Monday, March 06, 2006

"Christian" boarding schools

Every time I flip through a new issue of World Magazine—a quick read—there’s an ad for Cono, “A Christian Boarding School.”

This is some of what Cono has to say about itself:

“Cono Christian School is a fountain of grace for Christian families. Our staff and the Cono program are here to reach the hearts of young people. We want to break through the boredom, isolation, loneliness, and in some cases, despair that mark even Christian children. In this endeavor, we offer the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many young people need to make the fundamental decision to follow Jesus, and many avenues of success will follow. However, not all make that decision. We still offer remedies for life: solid adult relationships, structure; and a sound Christian college prep education.

Students from around the world and across the United States live and study at Cono. As a Christian day and boarding school, Cono Christian School has always been committed to the spiritual growth of our students. Our standard for teaching and living godly lives is the Holy Scriptures, our ultimate authority. We consider it a privilege to serve so many students and direct them to our sovereign God.

In 1951, a group of dedicated parents in a local Presbyterian church established Cono Christian School. They were convinced that true education must be based on Scriptural authority in harmony with the teachings of home and church. As a ministry of Bible Presbyterian Church, they began a Christian day school with seven children, one teacher, and one acre of donated farmland. Cono became a boarding school in 1960 when children of missionaries began attending.

Cono is here to help Christian families. The atmosphere is a positive heart-reaching one. Cono has grown over the years with added classrooms, dorm rooms and athletic facilities. Our commitment to provide a loving, structured, and Christ-centered learning environment continues to draw students from around the world.

The most important relationship a student can build is with Jesus Christ. This priority is the heartbeat of Cono. Dedicated Christian men and women are committed to relationships with students that foster a life-changing love for Jesus Christ. Cono staff also help students understand the value of quality peer relationships.

I give permission for my child to be involved in the Host Family Program which allows students to occasionally spend the weekend at a Cono-approved family’s home( Parent/Guardian Agreement).”

Another well-known school of its kind is Stony Brook, founded by the late Frank Gaebelein. This is some of what Stony Brook has to say about itself:

“The Stony Brook School is an independent college preparatory school (grades 7-12) that exists to challenge young men and women to know Jesus Christ as Lord, to love others as themselves, and to grow in knowledge and skill, in order that they may serve the world through their character and leadership. Founded in 1922 with the motto

"Character Before Career," The Stony Brook School educates students in matters of the mind, body, and heart. Students are challenged to become leaders with integrity and virtue; character development is considered an essential component of the educational process. While students are presented with the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are free to maintain their personal spiritual beliefs.”

Back when I was attending a WELS church off and on, that denomination also sponsored a boarding school.

Indeed, if you spend a little time with a search engine, you can pull up quite a few Christian boarding schools.

My question is whether a “Christian boarding school” isn’t an oxymoron. That is to say, do Christian parents have the right to contract out their child-reading responsibilities to a second-party?

I’m not talking about sending your teenager to a Christian school. Rather, I’m talking about sending your teenager to a Christian boarding school.

Should Christian kids, or any kids, for that matter, be separated from their parents for most of the school year during their teens?

It’s all very well to talk about forming a relationship with Jesus Christ, but is the best way to form a relationship with Jesus Christian to sever the relationship with a kid’s own family and whatever local church they attend?

Whoever came up with the bright idea that this was a good way to form Christian character, anyway?

Isn’t the local church and the natural family the divinely ordained environment for young people to grow up in the faith as well as grow into the faith?

At the moment I’m not addressing the case of troubled young people. Desperate parents sometimes send a juvenile delinquent to a military academy or youth ranch. I’m not addressing that particular case.

Rather, I’m addressing the general idea of separating children from parents and siblings. Treating them like orphans. Farming them off to a boarding school in another town, another city, even another country or continent.

Is this consistent with Christian social ethics? Don’t we need to debate this?

It also seems to me that this is, if anything, an excellent way to lose your kids, not keep your kids or save your kids. To cut them loose at a formative stage of life—as they are coming of age—when they are most in need of the parental counsel, role-modeling, and affection of other family members and childhood friends.

Isn’t this almost designed to backfire in a certain percentage of cases? To make kids resentful and rebellious because their parents abandoned them? Isn’t this a recipe for fostering an acute sense of isolation and betrayal? A prescription for loneliness, despair, and apostasy?

The church needs to confront this issue and not pass it over in silence or even support the venture with no further ado.

Do we really think that mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, the pastor, as well as childhood friends and neighbors, are dispensable in the child-reading process? Are dispensable in spiritual nurture and formation?

Do we really have such a portable and anonymous theory of child-reading and spiritual development?

Isn’t this the philosophy of the kibbutz? Where any adult can substitute for the parent?

Does a family consist of interchangeable, replaceable parts? Swap one person in, another person out?

Isn’t this the philosophy of the alternative lifestyle? Two mommies or two daddies?

