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Selling your Pastor on Homeschool Ministry

By Eric Wallace
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #02, 1993.

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Eric Wallace


In response to my first column, some of you are probably wondering, “How can I start a ministry like Harvester Teaching Services in my church?” This column will expand on some practical ideas and suggestions you might consider in starting a home schooling ministry.

Whatever the current home school climate in your local church may be, you will need to follow the biblical appeal process when asking the leadership to promote home schooling as a ministry. Moses, Queen Esther and Nehemiah are three people who successfully appealed to their leaders. The importance of this fragile first step cannot be underestimated. First impressions are lasting ones. Remember that most of you will ultimately be asking your leaders to begin a ministry that is new to them. They certainly didn’t have a class on home schooling ministry in seminary!

Therefore, I think it’s important from the outset to lay before you some very basic concerns or fears that any pastor, whether he is welcome or hostile to home schooling will probably have.

What Your Church Leaders Might be Afraid Of

The first and most major concern centers around the issue of authority. Leaders, particularly skeptical ones, could be fearful about whether home schooling will undermine their authority, cause division, or hurt the flock for which they bear responsibility.

Church leaders are shepherds. They should be very careful and even skeptical about introducing something “new” into the ministry of the church. As a father or a mother, you are probably concerned about new influences in the lives of your children. When your child brings home a friend you have never met or checks out a library book that escaped your attention, you investigate because you are concerned that your God-given influence or authority might be undermined if the influence proves harmful. Leaders have these same concerns for their congregations.

Another of the fears that your church leaders may have is that home schoolers are or could become a fringe group that will vie for power and ultimately act autonomously. Inviting your leaders and non-home schooling church members to help with your home schooling ministry can eradicate these fears.

An Involved Leader is a Happy Leader

Even if a leader is not home schooling he can offer so much to this ministry. Your leaders need to see that these families are teachable and willing to learn from people who do not home school! The massive number of field trips taken each year should prove that. Invite your leaders to participate. Have your pastor write a regular column in your newsletter. Ask him to teach some apologetics or hermeneutics courses to the parents and children. Maybe he’d like to make a presentation at your support group meeting! He’ll probably be surprised that people are actually interested in hearing him teach other than on Sunday morning! Ask him to use his hobbies and skills outside of his pastoral duties to help out. My pastor does this! In addition to teaching history, he teaches parents how to swim. In turn they teach their children. Ron loves these opportunities and they provide him a welcome change of pace to his often humdrum duties.

Involving your pastor will put him on the inside track of the ministry. In our case Ron’s work with the home schooling families throughout the week definitely encourages him to support our home schooling ministry. Your pastor will most likely be happy as a lark to be involved, and his involvement adds credence to the ministry.

But why stop at the pastor? Every member of your church has at least one gift. If you have 50 members, then you have 50 different ways of ministering to all of your families!

In reality, some families home school but every parent home educates. At Harvester, we have members—of all ages—who use their gifts to aid in the education process. Public or private school children can benefit just as much as home school children from tutoring or participation in a church-wide science fair. We have members who teach voice lessons and computer skills to all children no matter how they are being schooled.

By now, I think you’re beginning to get the picture of how easy involvement can be. This sort of involvement can rip apart many, many paper walls.

Remember, as a local church member, God has placed you under the protective authority of your local church leadership. “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give account” (Hebrews 13:17). This is why church-supported home schooling is the best support group. Christian home schooling puts the spotlight on spiritual battle in the family. To this day, the greatest struggles that the families in my group have are spiritual in nature, not academic.

How to Prepare Your Appeal

Because authority is such a key issue in your appeal, I would strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of Bill Gothard’s booklet “How to Make an Appeal” ($4 postpaid; Institute in Basic Life Principles, Box One, Oak Brook, IL 60522-3001.) This booklet will provide the necessary Biblical principles to prepare you spiritually to approach your leadership. If there are other home schooling families in your church, get together with them, pray and fast about your appeal.

Begin formulating your appeal, keeping in mind the types of concern leaders will have. Give them some basic information on the general characteristics of schooling. How many families home school? Is it legal? What kinds of curriculum do parents use? And, of course, what introduction would be complete without some attention given to the socialization question. Think about how you were introduced to home education. Include information that was helpful for you. Invite your church leaders over to your house for a meal. Let them “inspect” the fruit of your labors! Show them your records and curriculum. Take them through a day in your life as a home school family. (Just make sure it’s a good day!)

