The Financial Problems of our Christian Schools: Unsolved But Not Unsolvable

It is no secret that the financial burden of many of the parents who send their children to a Christian school is a heavy one and that this burden becomes heavier as the number of children who attend such schools increases. This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that our burgeoning population makes existing schools inadequate so that new and very costly buildings have to be erected. The over-all increase in the cost of Christian school education has resulted in a constant rise in the cost of tuition so that at the present time some of our Christian families, especially those with three or four or more children at school, find the total cost of tuition prohibitive.

What is the solution of this problem? It is safe to say that up to the present time no real solution has been found. In the event of a severe business recession there is reason to fear that not a few of our families would feel justified in sending their children to a public school.

Endowment Funds

Various methods are being tried to solve this problem. A few days ago we received a very impressive looking document from the Consolidated Eastern Christian Schools which are now busy establishing an endowment fund of $100,000, the interest of which will be used to provide a means of income for the running expenses of the schools. This may be a step in the right direction. Any legitimate means to lower the cost of tuition and lighten the burden of those families which find it hard to pay for the Christian education of their children should be welcomed. Yet we do not believe that any of our institutions should ever be endowed to the point where sacrifices of the supporters are no longer required. Moreover, probably only a large organization like the Consolidated Eastern Christian Schools will be able to accumulate a worthwhile endowment fund.

The Tendency to lean on Church Support

The general tendency among our school-boards which are wrestling with this difficult problem of Christian school finance is to lean more and more on our churches for financial support. It is no longer exceptional for such boards to hold the churches to which our Christian school families belong responsible for the tuition money which the families are unable to pay. In some instances the school-boards do not hesitate to send a statement to the consistory or consistories concerned with the comment: The deficit in the tuition of your members is so much; please remit!

Boosters’ Clubs

The idea of a church boosters’ club, which, if we mistake not, also originated in the East, is gradually taking hold among the supporters of our Christian schools in various localities. Some of these clubs undertake to pay the full tuition for the children of the church. Not only parents of school-going children but a large proportion of the membership of such a church contributes to this fund. In other churches the club pays to the Christian school or schools concerned what has been lacking in the tuition paid by the parents.

It must be admitted that the growing tendency in our school boards and school societies to rely on our churches for the solution of the financial problem of our Christian schools hardly fits in with the principle that these schools should be non-parochial, parent-owned and parent-controlled. Yet no one will deny that our churches have so great a stake in the success of these schools that they owe them all the moral support and all the financial aid which they can give. The general feeling is that the inconsistency of an increasing transfer of our schools’ financial burden to the churches without giving these same churches a voice in the government of these schools, particularly with respect to the religious aspect of the work, should be overlooked. In our opinion this inconsistency should not be perpetuated. We believe that it would be better to make our schools parochial, that is, church.owned and church-controlled, than to abandon them or to allow the financial obligations of the parents concerned to become too heavy.

Boosters’ Clubs are not the fuU answer to the financial problems of our Christian schools. For example, we know from consultation with one who is closely connected with these schools that these clubs have even intensified the problem for certain congregations—namely those which have not seen their way clear, for one or more reasons, to organize such clubs. We are told that the larger congregations which do have such clubs now feel that they should not be approached in emergency drives for unpaid tuition since their boosters’ club has paid in full for the congregation’s share of the tuition of its own children.

The Crux of the Problem

The nub of the financial problem of our Christian schools is the fact that the burden of the support of these schools rests on too few people, namely on the parents whose children attend these schools. There are too many families in our congregations which have a good income and could make substantial contributions to this worthy cause but fail to do so because they are unmarried or do not yet have or no longer have children who attend. What they fail to realize is that the proper training of our children as good citizens and worthy members of the church should be a matter of deep concern to every single family and member of the church. Perhaps it is true that this is realized, at least to some extent, by the families and individuals just mentioned, but in spite of the fact they still fail to contribute properly to these schools. Why?



Scriptural Principles

The answer is in many instances that such members of am churches, and others besides, have not learned the sacred art of Christian giving. It is our conviction that we as a church have been sadly remiss in stressing this in our family visiting, in our teaching and preaching, and in the work with our societies. We have failed as a denomination, generally speaking, to teach and preach, in season and out of season, that there is a Scriptural method of giving and that such giving is both a means of grace and a source of joy.

