it seem normal, but I enjoyed the fruits of my labor.  Bills were paid, the kids had what they needed, and I was happily married to my wife.  My “normal” was working for me, regardless of what others believed about my fast-paced life they believed would ultimately lead to collapse.

For a bit of context, my normal was working two jobs: one as a public school administrator and another as an assistant pastor. Normal was about sixty to eighty hours a week, constantly fatigued, constantly stressed, yet seeing success. My normal didn’t appear to have loss or a need for rescue. The reality was that I was forfeiting my God-given job as a husband and father to serve others. I defended my pace by believing that I was in the Lord’s work and that fatigue and time away from my family were a necessary cost of leadership. My life was blessed but without joy. I found myself doing ministerial work without a ministerial heart. I needed help but didn’t see it. Yet the Lord saw fit to rescue me from what I didn’t know so that I could focus on the things that mattered most to Him. How did He do it? How He often does things - in the strangest of ways.  

I discovered hope and help in Jesus when He threw me a curveball. My children attended a Christian school where my wife worked as well. After serving four years as a board member at the school, an opportunity arose for me to become their next President. After a season of prayer, my wife and I said yes to the new adventure and uncertainty of what a new job offers. I still planned on continuing my work as an assistant pastor, but I was so excited to have two jobs that directly aligned with ministry. It was at this time though, that the Lord began to pull me away from my work at the church. The details are complex and the spider web intricate, but after over twenty years of service to Him in a local congregation, God worked in my heart to resign my leadership position there.  I would have never dreamed that this would be a reality and, candidly, I would have said no to the new job if I had known. Our new adventure did not seem so grand. After years in a large public school system where I was making an excellent wage, I found myself working in a small Christian school making significantly less and that minus the part-time salary afforded to me in my pastoral position. After years of service in a local church, my family and I were looking for a new church. How could these crazy turn of events, all in less than a year, possibly lead to less stress and more hope/help? 

As strange as it sounds, Jesus drew me into what mattered most to Him: me. I don’t share that arrogantly, but my help came from when Jesus reminded me that He wanted a relationship with me more than He wanted all of the stuff that I was doing in His name. The Lord showed me that He wanted me to minister to my wife and children in the same way that I had been ministering to others. In a very real way, Jesus peeled all the stuff I was doing away so that He could give me clarity and peace found only in a relationship with Him. 

Psalm 1 shares that the blessed man is the one who finds Himself in God’s word, delighting in its truth and meditating on its principles. The psalmist goes on to share that this type of man is like a tree planted firmly by streams of water that will bear fruit in its season. The strength and fruit have nothing to do with the man’s resume. The key is not the stuff we do, the key is our relationship with Him. Is that your story? As strange as it may seem it wasn’t mine and having gone through that season, I am well aware it could become mine again. Our stories will never be one of contentment and peace when they are built upon the list of things we do - even if they are done for Him. Rather, the blessed life comes from knowing we are in union with Christ by God’s grace, and He invites us into that story today. Why not accept the invitation?

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