A list of several excellent introductory materials that would be helpful in your initial appeal follows:

  • A Nationwide Study of Home Education (free) and Marching to the Beat of Their Own Drum ($2)—these two reports can be obtained from Home School Legal Defense Association, PO Box 159, Paeonian Springs, VA 22129
  • February/March ’92 edition of Teaching Home magazine—it focused on “Home Schooling and the Church” and costs $3.75
  • “Home School Questions and Answers” —obtain this free brochure through Teaching Home, PO Box 20219, Portland, OR 97220-0219)

If you are a church leader who wants to introduce home education to your congregation, these resources would also be excellent to use.

These are high-impact materials. Last November, two of Harvester’s elders and I made a presentation to several leaders of one of our country’s evangelical denominations. Included in our presentation on home schooling were these four resources. Our formal presentation describing home education and its benefit to the ministry of the local church was very well received by this diverse group.

Fitting Your Ministry In

After you have taken some time to familiarize your leadership with the basics of home schooling, most pastors will want to know how a “new” ministry is going to fit into the entire church ministry. This has always been a concern at Harvester. After 4 years we’re still finding better ways to integrate the family theme into all ministries.

The biggest selling point to your pastor could possibly be helping him to understand how a home school ministry will strengthen your church’s ministry to the family. Remember, every parent home educates! Because its focus is on the family, a home school ministry can—as it has at Harvester—begin to bring all of the other individual ministries in a church together to holistically minister to families instead of pulling them in different directions!

If church leaders begin to see that a home school ministry is essentially a ministry to strengthen the family (because it is) then you are on the right track. Following are a few examples of structured home school ministries and how they can be effectively integrated.

Support Group. The most basic ministry a church can have is a simple “support group.” In this case, the group should take the name of and operate under the authority of the church. The church should treat the support group just as it would any other ministry. It should receive use of the church building, transportation, and other equipment resources as well as some money from the budget with which to hire a part-time administrator or cover some basic operational costs such as printing a newsletter or other related activities.

When you set this up be very careful not to overlook how the interests of other church families can be integrated. For example, our monthly Warrior Rendezvous (support group) meetings are open to all members. Often, we handle issues which are more family-related, such as discipline, setting priorities, anxiety, planning, etc. and every parent can benefit. We invite other families to come, they do, and some of these families have reached a conviction—on their own—to begin home schooling because of it! In 1992, we had four families migrate into home schooling.

Resource Center. A second ministry option is that of the resource center. Beyond question, we have found our resource center to be Harvester Teaching Service’s greatest ministry tool. God has used it to bring people in contact with other Harvester ministries. Some families who have joined our church acknowledge that their initial contact was made through the resource center.

We have approximately 1000 resources in the center. At any one time, there are at least 100 items checked out. While the center is geared toward academic and organizational needs, it contains a vast wealth of information on basic family living such as discipline, setting goals and priorities for families, and detecting negative attitudes in your children, to name a few examples.

I believe that home schooling is the largest and most successful family movement in our country. Therefore, it stands to reason that some of the best family resources can be found in home schooling circles. Our transitional youth group has found resources on fathering, mothering, and courtship to be quite valuable. As a matter of fact, our present age-integrated youth/parent Sunday School class is largely based on materials found in the resource center.

Working with the Christian School. If your church has a Christian day school, your pastor could be concerned about conflicts or division brought about by beginning a home school ministry. On the surface, this seems like a real problem. But when you stop to consider it, the two emphases provide a church with a more rounded approach and actually broaden the educational ministry of the church.

As a matter of fact, more and more Christian schools are seeing the benefits and providing services for home schoolers. A Christian school could offer a myriad of services to home schooling families á là carte for a nominal fee. Some services include: high school level math or science classes and labs, participation in science fairs, sports activities, sale of new or used materials, music lessons, teacher assistance in setting up a program of study or choosing curriculum, standardized testing, and help with record keeping. In addition to financial benefits, a home school ministry can provide practical techniques and materials for parents to use at home in augmenting what their children get in school.

Umbrella Home Schooling. The most extensive home school ministry is that of umbrella home schooling. An umbrella home school ministry functions much like a Christian school for home schoolers in that academic and attendance records are kept for the families in addition to the usual support activities. Usually, families are required to follow a standard scope and sequence or use certain curricula. Staff personnel go to each home and meet with the families to provide accountability, practical encouragement or help them with any academic problems they might be having.

