When I first met my husband while a student at a Christian college, I told him, "If you're thinking of being a pastor, forget about marrying me. I will never make a good pastor's wife: I don't sing, I don't play the piano, and I don't like to work with large groups of children!"
As usual, the Lord had other ideas! Not only do I not fit the traditional pastor's wife model in the above-mentioned three main areas, we have the added oddity (as seen by others) of homeschooling. Having been in supportive, hostile, and indifferent congregations when it comes to homeschooling, I have discovered a number of ways to win a congregation over to the idea. If you find yourself the lone homeschooler in an unsupportive congregation, try some of the following ideas that we have found to be successful.
You Don't Have to be Perfect to Win
Homeschooling and church relationships are a lot like the county fair. There are moments for cotton candy and caramel apples, but much of the time "judges" are watching your every move.
Being homeschoolers means the bright lights of the midway will be trained on your family much of the time. You will not be able to keep up a pretense of being a perfect family for long; so do not try! It simply is not possible to be at every service and function, run a home efficiently, raise godly children, participate in several ministries, and homeschool.
With much prayer, seek out the Lord on what He would have you participate in and how He wants to arrange your priorities. Stay away from activities that are going to separate you from your children, or where children will be disruptive. Nothing will burst the homeschool bubble as fast as perpetually tired, uncooperative children in meetings or services.
Show Off Your Home Economics Skills
Get to know the people in your church as individuals by inviting families to your home for dinner. There are several advantages to this approach, besides making friends.
First, the children, being in familiar surroundings, will be much calmer and thus, better behaved, than if you were to call on someone in their home for a visit. Children can go off to play in their rooms while you visit. They can also be put to bed if it gets late.
The best part of this arrangement is people get to see that your children are being taught to be servants. Our children have always participated in getting the house ready, setting the table, preparing the meal and clean-up. Many a parishioner will begin to think of homeschooling in a positive light from this alone. Most church family members are against homeschooling more because they do not understand it than because they are anti-family.
Choose Appropriate Ministry Projects
Consider ministries that are suitable for your children to participate in. Going to the nursing home, taking over custodial duties of the church, or preparing a music special with the children are far more child-friendly than your being on a committee or board.
Consider having your children "adopt" an elderly person or shut-in in your church family. They could pray for this person, send cards on holidays and birthdays and visit occasionally. Seeing your children's character development will be a real plus toward homeschooling.
Make Others Feel Like Blue-Ribbon Winners In Their Area Of Expertise
Show an interest in those with skills or knowledge in a specific area. Some of the things we have learned through people in our congregations are art, music, "the good old days," and Christmas-tree farming. One gentleman considered it an honor when we requested he show us his Indian arrowhead collection. This not only adds to your children's education, but it gives people a glimpse into how homeschool studies often take place.
Appoint Emissaries To Represent You In Judging
Especially if you have just come to a new church, it is wise to focus on two or three people to educate about homeschooling. Once they have a good understanding of homeschooling, they can act as your sales force. At the next carry-in meal when someone across the table comments, "I don't believe anyone could spend eight hours a day doing school; those children can't be getting a full education," your representative will eagerly reply (as the person who knows the inside story), "With all the one-on-one attention she can give the children, it does not require that many hours."
When we came to one congregation, the person most vocal against homeschooling became one of our greatest ambassadors after she had been to our home for dinner. A book-lover herself, she had brought one for the children. When our five-year-old climbed in her lap and read it to her, she was astounded! She lost no time informing others that homeschooling was nothing short of a miracle in teaching children to read.
Don't Grandstand As A Leader
I know some homeschoolers will disagree with me on the next point. However, I firmly believe those in leadership need to be careful how they use their position to influence others.
One fellow pastor who regularly promoted homeschooling from the pulpit had non-homeschooling parents in his congregation feeling resentful. Many whom he did convince, homeschooled more from pressure than the Holy Spirit's guidance. They soon burned-out and gave up; some of them even became hostile to the idea of homeschooling ever-after that.
The wisest way to inspire others to homeschool is to encourage them in their spiritual growth. As they draw close to the Lord, they will become aware of His will and desire it. It is the Lord's job to give people their convictions, not ours. Once convicted to homeschool, we can step in and give them all the support we can muster.
The Main Event
Of course, your best strategy for winning over your church is to train your children in the admonition of the Lord. When people see spiritual growth and maturity in your children, they will give homeschooling more consideration.
The Toughest Class To Compete In
First was the man who wanted to know just exactly why their school system was not "good enough" for our children. Then, there was the woman who wanted to know, "How will your children ever know anything about the real world if they don't watch TV?"
Be patient in answering questions, but remember - while some people are honestly interested, others really will not be listening to your answer. Give these people a brief, cheerful answer and prayerfully consider how you can lighten tensions. You are not obligated to defend and explain every moment of your school day, for these people often do not care anyway; they just want to make accusations.
The Best Award
When the Lord calls you to homeschooling, you have no option but to obey. There will always be those who will be watching for every flaw you show as a homeschool family. But, there will be far more who will honestly try to understand your convictions and support them, even if they do not agree with them.
As you follow your convictions of raising Godly children who are a testimony to the Lord, you just may find yourself soon helping others enter the homeschool event for grand champions.