Christian Education—A Community Stewardship ChallengeYou want to send your kids to a Christian school but are worried about the costs? Here are some ideas on how to finance a Christian school education.
Training a child involves teaching, modeling by parents and setting up training experiences. All three begin at home and are complemented by the modeling of others and through programs at church: in Sunday school, faith instruction, and children's programs like Gems and Cadets.
… we put wants aside because we have a longer-term priority in mind …
A third augmenting resource is your local Christian school. The key word is complement. Home—church—Christian school—it's like a three-legged stool. However, the most important strand or leg is the home.
As a parent and supporter of Christian education at all levels I'm grateful for Christian education. Some people describe how they met the cost of Christian Education as a sacrifice. I don't see it that way. Is it a sacrifice to defer an up-to-date home, a new car, a boat or other unnecessary things that we might want but we really don't need? I don't think so. I believe we put these wants aside because we have a longer-term priority in mind—our children.
It is a priority that is consistent with a desire to confront the influence of our culture on our children today. With so much that is antagonistic to Christian upbringing today, I can't afford not to send my children to a Christian school. However, I do recognize that there are some who do not see it that way, especially at the higher levels of education when parenting becomes especially challenging.
Ron Blue, who wrote the book, Mastering Your Money in Marriage, makes the following key point when it comes to money:
- All of us have limited resources.
- Consequently, there are more alternative uses of money available than money available.
- Today's decisions determine destiny. (A dollar spent is gone forever and can never be used in the future for anything else.)
- The longer the term of perspective, the better is the decision making.
Forty years ago when many Christian schools were started in Canada, it was a struggle for parents to meet the cost of Christian education. They had to make difficult choices as the reality of the four points above proved true. Even so, they were faithful to a longer-term perspective.
Steps for parents considering Christian education for their children
First, make it a matter of priority. It has to be priority for both parents: parents have to collaborate in curtailing wants and managing the resources that God has entrusted to them. As children reach high school age, I believe that children too, have to make it their priority as well.
Second, in all marriages, it is important that husband and wife work together when it comes to financial stewardship, especially when it comes to meeting the cost of Christian education. Sitting down and working out a budget is a critical and important step in managing finances on a current basis.
My wife Edith and I have been using a simple spreadsheet cash flow manager for 16 years now. I see it as a dynamic budgeting tool we credit with giving us peace of mind even when things were very tight for us financially. Because we were using it, it was rare for us to experience surprises. We often knew months in advance when we would be experiencing a particularly heavy drain on our finances. We worked as a team to meet the challenge. (If you are interested I can e-mail you a copy free of charge—just ask for it referring to this article.)
Third, it requires the collaboration of the Christian school support community: parents, teachers, grandparents, supporters, faculty, churches, etc. As the last of Ron Blue's points indicates, we need to have a longer-term perspective: the development of future Christian leadership.
… it requires the collaboration of the Christian school support community …
There are many ways to collaborate—many that run counter to our "I-can-do-it-myself" culture. Here are a few:
- Advice on making major purchases: affordable homes, good used cars (let others pay the high cost of depreciation—you need the money for Christian education). Sharing and trading expertise with each other so that wise purchases are made.
- Technical support: keeping the cost of servicing a used car in check and working together on home repairs e.g., replacing the roof and other unexpected costs. Trading volunteer services goes a long way to meeting the cost (Christian contractors who share your convictions can make it work).
- Working with others: Car pooling, baby-sitting exchanges, sport equipment trading pools, bulk purchasing through the school, using coupons, etc.
- Be sensitive to the impact that your choices may have on others, i.e., designer clothes, sports participation or recreation. You might be able to afford to give your son the use of an ATV, but is that wise?
- Grandparents/empty nesters: be ready to help by providing interest free loans that parents can apply for to make up the shortage in their cash flow. Money that can be repaid to the fund when kids are graduated and the cash flow improves (which has been our experience as empty nesters). Many schools have set up their own foundations or endowments or work in groups to provide assistance to parents.
There are more ways that you can consider. Connect with a Christian School and you'll discover that many of them have Development Directors or other volunteers who work in the local community to provide support and assistance to families that need it. As partners with CSS, many Christian schools are experiencing a significant increase in Bequests. These Bequests serve to enhance the future viability of Christian schools.
Check with an accountant. Most Christian school support communities have members who have financial training. Get their advice. They can also determine what the real net cost of Christian education is after income tax deductions. CSS can also help you get solid advice.
Readers are invited to share stewardly tips so that we all can make better use of the resources God has entrusted to us. Submit your suggestions and your contact information (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we can acknowledge your contribution or ask for more details.
Rick DeGraaf works for Christian Stewardship Services in Markham, Ontario. E-mail: email@example.com.
Originally published Christian Courier, March 20, 2006.
Used with permission of author. Copyright © 2006 Christianity.ca.