Adventist Education Is Very Costly …
But Our Kids Are Worth It!
Dr. Dan Linrud, President
Here we go again … the summer is winding down and the school year is upon us! It is the season in which stores are full of colorful backpacks and lunch containers, aisles have stacks of notebook paper, shelves are filled with pencils, erasers, and markers. Children’s clothing racks are bulging with outfits for school. Parents are enjoying the final vacation days with their children. Students are anticipating that first day … maybe for their first time, and maybe not.
I remember my first day of kindergarten at five years old. My mom drove me to the school and I protested. I did not want to be left there. I cried. I pled with her that if she really loved me, she wouldn’t leave me there. She did. I survived that day … and the next … and the next. Eventually I adjusted. I decided the teacher wasn’t as scary as I’d thought. I made friends. And a long academic journey commenced.
In my pre-college years, I had one big regret—I did not have the opportunity to attend Seventh-day Adventist elementary schools or academy. My parents did not want to spend the money. My dad said it wasn’t worth the cost.
Over the years I have heard from parents countless times. “Adventist education is too expensive,” they say. “We cannot afford to send our children,” they claim. “It’s not worth it,” they conclude.
Evidence shows the contrary. Research has indicated that about 70 percent of people who grew up in the church and remained engaged as adults were enrolled in Adventist education. Conversely, nearly 70 percent of those who grew up in the church and did not attend Adventist schools became disengaged with the church as adults.
The summer I was 10 years old and entering fifth grade a significant shift in my life was about to happen. My aunt was serving as a Seventh-day Adventist elementary school teacher in a one-room school in the small, rural town of Paoli, Indiana. She invited me to come live with her for a year, see some of the country, and attend her little Adventist school. Surprisingly, my parents agreed to let me go live with her that year.
When the school year began, I wondered if I had made a mistake. In my first four years of school, I had become accustomed to attending one of the public schools near my home. There were several hundred students, and my homeroom classes had averaged 20-25 students. The sprawling facilities had covered and paved outdoor play areas, large playfields and play centers, and wood-floored gymnasium with locker rooms. The classrooms were large and well-equipped for that era. But this little one-room school had about 15 students. The carpet was worn. The walls had dark wood paneling instead of being bright. The desks were tired. I wondered if my dad was right in saying that Adventist education wasn’t worth it.
If not for my fifth grade year, I don’t know if I would be active in the church today, not to mention serving the church in vocational ministry for more than 30 years.
A miracle began to unfold as the school year progressed. Every day, class would begin with devotional time, and I sensed the pull of the Holy Spirit in my young heart. My teacher—my aunt—brought God into the center of every subject. The students prepared and presented programs in church, and were encouraged by the members. As the school year progressed in that little Adventist Christian school, my heart began to open more to Christ. In the spring, an Adventist evangelist came to a nearby town. Five nights a week for five weeks, my aunt and I drove the fifteen miles to attend the meetings. I was captivated by the pictures on four screens, and the powerful messages the evangelist shared from God’s Word gripped my heart. Near the end of the series, as the evangelist gave an altar call asking who would like to give their heart to Christ, I responded and walked up the aisle, inviting Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. I may have been 10 years old, but I knew that I wanted Jesus to save me and lead me!
That decision became an anchor point that would keep pulling me back to Jesus into my young adulthood, even as I returned home and resumed attending public school. It was also near the end of that school year that I began to sense the Lord calling me to pastoral ministry. At ten years old. In fifth grade. Because I attended a Seventh-day Adventist Christian school.
My own journey is proof enough for me that Seventh-day Adventist education is worth it! Is it costly? Yes, very. Many families who choose to enroll their children in Adventist education do so at great sacrifice. They scrimp and scrape and save and do without, in order for their children to be in an Adventist school. It is costly for the church, too. Local churches contribute large portions of their budgets to help subsidize their local schools. The conference subsidizes about 40 percent of the salaries of school principals and teachers and provides additional subsidies in other areas.
Is it worth it?
Our kids are worth it!
Through the years I have heard pastors and members lament the cost, referring to church subsidy for school as a “tax” they had to pay. But, I’m grateful that little church in Indiana sacrificed for me to have an Adventist education where Christ began to transform my life. When I look back now, I’d say it was a good investment.
And it is not just an investment for parents of school-aged children. It is an investment that we all have the privilege of making as members of the Oregon Conference family in our respective congregations. It is even worth the investment if a church does not have an Adventist school nearby, because we all particeipate together in advancing God’s mission and work.
The debate about the value of Adventist education is not new. It goes back to the days of the early Adventist Church. Ellen White wrote:
In the night season I was in a large company where the subject of education was agitating the minds of all present. Many were bringing up objections to changing the character of the education which has long been in vogue. One who has long been our instructor was speaking to the people. He said: “The subject of education should interest the whole Seventh-day Adventist body.” Counsels for the Church, 203.
Note the last line. “The subject of education should interest the whole Seventh-day Adventist body.” Even churches that don’t have a school nearby? Yes. Even persons whose children have matured or who have advanced beyond their local school? Everyone. “The whole … body.”
Why? Because it transforms lives. Every school has stories of transformed lives every year. Last year’s stories were amazing! I can hardly wait to hear the stories that will emerge from this school year.
One last thing. Pray. Lift up the parents of students, that God will provide the will and the means for them to have their children in Adventist education this year. Lift up our students in prayer as they begin another school year. Lift up our principals, teachers, staffs, and volunteers in prayer. May God be glorified again.
Yes, Adventist education is very costly, but our kids so are worth it!