By Ellen G. White
As published in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 198–205
Many families who, for the purpose of educating their children, move to places where our large schools are established, would do better service for the Master by remaining where they are. They should encourage the church of which they are members to establish a church school where the children within their borders could receive an all-round, practical Christian education. It would be vastly better for their children, for themselves, and for the cause of God if they would remain in the smaller churches, where their help is needed, instead of going to the larger churches, where, because they are not needed, there is a constant temptation to fall into spiritual inactivity.
Wherever there are a few Sabbathkeepers, the parents should unite in providing a place for a day school where their children and youth can be instructed. They should employ a Christian teacher who, as a consecrated missionary, shall educate the children in such a way as to lead them to become missionaries. Let teachers be employed who will give a thorough education in the common branches, the Bible being made the foundation and the life of all study. Parents should gird on the armor and by their own example teach their children to be missionaries. They should work while it is day, for “the night cometh, when no man can work.” John 9:4. If they will put forth unselfish efforts, perseveringly teaching their children to bear responsibilities, the Lord will work with them.
Some families of Sabbathkeepers live alone or far separated from others of like faith. These have sometimes sent their children to our boarding schools, where they have received help and have returned to be a blessing in their own home. But some cannot send their children away from home to be educated. In such cases parents
should endeavor to employ an exemplary religious teacher who will feel it a pleasure to work for the Master in any capacity and be willing to cultivate any part of the Lord’s vineyard. Fathers and mothers should co-operate with the teacher, laboring earnestly for the conversion of their children. Let them strive to keep the spiritual interest fresh and wholesome in the home and to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let them devote a portion of each day to study and become learners with their children. Thus they may make the educational hour one of pleasure and profit, and their confidence will increase in this method of seeking for the salvation of their children. Parents will find that their own growth will be more rapid as they learn to work for their children. As they thus work in a humble way unbelief will disappear. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day as they follow on to know the Lord and to make Him known. Their prayers will become earnest, for they will have some definite object for which to pray.
In some countries parents are compelled by law to send their children to school. In these countries, in localities where there is a church, schools should be established if there are no more than six children to attend. Work as if you were working for your life to save the children from being drowned in the polluting, corrupting influences of the world.
We are far behind our duty in this important matter. In many places schools should have been in operation years ago. Many localities would thus have had representatives of the truth who would have given character to the work of the Lord. Instead of centering so many large buildings in a few places, schools should have been established in many localities.
Let these schools now be started under wise direction, that the children and youth may be educated in their own churches. It is a grievous offense to God that there has been so great neglect in this line when Providence has so abundantly supplied us with facilities with which to work. But though in the past we have come short of doing what we might have done for the youth and children, let us now repent and redeem the time. The Lord says: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” Isaiah 1:18, 19.
The Character of Church Schools and of Their Teachers
The character of the work done in our church schools should be of the very highest order. Jesus Christ, the Restorer, is the only remedy for a wrong education, and the lessons taught in His word should ever be kept before the youth in the most attractive form. The school discipline should supplement in the home training, and both at home and at school simplicity and godliness should be maintained. Men and women will be found who have talent to work in these small schools, but who cannot work to advantage in the larger ones. As they practice the Bible lessons they will themselves receive an education of the highest value.
In selecting teachers we should use every precaution, knowing that this is as solemn a matter as the selecting of persons for the ministry. Wise men who can discern character should make the selection, for the very best talent that can be secured is needed to educate and mold the minds of the young and to carry on successfully the many lines of work that will need to be done by the teacher in our church schools. No person of an inferior or narrow cast of mind should be placed in charge of one of these schools. Do not place over the children young and inexperienced teachers who have no managing ability, for their efforts will tend to disorganization. Order is heaven’s first law, and every school should in this respect be a model of heaven.
To place over young children teachers who are proud and unloving is wicked. A teacher of this stamp will do great harm to those who are rapidly developing character. If teachers are not submissive to God, if they have no love for the children over whom they preside, or if they show partiality for those who please their fancy and manifest indifference to those who are less attractive or to those who are restless and nervous, they should not be employed; for the result of their work will be a loss of souls for Christ.
Teachers are needed, especially for the children, who are calm and kind, manifesting forbearance and love for the very ones who most need it. Jesus loved the children; He regarded them as younger members of the Lord’s family. He always treated them with kindness and respect, and teachers are to follow His example. They should have the true missionary spirit, for the children are to be trained to become missionaries. They should feel that the Lord has committed to them as a solemn trust the souls of the children and youth. Our church schools need teachers who have high moral qualities, those who can be trusted, those who are sound in the faith and who have tact and patience, those who walk with God and abstain from the very appearance of evil. In their work they will find clouds. There will be clouds and darkness, storms and tempests, prejudice to meet from parents who have incorrect ideas of the characters which their children should form; for there are many who claim to believe the Bible, while they fail to bring its principles into the home life. But if the teachers are constant learners in the school of Christ, these circumstances will never conquer them.
