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Christian Day Schools

Theodore Aaberg

1951 Synod Convention Essay

In Deuteronomy 6:6–7 we read: “and these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” And in Ephesians 6:4: “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In these words God tells parents, and especially the fathers, that He wants them to teach their children His Word. Parents are not at liberty to decide whether or not they will teach their children the truths of Scripture, for God simply tells them that they are to do it. He will require an accounting from them on the Last Day. It is not enough that parents provide food, shelter, clothing and other earthly necessities for their children; they must also provide the “One Thing Needful” for them; they must teach them of Christ.

The congregation also has a duty towards the children in its midst. Jesus told Peter not only to feed his sheep, but also to feed His lambs. The congregation is to provide for the instruction of both young and old. Children will get much out of a sermon, especially if the pastor makes his sermons clear and plain. But the children also need the special instruction which the congregation offers in its various schools.

Teaching children is a real job, a difficult one. For one thing, most fathers are busy during the day, often away from home, so occupied with making a living for the family that they do not have too much time to teach their children. Then, too, parents do not always find it easy to teach others. It is one thing to know something yourself; but quite another matter to impart that knowledge to someone else.

For this reason the congregation conducts various schools — in order to help the parents in carrying out their God-given duty of educating their children. Before going on to a discussion of the different types of schools, and especially of the Christian Day School, we should first say a little more about teaching in the home.

While Christian parents ought, as a rule, to make use of the help which the Church offers them in teaching their children, they should not feel that they can place the whole responsibility of teaching their children in the lap of the Church, as though now they are free from that worry, since they send their children to such and such a school. The home will ever remain the most important school for the children. There they will learn the most, both by word and example. Christian parents do not need to be recognized teachers in order to instruct their children. Let the parents be diligent about family devotions every day, let Bible stories be read to the children from an early age, and above all, let the parents lead a truly God-pleasing life, let them live their Christianity, and there will be some real teaching done in the home. If the parents do not have a Christian home, do not live God-pleasing lives, then there will still be teaching done there, but it will be the wrong kind of teaching. Parents need not expect a school of the congregation to train their child in Christianity and be successful, if they tear down everything the school builds up by their God-less living in the home.

In what way does the congregation help the parents to teach their children? Many different schools or agencies are in use in the churches. There is the Sunday School, the Saturday School, the Summer School, the Release Time School, and the Christian Day School. Perhaps there are still others, but these are the ones in most common use. What about these schools?

We should first of all bear in mind that Christ has never told the Christians that they must conduct such and such a school in their midst. There is no divine institution for any particular type school in a congregation. They are all strictly something that the congregations, in Christian liberty, have established. He has commanded that parents teach their children. The Church is to instruct its members in His Word. He lays down no rules as to the type of school in which this teaching is to be done.

What type of school, then, should a Church establish in its midst in order to teach the children? While God has not given any instructions as to which school to have, as e.g. a Sunday School or Christian Day School, He does expect the Christian to use the head which He has given him. There should be one question uppermost in the minds and hearts of the congregation, and that is: “How can we best train the children?” “What is the best type of school?” What kind of school will do the job the best? If you have to haul ten ton of brick, and you are told to go out on the parking lot and take your pick of the vehicles there to do the job, and you go out and see a car, a pick-up, a station wagon and a large semi-truck, you will not hesitate to pick the “semi” to haul the bricks. So with Christian education. When you see the job that is to be done, you look over the means of doing it, and you pick the best way there is to do the job. Let us then briefly discuss the different agencies which Churches use to educate the children and see which is best.

What is the best school that a congregation can have in its midst? The Sunday School is an excellent missionary agency; it is a wonderful school to have in order to get unchurched children to the Savior. And the children, in turn, can be a great help in getting their unchurched parents to the Lord; but as a school in which to teach children the Word of God, it has its weak points. For one thing there is the matter of time. One hour a week, nine months of the year, about 36 hours of instruction. Then subtract about one third to half of this time to allow for opening devotions and other affairs, and there isn’t much time left for actual instruction in God’s Word. And what about the teachers? Many of them are not only consecrated workers, but also able teachers, but then again, there no doubt are many who are very consecrated, but yet do not have great ability in teaching. If the Sunday School is all the instruction that a child gets from the Church, then he is living pretty much on crusts of bread. The odds are too much against the Sunday School to make it a thorough agency for bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The Saturday School, where the children, instead of coming to Sunday School, assemble on Saturday morning for three hours of instruction is a much better agency than the Sunday School, as far as thoroughness in teaching is concerned, since there is three times as much time for instruction.

The Summer School, or Vacation Bible School, as it is more commonly called now, is an excellent agency for reaching the unchurched, and also for teaching children of the congregation. Congregations would do well to conduct such a school every summer, especially with the view to reaching the unchurched children. But that too has serious limitations. Time is short, and it lasts only two or three weeks. This is not the best agency the Church has to offer.

What about the Christian Day School? It is without a doubt the best school which a congregation can have for the thorough teaching of the children. To find out why it is the best school, one needs to consider what the Christian Day School is, how it operates, what it does for the child.

Many people will describe the Christian Day School as being the same as the public school, except that the Church operates and pays for it, that it teaches one hour of religion every day. It is true that most Christian Day Schools devote the first hour of every school day to the study of God’s Word. And this is no small matter. Just this one hour a day amounts to about 180 hours of instruction during the school year, which is about 5 times as much as one gets in Sunday School, or four times as much as one gets in a three-week Summer School. This allows for a thorough study of the Bible, catechism, explanation, hymn book, and Church history. 180 hours a year — think of what that means to a child who goes to a Christian Day School for eight years!

