Churches look favorably on Christian schools
By Allen Palmeri
March 21, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – First Baptist Church, Troy, and Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, are examples of how a Missouri Southern Baptist church in an influential location can choose to impact its community by adding a Christian school to its ministry portfolio.
First Troy, a county seat church, is in its fourth year of Christian schooling, with plans to add grades 5 and 6 in the fall to its 50-student academy. Meanwhile, Concord is planning an Aug. 21 debut for its school which now consists of kindergarten through second grade.
More and more success stories in Christian education are alive and growing in Missouri Southern Baptist life. Messengers have passed resolutions recently at both the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) affirming private education. The MBC resolution on “Holiness and Cultural Forces of Evil” at the 2004 annual meeting urged Missouri Southern Baptists “to give serious consideration to the importance of systematically training ourselves and our children in the ways of authentic, biblical Christianity.” It is generally acknowledged that private education is a way for that systematization to occur.
Richard Rhea, pastor of First Troy, said the key to a Missouri Southern Baptist church birthing a quality Christian school like First Baptist Christian Academy, or “The Academy” as it is known around Troy, is found within a core group of dedicated volunteers.
“You’ve got to start with some really committed, passionate members of your church,” Rhea said. “If you don’t have that, you’re not ready to start a school. Start small, and get the approval of the church and the cooperation of your Sunday School. Working out the shared space issues is just very, very important. That keeps everyone happy when you can deal with those issues ahead of time. Start small and just go for it! Any church can do it.”
Concord Baptist Church seems to have the type of passionate core group that Rhea talked about and are engaged in the busy start-up phase. Paul Young, former pastor of Russellville Baptist Church, has been hired as administrator. Young is feeding off of the enthusiasm of his board members.
“These people love the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Secondly, they love children. Their passion for seeing this vision through for an evangelical Christian school here in the Jefferson City area is contagious. It’s uplifting. It’s exciting to see somebody have such a heart for something.”
Once the passion for a Christian school is ignited within a church, targeting the right audience is important. Both Rhea and Young said they are not trying to compete with the local public school system. Rather, First Baptist Christian Academy and Concord Christian School exist to offer parents another option as they seek to raise godly students.
“We have a tremendous school system in our community,” Rhea said. “It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, but still, for young children especially, I think a lot of parents are seeing a tremendous value in providing a thoroughly Christian education.”
Young has noticed the same trend.
“We see ourselves as an alternative for those people who have the same vision, the same philosophy of education that we have,” he said. “We’re trying to offer academic excellence with a biblical worldview. We want to combine that, and again, we are not competing with the public school.”
Rhea said he would encourage a church to plant a Christian school with “just a handful of students and a room,” which is exactly what First Troy did.
“It’s a slow, steady process, just adding as we go,” he said. “It’s very, very Christ-centered, and we’ve got a great staff.”
Young, who brings a 20-year background in public education to his work with Concord Christian School, is constantly aware that he is there to help build a sound foundation.
“I have been going to churches, handing out flyers and just introducing myself to different staff around Jefferson City in different churches,” he said. “In the early 1990s, God planted a seed in my heart that some day I would be part of Christian education, using both my pastoral ministry background as well as my education background, and here I sit today.
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to be a part of a biblical worldview school setting, a Christian school where everything is there to prepare people to go out to impact the world for Jesus Christ. It’s so exciting just to think that we’re not going to have to argue over whether we have the Ten Commandments on the wall. I had my Bible on my desk, open, praying with the teachers, praying with the students, teaching the Bible, not as history, not as literature, but as the Word of God.”
Concord held a fundraiser banquet Feb. 16 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel that raised $58,000 in cash and pledges. Darrell Scott, father of American Martyr Rachel Scott who died in the Columbine High School shootings, was the featured speaker. The atmosphere that evening was one in which excellence in Christian education was being promoted from the first word of the program through the last word of the closing prayer.
Rhea summarized what Christian schools at Missouri Southern Baptist churches like First Troy and Concord are all about.
“We’re not trying to replace the parents or the public school system, but to assist the parents in providing an absolutely solid, biblical, Christ-centered experience for their children,” he said.