Can I Share My Faith At School?

 

I once had the privilege of being schooled about school. Specifically what you could and could not say about Jesus in school.

“You actually can share your faith at school,” he said

“What? I thought there were laws against that,” I said.Winnebago_Lutheran_Academy

It was a discussion between myself and a college student/ministry leader whom I was supposed to be supervising.

I was the Graduate Supervisor. My job was to help guide his ministry team to come up with vision, mission, and goals.

His team was one ministry chapter of a larger ministry called California School Project.  At the time I had never heard of it, but it turns out they did some really cool things.

Here are their objectives:

  1. Give every student the opportunity to hear about Christ, respond in faith, grow as a new believer, and plug into a local church. 
  2. Mobilize the number of gospel communicators actively sharing their faith with their friends on campus.
  3. Gather support from the Christian community and local churches to support and sustain the movement at the campus through prayer, participation, and finances.
  4. Equip student leaders for the movement by involving them in the process of reaching their campus for Christ and proactively training them for future leadership.

So they obviously knew something about ways students could and could not share their faith at school. One of the biggest things I learned from them (as one of their chapter’s supervisors) was there is more students can do than they think.

And the best way to find out what students can and can’t do is to read through a school’s Student Handbook. Most (if not all) of the rules will be laid out there.

So what about in South Lyon, MI?  What does their Student Handbook say about students and faith?

Let’s start with what you cannot do:

1. You cannot harass other students based on their religion [1]

This means you cannot say to another student something like “what you believe is stupid” or worse “you are stupid for believing _______.

2. You cannot distribute publications which are “are grossly prejudicial to an ethnic, religious, racial, or other delineated group”[2] or seek “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view over any other religious denomination, sect, or point of view [3]

So you can’t pass out anything that says your religion or your beliefs are more important or better than any other beliefs that may be held by someone else.

That is it.

Which means you can:

  1. Talk openly about your faith with friends, teachers, and other school employees as long as you are being respectful and are in no way verbally attacking them or their beliefs.
  2. Hand out religious material so long as it is not forced on anyone and is in a neutral place and not during instructional time[4].
  3. Share your testimony with people, as long as it is not during class time, and you’re not forcing people to listen.
  4. Use a class assignment to write about your faith or what you believe about a certain topic. Just be respectful and don’t attack the beliefs of others.
  5. Get an excused absence for a religious observance[5]

 

This is how ministries like California School Project can exist. Because it turns out students do have a lot of freedom to talk about and live out their faith at school.

Whether it is students at school or for adults in the workplace, it is always just a matter of following 1 Peter 3:15-16:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

If students respect their school, its rules, its purposes, administrators, and teachers, and if they treat everyone with gentleness and respect, seeking to live a life of good behavior, then they should have no problem making Christ known and drawing others to him at their school.
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[1] South Lyon Student Handbook p.77

[2] South Lyon Student Handbook p.89

[3] South Lyon Student Handbook p.89

[4] South Lyon School Board Policy

[5] South Lyon Student Handbook p.56