What is that Scriptural method? Paul declares in I Corinthians 16:2: “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” True, this apostolic injunction was given first of all with regard to “the collection for the saints,” but who will deny that it has a wider application? In these words Paul lays down certain basic principles which apply to all giving for the Kingdom. For one thing, our giving should be proportionate to our financial ability (“as he may prosper”). We do not pay dues to the church, as to many other organizations; that is, we do not all pay a stated sum, the same for all. The more we receive from the Lord the more we should give. But there is one other important principle which this passage teaches: our giving should be sacrificial and systematic. Sacrificial giving does not mean that we should “give till it hurts.” If our giving is truly sacrificial, it will not hurt. A sacrifice is something that we set aside, separate, from our income or possessions for a sacred use. It is something we yield or relinquish as being offered to God. It should not be counted among our rightful possessions but be regarded as a devoted thing, which we will not under any circumstances regard or use as our own. This means, as Paul puts it, that what is to be given should be laid by us in store (“put something aside and store it up,” R.S.V.) in the conviction that it is the Lord’s, not ours. For that reason such giving does not hurt! It does not cause pain but pleasure.

Sacrificial giving should also be systematic. Paul commands that this devoted part of our income or possessions should be set aside every first day of the week, even if the collection is not made till later. Our giving should not be a matter of mere impulse. The notion which some Christians have that to put system into our giving is to take the heart out of it is wrong. Impulsive, irregular, unsystematic givers seldom give what they should.

What About Tithing?

If our giving should be in proportion to our income, what should that proportion be? For example, one percent or five percent of our income, when given to the Lord, would be proportionate giving. Would it be the right proportion? Those who deny that the ancient rule of tithing has validity for us have no answer to that question. Tithing doubtless had a divine origin and was practised by the godly long before it was incorporated in the Mosaic law. It has Scriptural warrant, not as a New Testament command but as a divine suggestion answering the inevitable question what proportion of our income we should give, for the Lord’s work, not as a maximum but as a minimum.

We are convinced that we as a church, generally speaking, have been much too timid and hesitant in teaching the principle of sacrificial, systematic giving, through the method of tithing. The result? Simply this, that too many of us have never cultivated the sacred art of giving. It is undeniably true that we shall not easily find joy in giving as long as we have formed the bad habit of contributing to God’s cause out of that which we regarded as our own and which first went into our own pocket in the assumption that we could use it for ourselves. Such giving is never cheerful, eager giving. It is not sacrificial giving even if we occasionally give large gifts. Such giving usually “hurts” because that which we give was not set aside for the Lord before it ever went into the Lord’s treasury.

The kind of giving which God requires through Paul is most easily learned in youth. Parents are in duty bound to teach it to their children. The latter should learn in their early years to set aside a tenth of their spending or allowance money for the cause of Christ. That is far better than to put a coin into their hand on Sunday morning for the collection box. Ministers have a wonderful opportunity to explain the duty and the pleasure of tithing to their catechism classes; but the task is primarily one for the parents.

We believe that many of our people who think they are doing their duty in the support of church and school are in reality not contributing as the Lord has prospered them. We are convinced that if all our people were tithers there would be no lack of funds for our Christian schools and the many other causes which need their support. What is just as important, to say the least they would then be giving eagerly and cheerfully.

One may say that all such wishful thinking about converting our people to the godly habit of proportionate, sacrificial and systematic giving will not solve the present pressing financial problem of our Christian schools and other Kingdom institutions. But only in this way are we getting down to the root of the problem. We are persuaded that this long range program is the only real and lasting solution.

How significant it is that the Seventh Day Adventists, who make tithing an obligation for all their members, and who require additional offerings besides, are far ahead of all other churches in their per capita contributions to religious causes. Let us learn from them, not by making tithing a sort of legal obligation for all our people but by preaching and teaching it as a Scriptural method of voluntary giving and by devising proper means to encourage it in the rising generation. Then we shall no longer have so many unmarried young men in our churches who spend all their money on cars, gas, and sport, nor so many young unmarried women who need all they earn for hairdos, clothing, and earthly pleasures.