But much more can be said for the Christian Day School than its one hour of instruction each day. There are the opening and closing devotions which play no small part in the education of the child.

And what about the other subjects which are taught in the Christian Day School — history, science, health, geography, etc? Is that done in the same way as in the public school? By no means! All of these subjects are taught in the light of God’s Word. In geography the child not only learns the names of continents and oceans, he not only studies the different nations and how they live, but he also learns that God has created these lands and oceans, that He is the one who has made provision in His creation so that people the world over can keep alive. In history the child not only learns about the nations and how they have carried on in the past years, but he also discovers that dod has His hand in the affairs of the nations, that He directs the rise and fall of the nations and other affairs for His own purposes. In science the child not only learns about the plants and animals and other things belonging to science, but he also learns that it is God who has created these things, and they see the wisdom and power of God in the marvelous ways in which all of creation is constructed and in its ways of operating. In health the child not only learns the proper rules for caring for his body, but he also learns the proper motive for such care, namely that his body is a temple of God, and that God wants him to care for it properly.

Consider also that in the Christian Day School the pupils are, for the most part, of the same congregation. There is Christian fellowship; they study, work, play together with fellow believers. builds up a close relation between the pupils which lasts long after they have finished school and are adult members in the congregation.

The discipline which prevails in such a school is also very valuable. School discipline is not based on vague and general moral lines, but on what God has written in the Ten Commandments. If children are to be disciplined for, let us say, cursing and swearing, they are not told by the teacher that they shouldn’t say such things because it is not nice, and nice boys or girls don’t say such things, etc.; but they are told that they should not do it because God has said in the second commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

These are things which make the Christian Day School a great school, and if you will truly consider them you will agree that The Christian Day School is still the prince of all Church schools. Dr. Walther has rightly called it the “Gem of the Lutheran Church.” And it is a gem! If one were to look at the reports of our past Synod meetings, or to page through the old Church papers, he would rightly come to the conclusion that our Synod has been a strong champion of the Christian Day School. But we have nothing of which to boast on this score. It is true that we have spoken much on behalf of the Christian Day School, and some fine, stirring speeches have been made on the Synod floor and elsewhere on the virtues and importance of such schools, and the Christian Day School Fund of Synod has always had sufficient funds on hand for its work. But there are some 70 congregations in the Synod and only 11 schools. What kind of record is this? In these 11 schools there are some 200 pupils, and if one should count the number of school children in these congregations with schools, he would find no doubt that less than half of them go to the Christian Day School.

What is the cause of this? Much of the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the pastors. It is the pastor who must take the lead in establishing such schools, and all too often we have been negligent about presenting this important matter to the people. No doubt, many more of our congregations would have schools today if their pastors had only had the energy, the courage, the willingness to “stick their necks out” and plead the cause of this blessed institution. God bless that pastor in our Synod who in trying to begin a school was approached by members who urged him to forget the school, so that the congregation could provide him with a larger living quarters and a bigger salary, but who went right ahead and got the school going! We need more of that spirit.

The pastors are not the only ones to blame for the shortage of schools in our congregations. The members themselves, parents and others, must also shoulder some of the guilt. Too many times we have failed to give our support to the establishment of a Day School, because it costs money to run it. Others may have opposed the opening. of these schools because of some foolish notion that they are not American, not patriotic, or because they valued their standing in the community and desired to keep in the good graces of outsiders more than they valued the Christian training which can be given the children of the congregation in the Day School. Parents may have failed to cooperate with a school because they lived a little distance from it, and it meant driving a few miles every day, and it wasn’t too handy. The day may come when they drive many miles, spend much money, and go through sleepless nights, trying to care for their wayward child who could have been led close to the Savior in the Day School.

We soon celebrate our Centennial. We have many plans for celebrating. If we would do nothing else for the Centennial than this, that every pastor go home and do everything in his power to start a school in his congregation, present the cause, contact families with children, the other members too, bring it to a vote, even teach it for a while if necessary, so that every one of us could honestly say that he has done everything in his power, — then that would be a real Centennial Celebration! And the power, the influence of the many schools that would be started would be felt for years to come, yes, even for eternity. Walther not only called the Christian Day School the “gem of the Lutheran Church,” but also added: “For on it depends, humanly speaking, the future of the Lutheran Church.”

Let all of us pastors, delegates, and others, go home to our congregations and plead the cause of the Day School. If we have never approached the people with the idea that we start a school, let us do it now. If we have spoken on the matter but have not been able to get one started, then let us go home and try again. If we already have a school in our midst, let us go home and go to work and make it a better school, get more children enrolled, and more interest worked up for the school.

If there are congregations which do not have the necessary financial means to get such a school in operation, the Christian Day School Board of the Synod stands ready to consider every request that may come for help financially or otherwise. There is a large balance in the Day School Fund, over $5,000.00. If congregations are not able to secure a teacher from our school or the schools of sister Synods, or are unable to finance their salary, let the pastor seriously consider teaching the school himself for a year in order to get it going. If he doesn’t have the strength for such labor, let Him ask God for that, and if God wants him to teach in addition to his pastoral duties, He will see that he gets the strength.

Let us build for the future, build wisely and strongly. There is nothing which would make Satan feel “bluer” on our Centennial Celebration than to hear that we had started a great number of new Christian Day Schools. May God grant us the wisdom, strength, and courage to forge ahead in the field of Christian Day Schools!

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