“Christian education is under assault and Christian schools are struggling, with many facing closure. This is a burden I shared in a discussion with Renewanation founder Jeff Keaton. Born from that discussion was this collaborative issue of God’s Revivalist dedicated to Christian education. The following is an interview with Jeff.” —President Michael Avery
For those unfamiliar with the work of Renewanation, please describe your vision and mission.
Our vision is to transform culture by giving millions of new children Christian worldview education. Our mission is to promote this cause by supporting and expanding the work of Christian schools, homeschools, and ministries that are reaching public school students with biblical worldview training.
In very practical terms, what are you doing right now to fulfill this vision and mission?
We are currently working in five primary areas to:
- Influence parents and pastors through our speaking and writing to enroll 10,000 new children in biblical worldview training programs.
- Provide 1,000 students with scholarships.
- Revitalize 50 existing Christian schools.
- Help communities start 50 new Christian schools.
- Build out a biblical worldview training program for churches to offer to public school students.
When did you become passionate about the need to give children a Christian worldview education?
There were two events in my life that led me to where I am today: the birth of our daughters and my experiences as a pastor. When our girls were born, I really began to think about who was going to influence them. I knew that I had to protect them physically, but I also had this great sense that I needed to protect their minds. I was actually open to options other than Christian schooling and homeschooling when the girls were little. However, as I visited the non-Christian school they were to be enrolled in, I made a choice to only allow teachers with a Christian worldview to shape our daughters’ thinking.
The second experience that led me to become passionate about Christian worldview education was my first pastorate. We were privileged to see many teenagers and children come to Christ. Since most of them were from low-income homes and could not afford Christian education, we decided to invest heavily in their public schools. Our student ministries pastor was responsible for 32 Christian clubs in middle and high schools throughout Broward County, FL. By speaking in those clubs and by talking with our new Christian teens, I was able to see first-hand the impact of secular worldview education on our young people. These precious teens would describe to me the battle that was raging in their school every day. It seemed like the school was working against everything we were teaching them. That’s when it really began to dawn on me how serious the worldview battle is in American education. I began to dream about the possibility of having these kids all week long in a setting where we could really shape their thinking. It just seemed like the two hours we had them at church was simply not enough time to win the battle for their hearts and minds. Unfortunately, I was never able to see this dream realized in my first pastorate. However, in my second pastorate, we started a Christian school that grew to almost 400 students in its first seven years, and I saw the powerful difference Christian education could make. In 2007, God spoke deeply into my heart and told me I would be leading a charge to take Christian worldview education to millions of new children. In 2008, we launched Renewanation, and I have been full-time since the fall of 2011.
What do you say to the Christians who feel God has called them to teach/work in a non-Christian school?
I commend them! I have no doubt God is calling many Christian educators to work in non-Christian schools. I also know how difficult their mission is. I talk to public school teachers all the time, and many of them describe their mission field as a place where they struggle to make the impact for Christ they want to make. It is a high and holy calling when God calls a man or woman to work in public education. They can make a difference because they are mature disciples, and they are doing the influencing. However, I’m not nearly as quick to recommend we place children in that setting.
Is there evidence to back up your claims that non Christian education is having a negative impact on the spiritual life of children from Christian homes?
Absolutely! Children spend roughly 16,000 hours at school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. They spend a fraction of this time in biblical training at church and home during those same years. Thom Rainer released a book on “The Millennials” in 2011, and according to his research…
- 80% of the 78 million millennials in America (born from 1980-2000) declare they are not born again.
- 94% state they do not believe one or more of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity.
- 76% do not attend church.1
- A large majority of them are in favor of same-sex marriage.2
There is no doubt secular education has played a key role in the loss of faith in this generation. What do you say to those parents who feel God has called them to place their children as missionaries in the public school?
They must make sure their children are mature disciples of Jesus with a very well-developed biblical worldview. If a parent sincerely feels like God has called them to place their child in a secular school, then they must be prepared to homeschool their children in the evenings after school. Without intentional and habitual biblical worldview training at home and church, a child who is attending a non-Christian school has no chance of developing a biblical worldview.
Explain how you are seeing God’s hand at work in this ministry.
We are beginning to see an awakening amongst Christian parents and pastors. Our culture has fallen so far so fast that many parents and pastors are taking a second look at the influence of education. Over the last three years, our understanding of how we are to accomplish the mission has really come into focus. As a result, we have become much more effective in our work. Right now, we are engaged with nine revitalization or new school start-up projects with many more in the pipeline. We are providing scholarships for about 100 children. Our national magazine, The Renewanation Review, is growing rapidly in influence and impact. God has brought us many new financial partners over the last 24 months, and He has even given us 800 acres of land where we are building out a fully-funded biblical worldview training center.
For those who would like to get involved with your organization, or perhaps discuss starting a school or revitalizing an existing school, what’s the best way to get in touch with Renewanation? They can contact us by phone: 540-966-0648 or 1-855-TO-RENEW; by email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by visiting us online: renewanation.org.
- Rainer, Thom and Jess. The Millennials. B&H Books, 2010, pp. 232-236.
- Ibid, p.90.