Can You Afford A Christian School?

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The extra tuition costs and fees involved in sending children to a Christian elementary, high school, or college are a serious consideration for most families.  In fact, more than being a serious consideration, the ‘Christian school’ decision is often one that causes a lot of conflict in families.  Some families may have made the arrangements to save money for the cost of school, while others will be forced to consider student loans.

Since we all have varying debt tolerance, it is important to make this decision carefully and prayerfully.

How To Decide If You Can Afford A Christian School

I think the decision to send children to a Christian school is much like the decision to be a stay at home wife.  It’s not just something you decide if you can afford, but you decide to sacrifice so that you can afford it – if it’s important to you.

Listen To Each Other’s Story

Here’s the deal.  The husband and wife probably have very different experiences with Christian schools.

Perhaps the wife was raised attending a Christian elementary school, but the husband was part of the public school system.

Here’s how the conversation typically goes:

Wife – “I just really want Nebuchadnezzar to go to the best school possible.  It is important to me that he is in a classroom with other Christians, is learning Christian values, and has a Christian teacher.”

Husband – “You’re just trying to shelter Nebuchadnezzar.  Look, I went to a public school and I turned out alright, didn’t I?”

Tip to the wife – always answer yes to that question.

Husband – “It is a waste of money paying for a Christian education when he can get a good education in the public system.”

Questions the Couple Should Ask When Considering a Christian Private School

  • Why do you feel so strongly Nebuchadnezzar should go to a Christian school / public school?  If you don’t get good feedback, then ask it this way: On a scale of 1 – 10, how strongly do you feel that he should go to Christian / public school.
  • What is your greatest fear if he does not go to a Christian school?  What is your greatest fear if he does not go to a public school?
  • Can we afford a Christian private school? Is there any free space in your budget categories allocations?

Ask: Can We Afford a Christian School?

You must listen to each other’s story because you will now know the level of commitment / opposition each of you will give to the decision.  It will be nearly impossible to answer if you can afford it until you both decide that you want to afford it.  Work to get your marriage on the same financial page so that you both support your financial decisions.  Here are some tips for improving your marriage and money relationship

Private Christian School Guidelines To Consider

  • Tuition payments to a private Christian school are not a substitute for a free-will giftGiving should happen without alternative benefits and motivations.  Proceed with caution if you think the way you can afford a Christian school is by using your giving money to pay tuition.
  • Borrowing money to pay for (especially a pre-college) Christian education is a poor financial decision.  If you are thinking about borrowing money to pay for Nebuchadnezzar’s elementary education, you will probably do it for high school and college too.  Before you know it, you will be drowning in debt.  Proceed with caution if you think the way you can afford a Christian school is by borrowing money.
  • Large gifts from family members can complicate your relationship with them.  If grandparents want to help pay for a Christian education, I suggest you proceed with caution.  If you have any doubt that the grandparents might use this as leverage in the future, then I would find a different way to fund a Christian education.
  • Is the tuition cost sustainable long term?  Often times people will do something drastic (part time job or sell things on ebay) to pay for a year of Christian education.  If the payments are not sustainable for the long term, you will need to evaluate other alternatives. 
  • Are the tuition payments reasonable according to your salary?  You get to be the judge on “reasonable”.  Honestly, it comes down to the question – how much are you willing to sacrifice in order for your child to attend a Christian school?  Don’t forget about other siblings too, as you may be setting a dangerous precedent.

If you cannot afford it based on these guidelines – fear not.  You still have on more step to consider.

Ask: What Can I Do To Make Private Christian Schooling More Affordable?

  • Contact the school and explain your situation.  Many Christian schools have benefactors or scholarships depending on your situation.  Call the school and openly and honestly explain your situation.  Don’t be demanding or aggressive.  Simply explain your situation and ask if there is anything they can do to help.
  • Consider working for the school. I grew up in a town with a Christian high school. (I attended the school, as did my two older brothers.  Dad was the school president, so there wasn’t much discussion in the matter :)).  I have a cousin who moved to work for the school specifically so his kids could attend the Christian high school.  By moving, he saved boarding expenses and also received a significant tuition deduction.  I know many people who have taken jobs at a Christian school just for the tuition discount.  Depending on your church affiliation, many schools offer “sister school discounts”.  As such, since my dad worked for school A, I received a tuition discount to school B.
  • Look into other occupations that might offer discounts.  Some Christian schools offer discounts to missionaries or ministers (a nice perk for the minister’s salary package).  While I’m not suggesting joining one of those ‘professions’ for the discount, it would be valuable information to know if you are already working in a ministry-related field.  Some schools are known to be quite flexible on their definition of “minister”.

Comments

  1. says

    Great topic, and one of the really tough decisions we all face as parents.

    Our kids have loved their small Christian school from K-8 but we are putting our daughter back into public schools for high school in part because a larger public high school has much more in the way of gifted programs and activities and in part to help save money for private college. My thought is that if you can’t afford both private high school and a private Christian college it is probably safer to give them exposure to the secular school world while they are still living with you.
    .-= gn´s last blog ..Food for Thought: Govt Withholding Plummets =-.