In some states like Alabama, you can’t home school unless you are a member of a ministry like this. This is a rather expensive ministry because you have salaries and administrative materials involved, but it is also one of the most personal. Many find a monthly tuition of $20–60 per family well worth the benefits they receive.

Regardless of what you decide to start with, it might very well be worth the investment to hire a part-time administrator. Harvester Teaching Service (HTS) has always had an administrator. This assures that someone is spending the time researching and developing your church’s home schooling ministry and working with your leadership in the area of ministry integration. This person also will be held responsible for guiding, directing, and assisting the families with whatever needs they have.

Home schooling can truly strengthen the ministry of the local church as it acts as a catalyst for strengthening the family. Many home school families have rediscovered the simplicity of such family ministries as hospitality which are not necessarily conducted within the four walls of a church building. This is important and church leaders need to learn about these successes. Strong family-based ministry is essential to the evangelistic and rebuilding work of the church.

I would like to explain an indirect benefit that ministry integration has had in our church. In addition to being active with our families, some singles in our church have lived with a home school family, especially before marriage, in order to learn more about how a biblical family functions. One example is Mark Hayes, who is now one of our home school fathers. He found his time at Ron Boenau’s home (one of our home schooling elders) priceless in preparing for his marriage and for raising his daughter.

Although they are growing in number, churches where home education is welcomed with open arms are still in the minority. It is always a joy to explain something exciting to those who want to learn. Harvester is one of these churches. Since HTS’ inception four years ago, supplementary plans for it have been unanimously supported by our elders.

Appealing to Hostile or Skeptical Leaders

Many churches that openly embrace home education do so because the pastor or another leader home schools. This does not mean, however, that because a pastor doesn’t home school, he can’t support such a ministry. In this case, very little background information will be necessary and you can begin to work with your leaders on possible ministry ideas which will not only aid home schoolers but integrate into the whole life of the church.

When appealing to church leadership neutral toward home schooling, I would suggest that you spend more time discussing how a home schooling ministry will fit into and complement the church’s existing ministries. This is probably the place where you will win their support because they will see the greater benefits to the church.

For those of you who believe that your leaders are hostile toward home schooling, try to find out and understand why they are hostile. What are their concerns? As discussed earlier, for many of these pastors their concerns surround the issue of authority or the affects on their Christian school (if they have one). Sometimes their hostility grows out of prejudice based on misinformation. Or maybe they have had a bad experience with home schoolers in their church or have heard of other pastors who have. Due to any number of reasons such as extreme independence or fear of a negative response some families never try to approach their leadership. So they form a clique in the church and end up being ostracized or insignificant to the overall ministry of the church.

Another pastor had flown with us to the city where we made our presentation to the leaders of an evangelical denomination. This pastor was along for other reasons and was not especially interested in hearing our presentation, but we rented the car and he had no choice but to come with us. As we were driving to lunch after the one-and-a-half hour presentation, he relayed to us how wrong he was about home schooling. He knew of home schoolers in his church, but was always skeptical about the validity of what they were doing. (Apparently, they had never bothered to approach him to even inform him about what they were doing.) But it doesn’t end there. This pastor was so impressed with home schooling that later that day he stood up in a room of hostile pastors and stated that their negative preconceived notions about home schooling were wrong!

Let this true story serve as a hope for those of you who will be appealing to a pastor who for one reason or another is against home schooling!

We have discussed some basic considerations involved in making an appeal. This has included a suggested materials list, specific concerns regarding the openness of your church leadership and thoughts on ministry integration.

In closing, please heed a valid warning from me. Throughout the appeal process, however long it takes, be exceedingly careful with regard to how you refer to the public or private schools. Why? There are many good reasons, but perhaps one of the best is that you want to cast home schooling in the best possible light. This means explaining the positive academic and familial successes. Success stands by itself. If you believe that some well-placed comments about the public schools would be helpful to your appeal, by all means do so. But to denigrate the public or private schools will not only reflect badly on you, it could easily produce a bitter spirit which will definitely slam the door of opportunity and ruin your appeal. Remember, many church leaders are not home schooling and they will certainly take offense.

As you proceed in the appeal process, you may find that several meetings are necessary. Many of you will need to allow several months time of talking with your leaders before they are willing to begin such a ministry. Our home school ministry didn’t get where it is now overnight. We implemented and refined time and time again. You will probably need to do the same. But in the end it is all worth it!

In my next column, I will discuss in greater detail the ministry of the resource center. What was our vision for it? How has it become a premier outreach to our community? How can a resource center augment other church ministries?


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