Adventist Education Does Matter
One of the significant questions asked about Adventist education is whether or not children who attend Adventist schools remain in the Adventist Church as adults in substantially greater numbers than children who do not. The recently published research from the Valuegensis 2 study provides data that help us to develop informed conclusions.
In one of the final chapters of the book Valuegensis: Ten Years Later, the researchers report the following data regarding the importance of home, school and church in children's lives. They looked at three specific outcomes and did a statistical analysis on the effectiveness of those three environments (home, school and church) in impacting the selected outcomes.
The first outcome was faith maturity. Only 35 percent of students who reported that they had no exposure to any of these three supportive environments reached high faith maturity. With one supportive environment the number increases to 55 percent. With two supportive environments it reaches 69 percent, and, with all three supportive environments present, 75 percent reach faith maturity.
Though the second outcome, denominational loyalty, is not required for salvation, many parents expect that attendance at an Adventist school should have some positive effect in this area. With no supportive environments reported by the students, we can expect only 48 percent of our children to develop loyalty to the Adventist Church. With one supportive environment, the percent increases to 64. With two supportive environments, we reach 82 percent. With all three supportive environments, 88 percent of students report that they will develop loyalty to the Adventist Church.
The third outcome was related to how many of the respondents saw themselves as an Adventist at 40 years of age. With no supportive environments, only 22 percent felt they would remain in the Adventist Church. With one supportive environment, the number increases to 36 percent. With two supportive environments, the percent was 55, and, with all three environments reported as supportive by students, the number increases to 62 percent.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a Christian, two-parent home, an Adventist church school, and a marvelously supportive and active church. Many of my most enjoyable memories of my elementary school years involve church activities that my Grand Avenue Adventist Church provided in Rochester, New York. My personal testimony is that when a solid Adventist home sends a child to an Adventist school and a local Adventist church intentionally provides a warm nurturing environment there is a good chance that a child will be a happy, loyal Adventist Church member for life.
Is this a foolproof formula? Of course not. There are no real guarantees this side of heaven. However, if we care about our children and want them connected to Jesus and the church, why wouldn’t we do our best to provide the most supportive home, church and, certainly, school environment that we can? Ephesians 4 (NLT) sounds the challenge to all of us:
11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.