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.
____________________________________________________

[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

 

7 Ways to Help Your Child Process Grief

 

I hate it when tragedy strikes (I don’t suppose anyone loves it—at least I hope not). But what I hate is that feeling of helplessness. That feeling of wanting to help people but unsure sure of how.

Last week our town suffered a tragedy. If you live in South Lyon then you know all about it. If you don’t you can readwhite ribbon about it here.

Maybe this left you, as a parent, wondering how you could help. Specifically, how you could help your children process everything.

I’m no expert, but I’ve found help from someone who is. Dr. Garry Collins is the author of the book Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide (at 976 pages of small type, he’s not kidding). Here, he lays out seven steps we can take to help others process their grief.

1. Encourage discussions about death or other losses before they occur

Ever since we lost Meredith’s mom, death has been a topic of conversation in our home. And because of this our kids appear to be comfortable with the subject (as much as kids can be). This might change as they get older. But according to Collins such conversations make things easier the next time death occurs.

2. Be present and available

This one hurts to write. Because one time when I should have done this, I didn’t. And I missed a real opportunity to help people in need. I wish I would have read Collins earlier. Painful lesson learned: never underestimate the power of just showing up to sit with someone—your kids included (see Job 2:11-13).

3. Make it known that expressing emotions is good and acceptable

My Dad lost his mother and brother prematurely. And he’s never been one to grieve openly. So I was surprised one day during a conversation about death, he shared this gem with me: “Crying gets the poison out.” Collins would agree. Sometimes giving your children permission to cry is the best thing we can do for them.

4. Be a careful listener

Generally what makes it so hard to help those who are grieving is that there is often nothing you can say that will make them feel better. That’s why according to Collins, “the best counselor listens…”.  Sometimes the best way to help is just to listen to whatever your child feels like saying.

5. Don’t push

But as parents we must also be careful. Collins continues , “the best counselor listens and responds when the counselee wants to discuss issues related to the loss, but also is willing to back off if the griever wants to talk about something else or wants to withdraw”(p. 477). For parents, that means giving our kids room to talk, but also space not to talk.

6. Don’t discourage grieving rituals

It is possible your child might want to attend the funeral, even if they weren’t particularly close to the family. Collins says that’s okay. Doing so will help remove the mystery of death for your kids. This will in turn help them process things better.

 7. Pray

This is often our first reaction. And of course it is the right one. Collins encourages parents to pray and use words from Scripture so as to stay away from religious cliches that could be used to stifle your child’s expressions of grief.

None of these steps will take away the pain of the loss, or make walking through grief any easier. But they should make your time with your children more helpful. As much as I hate tragedies, I am thankful for professionals like Dr. Collins that give us the tools to help ourselves and our kids walk through them.

I pray these tools help you.