The State of Christian Education in America

On January 1, 2021, I completed 35 years in pastoral ministry and began a new calling as the President of the Stanley M. Herzog Charitable Foundation. Since that date, we have been assembling our team and identifying the initiatives that we as a Foundation will be tackling in the coming months. We’ve already begun creating a few of these initiatives. In addition to this new online resource, The Lion, we’ve begun a daily devotional podcast, Morning Routine, designed to spiritually encourage Christian Educators, Church leaders, and parents.

Our growing team has been quite busy at our temporary headquarters as we await the construction of the permanent facility for the Herzog Foundation. My primary task over the first few months of operation has been to actively engage with leaders in Christian Education around the nation. I’ve had numerous on-site visits with accrediting association leaders, Christian education para-organizations, Pastors and church school leaders, as well as several Christian schools. My goal has been to better understand the landscape of Christian Education across the country and to identify those systemic issues that need more resources and new and scalable models. It has been an enlightening journey for sure. I have been graciously received by everyone with whom I’ve asked to meet. There are some amazing leaders around the country focused on bringing quality Christian Education to students.

I was recently asked, “What are you seeing and hearing regarding the state of Christian Education in the United States?” That’s a great question. I’ve heard dozens of stories from parents, pastors, and educators, but I would suggest that two specific trends are apparent.

The first trend I’m seeing around the country is that significant enrollment growth is taking place among Christian Schools. If there is any silver lining to this crazy cultural cloud, it’s that parents are engaging in their children’s education. We hear on the evening news, almost nightly, of another parent group that is challenging their local school board regarding the education of their children. As a result, frustrated parents are looking for alternative opportunities for local education. In addition, Christian parents are recognizing that their role is to serve as the primary spiritual leaders of their kids. When looking for resources to assist them with that task, certainly the local church and local student ministries play an important part; but Christian schools can do what public schools were never established to do:

  1. Provide students with a “faith friendly” environment that invites students into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  2. Disciple students in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
  3. Provide students with training that enables them to defend their Christian faith.

This threefold purpose is not exhaustive but is unique to the Christian School mission. What’s more, these schools also offer academic excellence, a well-rounded curriculum, extra-curricular programs and athletics, leaving young people well-prepared for college and career. Currently, parents around the country want that substantive faith-based education for their children. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Christian Schools are enrolling record numbers of students for the 2021-2022 Academic year.

The second trend I’m seeing around the country is a genuine concern for the future given the current cultural climate in which Christians find themselves. I see it as an awareness of the rapid rate of cultural change taking place in America today. I certainly saw it while pastoring a local congregation through the “unknown” that made up much of 2020. I recognize the same concerns in Christian Education. On one hand, there is despair for the seemingly downward spiral away from long established Christian values. It is very easy to get caught up in the daily news stories that seem to only fuel fear and pressure on the shoulders of Christians. But, on the other hand, a good and necessary balance of God’s word reminds us that God has an eternal plan for His church—a plan that that includes the ‘here and now’. He has promised that no weapon formed against us will prosper. Historically, Christians have always experienced cultural backlash, but it hasn’t stopped the cause of Christ. Local Christian leaders are inspiring that same hope and purpose to the individuals and students entrusted to their care.

Please know, that all of us at the Herzog Foundation are praying for Christian schools, Christian churches, and Christian families across the country. God is for us. Christ is still on the throne. All is well.