If you want to change education in America, all you need is a church. That's what a community in Columbus, Ohio is preaching to the rest of the country with the opening of Westside Christian School. This fall, thanks to eight local churches and some private donations, the neighborhood of Hilltop is opening a special charter school for children who aren't getting the best instruction -- or values -- from government classrooms. "We want to help our kids grow up with a Christian worldview," said Pastor Ben Douglass. And you can too.
It's a vision that's been in the works for local pastors for some time. Once they get this K-2nd grade school off the ground, Douglass explains that there are plans for at least 12 more across the Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN). Paying special attention to low-income and underserved neighborhoods, the head of OCEN says they're trying to "identify churches in those areas who are willing to start a school using existing facilities," McIntosh said. "It's driven by this sense that it is part of our calling as Christians to provide education for children."
Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, has been involved in the Westside project from the beginning but says it really took off with the explosion of indoctrination parents were seeing. "The government-run education system is failing kids academically and especially in inner cities. You see kids in high school who can't read, but then really what we've seen exposed over the last few years is the moral corruption of kids -- whether it's critical race theory or the LGBT ideology that's permeated every classroom across America. And the question was, what are we going to do to get serious about this problem?"
Baer says that one of the best things Ohio did was build a "robust school choice system through vouchers," and that's what helped them build out a model for churches to "get in the game of educating kids full time by starting schools in their existing Sunday school classroom space." This is a model, he prays, that "we're going to see at hundreds of churches over the next two years," he told "Washington Watch."
To a lot of churches and communities, it probably seems daunting to start a Christian school. People worry that it's cost-prohibitive or they don't have the salary for teachers or infrastructure. But that's all the more reason, Baer says, to fight for school choice in your area. Under the Buckeyes Ed Choice program, "low-income kids are eligible for a state sponsored voucher that can be used in a private Christian education. So that's what makes this first pilot school really attainable for this church to launch."
That said, Baer believes that the state's help is only part of the equation. A lot of this movement comes down to the congregation's priorities. "Is the church [ready] to recognize that we have a real discipleship crisis in our country today? What is forming our children? That's the question we need to be asking. And if churches are honest with ourselves today, we have to be honest that [the culture and public schools] are forming our kids way more than the churches. And once you sort of acknowledge that, it makes all of these other issues just logistical questions that we can work through."
Education is a mission field right now, and there's no better place for the church to invest their time and money than raising up the next generation in the Word and values of God. In Hilltop, the local churches have decided, "We might still be doing missions overseas, but we're going to bless our local community and pour into the families that are here through this school."
If you're inspired by Columbus's congregations and want to do something similar, FRC has a special resource by Joseph Backholm called, "Why Every Church Should Start a Christian School." In it, he argues that Christians don't need to "retreat from the world -- we need to build the communities and institutions that allow the gospel to be the most significant influence on our children. We have to stop outsourcing education."
For more, don't miss our special "Reclaiming Education for the Gospel" Zoom event on April 12 at 1:00 p.m. (ET) hosted by FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview. Click here to register!