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Micro schools, major goals

Christian education shouldn’t be only an elite effort

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Most of you readers have no way of knowing that I wasn’t always in the task of journalism. When I decided 45 years ago to leave the field of education and try my hand at publishing, I didn’t really change my vocation.

By that time I had spent just long enough in elementary, secondary, and college level teaching and administration to know that my forte would have to be discovered elsewhere. I wasn’t good at lesson plans, curriculum design, attendance records, and a hundred other high-demand habits of traditionally structured school life.

I had dabbled with printing and publishing for close to 20 years, and thought it was fair—by pouring myself into those tasks—to test my gifts on those fronts.

My goal—first for the students in the schools where I had served, and later for the readers of the publications for which I was responsible—was that they would always and naturally think of their Creator God as at the center of their existence. If that had defined my philosophy of Biblically directed education, it no less defined my philosophy of Biblically directed journalism.

We’re intentional. We think about what students will learn, and who our students will be.

And it has indeed been my delight to watch the growth (in numbers) and the maturing (educational and spiritual) of the Christian school movement. Nor have I had to watch all this from a distance. I’ve been welcomed to serve on three different boards of directors, where I’m sure I’ve learned much more than I’ve had to share with my colleagues.

From one perspective, however, a big chunk of all that success has come at painful cost. The Christian school movement has become more and more economically elitist—which has meant that there are still hordes of people who have no access to a Christian school of any kind.

(Even the homeschool phenomenon carries an inherent whisper of elitism, to the extent that it typically dictates one parent’s staying at home—and the attendant costs of taking on that obligation. But that’s another discussion.)

So I’m delighted to report to you the vision and commitment of at least one Christian school in responding to that challenge. Chattanooga Christian School, in southeast Tennessee, serves just over 1,000 students—and knows what we’re talking about when it hears the charge of elitism.

But now CCS is forging strategic links with other schools in the region. Olivet Baptist Church says that for years it’s wanted to launch a school—but doubted whether it had the resources to do the job well. Now, in a win/win agreement drawn up three years ago, the church provides the facilities, only nine minutes from the CCS campus, while CCS coordinates what the school calls the “educational infrastructure.”

It’s not about ownership. Olivet Church’s pastor, Bishop Kevin Adams, was excited about utilizing their space, while school Principal Nicha Jean says: “We’re intentional. We think about what students will learn, and who our students will be. We treat the spiritual side and the academic side equally. All of it is important.”

But that’s not all. This August, CCS is committed to open a second “micro school” in Chattanooga’s Glenwood area, a minority community anchored by New City Fellowship (PCA). Highlighting the benefits, CCS Lower School Head Shonda Caines points to the tiny new schools’ access to special education training and personnel.

Details of such innovative expansion almost make me think it’s time to retire from journalism and see if I’ve any gifts left in the field of education.

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things.


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