Being Christian in the Public School
By: Sara Morgan
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had various teenage jobs, from bagging groceries to serving pizza at a local parlor; I struggled to find my niche. Soon after I married my husband, Matt, I found myself as an instructional assistant to my sister in her third-grade classroom. This is fun; I thought; Maybe I want to be a teacher—and so my journey began. The path was quite unexpected but now, with the gift of hindsight, I see that being a Christian teacher in the public school system was the beginning of my professional vocation.
Raised in a Christian home and sent to parochial school PreK–12th grade, I was, to say the least, sheltered in my understanding of the ways of the world. To be honest, I believed that public school was a scary, Godless place. As I pursued my teaching credentials, I realized that I wanted to work in the field of special education. I had so much to learn, and public school—that place I was conditioned to fear, was where God sent me to be trained. My student teaching assignment was in the classroom of a wonderful woman who was ready to retire. She specifically wanted to leave her position to me, and she graciously left me ALL of her teaching materials. God knew the plans that He had for me, even though I was oblivious to them.
Dispelling the Myth
My perceptions of public school quickly changed as I realized that my faith was not a noose tightly wrapped around my neck, nor was it a secret that had to be hidden away for my off-campus life. I grew to appreciate the ripe mission opportunities within my community. Living out my faith was not about proselytizing and preaching hell and damnation, it was a daily attempt to follow the example of Jesus and listen to the hearts of the people He had placed in my life. I learned to approach them with kindness and a desire to understand how their journey had brought them to their ideas about religion. God allowed me to meet so many of His children; some just don’t know that they are yet.
After years of teaching, a change of school districts, and a stint as a program specialist, I now serve the credential candidates of Concordia University, Irvine (CUI) . Most of my students pursue jobs in public education, and it is my honor to arm them with the truth about our First Amendment rights and encourage them to enter their profession confidently as Christian public school teachers.
A New Reality
The term vocation has been a reoccurring topic for the faculty and staff at CUI. In-depth discussions surrounding the use of our God-given gifts and talents to serve the Lord in every aspect of our lives have required us to contemplate the many callings God has entrusted us with (child, sibling, friend, spouse, parent, neighbor, employee, colleague, acquaintance). Acknowledgement that God accomplishes His works through the security personnel, the gardener, the secretary, the instructor, and the theologian has reminded us to appreciate and uplift the dedication each member of the Body has made to upholding the instructions and commands of Scripture. Christ gave His Church the joyful duty to make disciples of all nations in His final charge to His disciples in Matthew 28. He also promised to go before us and with us. God has not left the public school, nor has He abandoned the work that is to be done there. Our minds cannot fathom the revival God has planned; He does not fear those who reject Him, He is the Master Planner. It is His strength, His actions, His words that will convict the hearts of men. It is merely our job to recognize that we have been placed in our vocations for the sole purpose of uplifting the name of Jesus Christ and, in turn, submitting our lives to His will.
The revival of this topic seems timely as the Western Church is experiencing a swift change. Our culture no longer accepts the “come to us” mentality. The Christian community has lived for hundreds of years and become extremely comfortable with the idea that the unchruched make the first step in becoming a part of the Body. This reality is disintegrating, and the Christian Church as a whole is shrinking. The new reality is that Christian believers need to infuse themselves into the community and become an essential part of the everyday life of the people there.
For those who have, at one time or another, been called into public school teaching,there is no better time to break the silence. This forum is an opportunity for us to find strength in knowing there is an army of Christians ready to support one another. Share your testimony, listen to the triumphs and trials of your fellow Christian soldiers, and gather ideas for how you can be a light in the darkness.
Concordia Publishing House (CPH) is the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For 145 years, CPH has provided individuals, churches, and schools with products that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. From books and Bibles to church supplies, curriculum, and software, CPH offers more than 8,000 products to support the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide. Visit CPH online at cph.org.