Over the course of this past summer, two Reformed Christian colleges, Calvin and Dordt, became universities. During the official name-change ceremonies, leaders at these institutions explained the purposes for the renamings. The reasons were similar to those expressed by The King’s University in Edmonton, Alta., which made the change five years ago. I believe there’s a message for all of us in these changes.
The term “university” usually means an institution that provides a comprehensive array of learning possibilities: accounting to art, economics to engineering, neuroscience to nursing. Truly, the world of learning opportunities we need to offer our young people ought to be as broad and as wide as Abraham Kuyper explained when he said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
In fact, God’s sovereignty over all has long been the basis for Reformed Christianity’s commitment to Christian education at all levels. Furthermore, this commitment isn’t to be held just by parents, but also by congregations and the Christian community.
My wife and I recall a time when our son, Paul, was young and enrolled at the Christian Learning Center, necessary given his learning needs related to having Down Syndrome. At that time, the Christian Learning Center charged three times the tuition of kids in the local Christian schools (something that changed a few years later).
While the charge was justifiable given the extra costs needed for special education, it hit us substantially because our oldest was also in school. For two children, we were paying the equivalent of four Christian school student tuitions.
One night our pastor and elder came to our home and reminded us of the baptismal vows our congregation had taken. They informed us that the church would not allow us to pay the additional charge. Instead, our church would pay the extra amount.
I suspect there are dozens of similar stories every year of churches stepping in to assist families with Christian education costs. Why? Because our theology, as expressed in the “every square inch” statement, leads directly to a rationale that supports Christian education at every level for students of all levels of ability. We recognize that faith is formed during these critical years, and broad as well as focused learning is required as young people prepare for their lives and callings.
Remember, too, that while God’s sovereignty leads us to emphasize a Christian education, it takes more than schools to help each child grow and develop a mature faith. As children move into their teen years and then into adulthood, it takes all of us to help them foster a deep understanding of what God is calling each of them to do. Faith-formative activities ought to emanate from our churches and homes—not just our schools.
Some churches assign a mentor to each child or teen taking steps toward profession of faith. I know of many grandparents who daily pray for each of their grandchildren. Mission trips, gap years, youth ministry retreats, catechism, and so much more are all part of the fabric of passing the faith on from generation to generation.
As Psalm 78 reminds us, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD … so the next generation would know them. ... (T)hen they would put their trust in God.”