DAWNINGS: A Christian ethic for public schools

It’s that time again, when we need to remember to slow down in school zones, because school is starting! At our congregation and many others, we are again gearing up to support the essential community-wide endeavor of educating our children.

We will be offering a “Blessing of the Backpacks” this weekend for all of our students and school staff. We’ve also issued prayer bracelets with the names of all of our congregation’s teachers so we can support them as they serve our kids. And of course we’ve rounded up dozens of backpacks filled with school supplies for kids in need. That is because one test of a Christian congregation’s ethics is how we interact with our public schools.

Let me unpack that. What do I mean when I say one test of our ethics as Christians is how we interact with our public schools? As Christians, it is our special job in the world as we follow Jesus to care for the “at-risk” among us and to seek out the common good for all of God’s children.

I hear folks say, “My kids are graduated, so thank God I’m done with our schools,” or, “I don’t have any kids, so it’s not my problem,” or even, “I opt out and send my kids to a private school.”

Families who can afford to do so have the privilege to choose a private school. But make no mistake, whether we personally have children in them or not, Ector County schools are our schools. This year, ECISD will educate about 32,500 students, about one-fourth of the city of Odessa’s population.

Not only that, ECISD offers special services to thousands of students with unique needs, which no other school so completely provides. In addition, ECISD literally feeds our kids breakfast and lunch, because according to the Texas Tribune, 63% of our kids are “at risk” kids in great need.

If we want an equipped workforce, a positively influenced next generation, an informed citizenry, and a more crime-free, quality place to live, we are all needed to support ECISD. Is our school district perfect? By no means. But if you haven’t researched it lately, it is doing leaps and bounds better than it was five years ago in nearly every category. Because that improvement affects the vast majority of our community’s kids, this should be a celebration for all of us!

I hope if you are not already doing so, God will lead you to volunteer, to tune into our upcoming bond election, to write an encouraging note to a teacher, or to pray with me for our public schools. When the Apostle Paul said, “Do not seek your own personal interests alone, but also the interests of others,” I think he could have been talking about supporting our public schools (Philippians 2:4).