In 2010 my wife and I moved back to Evansville, Indiana, after 12 years of being away. We moved into a home that was great for us as a married couple with two young boys—four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a playroom, a bonus room—and it was a great price! After about a year of living there, Kim and I found ourselves rumbling. What began as gratefulness to the Lord for providing above and beyond our needs turned into entitlement issues. “Isn’t this amazing?” became “I wish we had _____________.” “We have four bedrooms!” faded into “Our master bedroom is too small.”
In 2013 we moved into what Kim described as her dream home: a really old home with a lot of character (in fact, it’s the oldest wood-framed home in Evansville, built in 1827!). Lo and behold, after two years of living there we saw pictures of another, newly renovated old home, and they became the seed for displeasure in our “dream” home. And so became the realization that of one of the most commonly stated phrases of all time is also one of greatest lies ever told: The grass is not always greener on the other side.
When families make the decision to enroll their children in a Christian school, it is much more of a commitment than a decision. The commitment comes with financial obligations. It comes with expectations that things will be better or that the school will fix something. When the inevitable moment comes that challenges the original vision of the perfect union between education, family, and Jesus, all those obligations and expectations get thrown on the scale, and your family then steps back to measure weather this is all worth it. You can hear the conversations now (and perhaps you’ve even had them yourself): “I bet if our kids were at a different school, I wouldn’t be dealing with this!” “Our kids could get a lot more opportunities for athletics at a bigger school, and I wouldn’t be paying tuition!” “My kids need more “real world” experiences, and they could get that if they weren’t in a Christian school.” Man. Those are some real-deal conversations that can frustrate families and strain relationships.
But would a new school really fix the problems? I have found that “new” rarely provides any solution that is deeper than superficial, whether with marriage, friends, or school. How, then, does a family keep its commitment to Christian education fresh and alive? Perhaps the following guidelines can help craft some perspective.
Recognize that the “grass is greener” mentality exists. Andy Stanley, in his book Deep and Wide (2012) says, “time in erodes awareness of,” (139). In other words, the more time an individual spends in or connected to something or someone, the more at risk that individual is of failing to see its value. Again, think marriage. “Time in” and cultural messages like “Life’s short. Get a divorce.” simply seed the heart issue that anything else is better than what a person currently has. Christian education is no different. Time in can indeed erode awareness of. There has to be a recognition that this mentality thrives in a consumer driven, materialistic society such as ours.
Know your family mission. When you can expressly state what you desire your family to stand for, making and keeping commitments toward that mission is much easier. For example, one aspect of our family’s mission is to be brave and intentional in response to God’s Word. For us, that means we want our boys to be trained up not only in the Word of God, but also in having a view of the world that is seen through the lens of the Gospel. We want, as a family, to be ready to intentionally respond to God’s Word in our hearts, our relationships, and our community. The best way for our boys to experience this core and expressly stated value of our family is to have them in a Bible based, educationally challenging school. When times and relationships between our family and our experience at school become challenging, we can easily go back to what we know is a core value for our family and gain perspective on our frustration. Finding resolution is more important than cutting ties, because we understand our family’s mission.
If you feel like your grass is struggling, be a grass waterer! False expectations are so hard to manage, but so easy to be deceived by. Everyone has heard, “The grass is greener on the other side,” but few truly understand the following (author unknown) response: “You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but if you take the time to water your own grass, it would be just as green.” Instead of looking for how a Christian school isn’t meeting every need, what if your family looked for where you could plug in and create better opportunities and experiences for others? Is that not the model Jesus designed? Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3–6, “ I thank my God in all my remembrance of you . . . because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul saw that Christ intended His Church body to have a lasting partnership, one of commitment that He would bring to fruition. So instead of looking to how others might fulfill our needs, let us look to the Father and ask Him how we might fulfill the needs of others who are right in front of us!
The Allens still live in our “dream” home. It’s that kind of dream that needs continual maintenance, and there is always a project happening. But again, that’s the reality of living in a broken world that is patiently awaiting the return of its Savior. I think we’ll stay.
Michael W. Allen
Head of School
Evansville Christian School
Stanley, Andy. 2012. Deep and Wide: Creating churches unchurched people love to attend. Michigan: Zondervan.