    • says

      @gn
      You make a good point. If it is one or the other (school at home or school away from home) I would also rather them be at a Christian school away from home.

  2. says

    Are they’re any statistics availabe measuring the correlation between believers at say, ages 35, 40 or 50, and attendance at Christian schools?

    Are there similar statistics for public school attendance?

    I’m asking because most of the adult believers I know didn’t attend Christian schools, so I’m not sure, anecdotally of course, if Christian school = adult believer.

    This may be flawed, but to my thinking, that’s the primary reason I might send my kids to Christian schools, to raise the chances that they’d be believers in adult life.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfY0urRut´s last blog ..How Much Money Can You Save by NOT Eating Out? =-.

  3. says

    In our area, the schools are fantastic. Great, awesome. No reason to think they would offer any less of an education. Yet a lot of Christians home school and send their kids to private schools (also some of the best around). I struggle with it for two reasons. 1. It does not teach the young person how to interact with people daily of different faiths and backgrounds. 2. I have met just as many jacked up kids at christian schools then public schools.

    I always recommend to kids that have a strong faith and good family to go to public school. There are so many opportunities to learn what the world is like and to get extra curricular mentoring or teaching from the vast amount of churches around. There are definitely kids that need that nurturing environment with some extra attention. Maybe they had some bad experiences with friends or have some learning disabilities that need more attention a private school has. But I find the drawbacks to be way to much if the public schools nearby are good. If they stink- then of course. Who wouldn’t? Lots of urban areas have that issue.
    .-= Ted @broketofree´s last blog ..The shame of debt =-.

    • says

      @Ted
      You make some good points. Still, if someone can afford it and prefers a Christian school that is great. My place of concern comes when people do it because they cannot afford it. That is a dangerous place to be.

  4. Alan Reed says

    We sent our kids to a Christian School. My youngest is graduating this year. Sending your kids to a Christian School is not guarantee of adult faithfulness but it does help. As parents, you can’t let your guard down just because your child is at a Christian School. The most important and impactful spiritual training should come from the home.

    Another benefit of a Christian School is that they are usually smaller than public shools so it is easier for students to get involved in school activities. Keeping kids involved in school and church activities is important, especially during their teen years.

    Finally, I believe the teachers a Christian Schools are special. Like any school, they are not all great teachers. But, I do believe they are answering a service call, they certainly aren’t doing it for the pay. In general they love teaching and working with children and have the added bonus of a spiritual focus.

    • says

      Alan,
      There are certainly a lot of benefits associated with Christian schools.
      In my case, I attended a Christian high school and that experiences had a huge impact on where I am today.
      You are right, also that many of the teachers in private schools do so out of a sense of calling not income. When my wife moved from a public school to a private school she took a significant pay cut. However, she loved the unique opportunity to help spiritually impact children.

  5. says

    What does God say about education?
    The most Biblical form of education is Homeschooling. God does not address government employees to be educators of our children. He clearly places this responsability on parents as the educators of their own children:

    “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
    - Deuteronomy 6:6-7

    “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”
    - Isaiah 54:13

    “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
    - Proverbs 22:6

    Jesus said: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
    - Luke 6:39, 40

    “Learn not the way of the heathen.”
    - Jeremiah 10:2

    “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
    - Proverbs 13:20

  6. Renee says

    Craig – my question is this… If I continue to work, we can keep our two daughters in our awesome Christian school. They are currently in 1st greade and pre-Kindergarten and they love it and are doing so well. Our public school is not the greatest. And I am sure I couldn’t homeschool, nor do I have the desire.

    We also have a baby boy, 1 year old.

    I did work part-time, but my husband has been out of work for over a year so I am going back fulltime. My heart is at home, and I dread the day my husband goes back to work and we have to put my baby in daycare because my mom is getting too old to help with the kids. Then summer is coming, and I feel my kids will need me.

    I am really struggling with – do I keep working full time and keep them in the great school – or do I quit and send them to a not-so-great public school?

    Also – I am a new Christian, so I don’t feel well-equipped to teach them the bible… my daughter knows how to pray better than I and is teaching me things!

    Praying is not helping me find an answer! Thanks for any comments!

    • says

      Renee,
      I wish there was a simple answer here, but I don’t think there is. Obviously, you will need to decide what is most important to your family. It doesn’t look like you can do both (stay home and send them to private school). Pray for wisdom and then do what you think will be best for their development, spiritual life, and education.
      Sorry I couldn’t offer a simple solution.

  7. Mark says

    Craig,
    My wife and I are praying hard and having a difficult time discerning God’s direction whether to sell our house and moved our family of 5 back into a double wide mobile home in order to make Christian school possible. Not only would we not have a mortgage, we would be debt free with a couple years of moving in to one. We have a beautiful home but it’s tough because my wife and I both love our home, but we both could walk away from it if we felt His calling. I know you can’t answer my question for me by telling us what we should do. But, I guess I would like to know the “gut” feeling someone else such as yourself would have about selling their home, moving into a trailer in order to send their kids to a private Christian school?
    -Mark

    • says

      Mark,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Financial management is always an issue of priority. How important is your house? How important is private school? How important is the debt free life?