It’s alarmingly subversive that at a time when the church is fighting for the integrity of the natural family against secular forces bent on destroying the fundamental unit of society, we have ads for Christian boarding schools—ads which appear to provoke not a word of concern or protest. Should we not put our own house in order?

Or am I missing something?


  1. "Cono Christian School is a fountain of grace for Christian families"

    While I'm sure that this statement (as well as the entire school) was made with good intentions, it could not be further from Biblical truth. The Christian family is the "fountain of grace." The family unit, in the context of the local church, is the primary means of grace in the lives of young people. It is to be the theological community God intended it to be. It is to be the community which demonstrates the gospel of reconciliation through Biblical relationships between parents and youth, between pastors and youth, and between youth and other youth. This is Biblical New Testament Christianity, no matter how much it differs from the world.

  2. Steve I doubt you find much debate. I would hope no one would disagree with you, but I am not that niave. I do, however, believe that the entire concept of a Christian boarding school would be in direct oppostition to the biblical principles outline for families and child rearing.

  3. I have reffed a few games were Cono was one of the participants. A large part of the student body are adopted Asian children whose parents have given up on them. Luckily these kids have a loving place to attend.

  4. Learning’s of Christ are very helpful for spiritual development of students. This is a major cause of success of the Christian boarding schools in every part of world.

  5. The musing of this blog posting here are really not on point. As a matter of fact, the students attending Cono, at any rate, fall into the very category that the posting repeatedly mentions it is not talking about. They come from families in crisis; they come from many types of situations where families are at the end of their ropes and options before students end up separated from their families for other reasons. Sometimes the students have been in various types of dangers even at home. There clearly is an important role for schools such as Cono to play in the raising and education of Christian children, even if it represents something outside the norm.

    The comments by the occasional referee is based on a misperception. Very few students come to Cono as failed adoptions, and certainly not Asians. Thepopulation of Asians at Cono (the numbers vary from year to year), have families in Korea sometimes in the US, and even from other countries to which they have immigrated. Their parents have chosen to send them to school in the US. You may not agree with their reasons, in this case (in some cases is a legitimate lack of opportunity in the home country); however, other international students have come as refuges from political persecutions and religious dangers.

    Finally, the simplistic attitude of this posting does not consider at what age it might be appropriate for young people to begin stages of independent living. While we somehow feel that 18 and graduation from high school is a magic number, historically, this would be looked on as rather old. And why 18? Why not 20? Young people in that age bracket are certainly not usually fully independent in their ability to support themselves and most are markedly immature in many ways. Yet the same people who would consider a Christian boarding school as oxymoronic, would deplore the family who allows the 24 year old to live at home, as somehow not doing what they should be doing by making them get out on their own to earn their own way in life, sometimes to the great harm of the young adult. In this vein, there are numerous young people in the 16-18 year old bracket who are capable of beginning that transition, and a significant number of Cono students who fit that. In fact, it is not unheard of for a European student to have finished school and to come for a year of schooling in the US before college.

    All this said, I agree that it is the responsiblity of parents, with the support of their local churches to raise their children within the context of their homes. Student referals often come from pastors who work closely with families and know when the appropriate time to separate children come. And in many cases, Cono students have short tenures at school, lasting a year or less, while families regroup.

  6. Troubled teens Christian boarding school is an expectation for parents of troubled teens to bring back the lives of their teens. The students are suggested to obey the rules and guidelines of Christian based therapies to heal them mentally and spiritually. They try to bring bible based thoughts in the mind of their students for their long lasting recovery.

  7. Teens of day boarding schools get the advantage of day schools and boarding schools. At the same time students also get the support and care of their parents which has great importance.

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  9. Boarding schools present lots of troubled youth summer programs. School offers professional counselors, therapist, trainers, teachers who are committed to develop life skills in teens. In spiritual and intellectual fostering environment troubled adolescents attain various essential qualities. School offers counseling and therapies to teens.

  10. Therapeutic boarding school is offering lots of beneficial opportunities for their students in various field of education, in which they can achieve goal in their career. The school also offers teens residential treatment programs to enhance their other skills and quality.

  11. Teens boarding school is right place for today’s teenagers as they quickly trapped in to bad habits. The educational consultants in schools provide personal attention on each student. With all advanced facilities and services, they try to nurture the talents of students.

  12. We sent our son to Heartlight, which is recommended by people like Gary Smalley, John Trent, Tim Kimmel and so many other. Heartlight is a Christian boarding school, but it's focus is on helping troubled Christian teenagers. I liked it so much, I decided to take a job there.

  13. Although all your concerns regarding Christian boarding schools are valid, I wouldn't be too quick on writing them off. These schools offer a choice that will expose kids to a different way of engaging with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Christian boarding schools could serve to intensify their faith in God because such schools are designed to breed an intellectual and moderated environment according to their high standard of spiritual and academic practice.