Let parents seek the Lord with intense earnestness, that they may not be stumbling blocks in the way of their children. Let envy and jealousy be banished from the heart, and let the peace of Christ come in to unite, the members of the church in true Christian fellowship. Let the windows of the soul be closed against the poisonous malaria of earth, and let them be opened heavenward to receive the healing rays of the sunshine of Christ’s righteousness. Until the spirit of criticism and suspicion is banished from the heart, the Lord cannot do for the church that which He longs to do in opening the way for the establishment of schools; until there is unity, He will not move upon those to whom He has entrusted means and ability for the carrying forward of this work. Parents must reach a higher standard, keeping the way of the Lord and practicing righteousness, that they may be light bearers. There must be an entire transformation of mind and character. A spirit of disunion cherished in the hearts of a few will communicate itself to others and undo the influence for good that would be exerted by the school. Unless parents are ready and anxious to co-operate with the teacher for the salvation of their children, they are not prepared to have a school established among them.
Results of Church School Work
When properly conducted, church schools will be the means of lifting the standard of truth in the places where they are established; for children who are receiving a Christian education will be witnesses for Christ. As Jesus in the temple solved the mysteries which priests and rulers had not discerned, so in the closing work of this earth children who have been rightly educated will in their simplicity speak words which will be an astonishment to men who now talk of “higher education.” As the children sang in the temple courts, “Hosanna; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” so in these last days children’s voices will be raised to give the last message of warning to a perishing world. When heavenly intelligences see that men are no longer permitted to present the truth, the Spirit of God will come upon the children, and they will do a work in the proclamation of the truth which the older workers cannot do, because their way will be hedged up.
Our church schools are ordained by God to prepare the children for this great work. Here children are to be instructed in the special truths for this time and in practical missionary work. They are to enlist in the army of workers to help the sick and the suffering. Children can take part in the medical missionary work and by their jots and tittles can help to carry it forward. Their investments may be small, but every little helps, and by their efforts many souls will be won to the truth. By them God’s message will be made known and His saving health to all nations. Then let the church carry a burden for the lambs of the flock. Let the children be educated and trained to do service for God, for they are the Lord’s heritage.
Years ago school buildings suitable for church schools should have been erected in which the children and youth could receive a true education.
The lessonbooks used in our church schools should be of a character to bring the law of God to the attention. Thus the light and strength and power of the truth will be magnified. Youth from the world, some even whose minds have been depraved, will connect with these schools, and there they will be converted. Their witness for the truth may be stopped for a while by the false theories entertained by the parents, but in the end, truth will triumph. I am instructed to say that this kind of missionary work will have a telling influence in diffusing light and knowledge.
How important that families who settle where a school is located should be good representatives of our holy faith!
Churches where schools are established may well tremble as they see themselves entrusted with moral responsibilities too great for words to express. Shall this work that has been nobly begun fail or languish for want of consecrated workers? Shall selfish projects and ambitions find room in this enterprise? Will the workers permit the love of gain, the love of ease, the lack of piety, to banish Christ from their hearts and exclude Him from the school? God forbid! The work is already far advanced. In educational lines everything is arranged for an earnest reform, for a truer, more effective education. Will our people accept this holy trust? Will they humble themselves at the cross of Calvary, ready for every sacrifice and every service?
Parents and teachers should seek most earnestly for that wisdom which Jesus is ever ready to give; for they are dealing with human minds at the most interesting and impressible period of their development. They should aim so to cultivate the tendencies of the youth that at each stage of their life they may represent the natural beauty appropriate to that period, unfolding gradually, as do the plants and flowers in the garden.
The management and instruction of children is the noblest missionary work that any man or woman can undertake. By the proper use of objects the lessons should be made very plain, that their minds may be led from nature up to nature’s God. We must have in our schools those who possess the tact and skill to carry forward this line of work, thus sowing seeds of truth. The great day of God alone can reveal the good this work will do.
Special talent should be given to the education of the little ones. Many can put the crib high and give food to the sheep, but it is a more difficult matter to put the crib low and feed the lambs. This is a lesson which primary teachers need to learn.
The eye of the mind needs to be educated, or the child will find pleasure in beholding evil.
Teachers should sometimes enter into the sports and plays of the little children and teach them how to play. In this way they may be able to check unkind feelings and actions without seeming to criticize or find fault. This companionship will bind together the hearts of teachers and pupils, and school will be a delight to all.
Teachers must love the children because they are the younger members of the Lord’s family. The Lord will inquire of them as of the parents: “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?” Jeremiah 13:20.