      Personally I don’t have a lot of attachment to stuff (like a house) so I’d probably lean in the direction of the schooling if if felt it was important (especially if I felt called). However, my wife would probably feel like the home was important. It’s something we’d have a long talk about and lots of prayer regarding.

      I hope this helps.

      May God give you and your family wisdom at this time.

      • Mark says

        I’m very emotionally driven and very stressed about this decision. My weakness is that I struggle with waiting on good and discerning what he is calling me to do. I’m worried that my fear of the possibility that my kids may go to a public school is not trusting God. Also, I fear that I’m not trusting got by dumping this house. I do not want to make an emotional decision when I don’t know if it is the Holy Spirits leading. In fact, at the very moment I’m typing this, my wife has found a buyer for her grandparents double wide mobile home and all she has to do is call them tonight. Long story short, we manage this mobile home park. So, the home has been up for grabs and still is until 7pm tonght. NOw that is not much time to make a decision. I know you nor anyone else can answer this for me, but maybe it’s that I’m looking for the silver lining within a discussion. That may be wrong of me I know.

        • says

          Mark,
          It sounds like such a difficult decision. As an outside voice my only advice is to take your time. If there is any kind of deadline, let that pass as there will always be another opportunity.
          Huge life decisions should be made in thoughtful prayer and not in haste.
          I know this is easy to say and hard to do. I’ll pray that God will give you the wisdom necessary.

  8. Mark says

    Thank you Chris
    I don’t know you, but you are my brother in Christ. I apreciate your words. You and I both agree that decision should not be made in haste. I feel that can cloud what the Holy Spirit is truely directing someone to do. I’m still waiting and praying. ther is still a few more days left if we want this smaller home, but if I don’t feel His prompting, I’m not going to make a decision to move… God’s ways can not be understood I know..just have to have faith.
    In Him
    -Mark

  9. says

    I am responding to the question about evidenced based data about the benefits of private Christian Schools in general. The source data is from Dan Krause of Graceworks Ministries. Blessings.

    The profound opportunity of a Christian school is two-fold: (1) Students do far better academically in a Christian school, and (2) Students in a Christian school stay steadfast in their faith, even if they attend a secular college.

    Stronger Academic Achievement. To resolve important questions in social science, meta-analysis studies are done. Meta-analyses are studies of studies. In the case of William Jeynes in Religion, Education, and Academic Success (above), 134 related academic research studies were analyzed together by statisticians at Harvard and the University of Chicago.

    Jeynes’ critical conclusion is that all traditional academic achievement gap issues (income/race) go away in Christian schools in an intact family. In the case of a single parent, achievement gap losses are mitigated about half-way.

    In other words, no one can credibly argue that people who receive financial aid are “holding back the class.” In fact, Jeynes attributes these achievement gap gains to the fact that religious schools will simply NOT lower their standards. Why are these achievement gaps overcome in Christian schools?

    Jeynes’ meta-analysis found four key reasons:

    (1) More challenging curriculum / harder classes
    (2) Higher expectations of student diligence
    (3) Solid overall student work habits / learning habits
    (4) Spiritual and moral emphases

    Steadfast Faith. The greatest impact of a Christian school is the eternal one – students who remain faithful and church-attending after college – regardless of the college attended. The 8,000-pound gorilla in the room is the sobering fact that between 50-60% of our kids – church going, Sunday school / youth group attending – are no longer engage with a Christian church upon graduating from college. Five different researchers have found this percentage dropping out (or worse):

    Formerly Active Twenty-Somethings No Longer Actively Involved in a Christian Church

    Summary of Studies

    Researcher Year Sample Size No Longer Church-Going
    George Barna 2006 24,227 61%
    Steve Henderson / Gary Railsback 2003 15,895 52-63%
    Ken Ham 2009 1,000 89%
    Ed Stetzer 2007 1,023 70%

    While different researchers disagree on why church-going high schoolers no longer attend church after college, a persistent theme is lack of a personal relationship with God. Some of this research (Stetzer) suggests that some twenty-somethings will eventually return to the church, but there are no guarantees.
    For church-going kids who attended Christian school, the number of “church-going drop-outs” is a fraction of that – less than 10% according to Josh McDowell. As you would expect, the number is also much lower for students who attend Protestant Christian colleges and universities. (Only about 20% of Christian families are able to choose this option, however.)

    So what is the opportunity of a Christian education? Graduates of Christian schools are far better prepared academically, and for the lower income groups are 2-3 times more likely to graduate from college. And our graduates keep the faith, even in secular universities. Both academically and spiritually, we can send our children to the finest colleges and universities in the country – with confidence.

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