Salt and Light in the Public Schools?
“I became passionate about this topic because my daughter was taking some leadership training classes to help prepare herself for working at our local Bible camp, and the conversation turned to how she would be less equipped to work with some of these kids because she was homeschooled. She came home really bothered about that, and at the same time actually, our youth pastor made the comment about the kids needing to be the salt and the light in the public school system, and how that’s one reason he had never homeschooled is because he wanted his kids to be the salt and the light… She felt like she wasn’t doing what God wanted her to do because she was homeschooled instead of being in the public school system.” – Misty Bailey
Yvette Hampton and Misty Bailey recently had the opportunity to discuss whether our kids have the responsibility of being “salt and light” in public schools. Are we missing an opportunity to evangelize when we remove our kids from public schools, and if they do not have the responsibility of being “salt and light” there, who does?
Yvette Hampton: Misty Bailey is a blogger, a podcaster, and she is a homeschool mom. I recently had the opportunity to discuss an exciting, and maybe a little bit controversial, topic; “our kids being salt and light in the world.” We often get that question. People will say, “well, we’ve got to have Christian kids in the public school system so that they can be salt and light.”
Misty, welcome. Tell us about your family.
Misty: We have been homeschooling since 2009. My kids, right now, are 14, 11, and seven. I was a former public school teacher and I kind of went into homeschooling begrudgingly. I didn’t really want to do it. Kind of went kicking and screaming, but God just started laying it on my heart when my oldest was four, as she was entering into those preschool years… You have to send your kids to preschool, right?
At the time, I was teaching in the public school system. So I ended up quitting when I got pregnant with my second, but my husband at this point was against homeschooling, even though the Lord had been laying it on my heart. So we sent her off into public school, and shortly after she had entered public school, we started noticing changes in her, changes in her personality. There were some issues that had come up with the public school system at the time, and so my husband said, “If you could teach her to read, you can homeschool.” So no pressure. But I did it, I taught her to read, she was actually the easiest of my three kids to teach.
And here we are. We’ve not looked back. My husband now is my biggest cheerleader. So he is pro, pro, pro homeschooling. Like I said, my kids are 14, 11, and seven. My youngest son does have special needs. He has apraxia, ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia. So we are also homeschooling with special needs which has opened up a whole new world for us, for homeschooling. I’m passionate about helping homeschool moms on this journey. Just encouraging them and being that mentor to them that I needed when I first started homeschooling.
Yvette: I’ve really enjoyed listening to your podcast and you’ve had some exciting guests on there, and you are just full of so much encouragement. I appreciate your ministry so much.
You said your husband was really against you homeschooling in the beginning. What was it that caused him to feel so negative about homeschooling?
“I was a former public school teacher and I kind of went into homeschooling begrudgingly. I didn’t really want to do it. Kind of went kicking and screaming…”
Misty: Yeah, so he thought homeschoolers were freaks. He didn’t want our kids to be weird or just stand out, and at that point we only knew one other family who homeschooled, and their kids were really good kids. It’s not like they were freaks at all. That mom ended up being my biggest homeschool mentor, but they were the only other homeschoolers he knew. So it was kind of funny because as the Lord was dealing with me to homeschool our kids, God kept putting homeschoolers in his path. From the mechanic who were fixing our van, to where he’d be at quiz bowl and he would bump into somebody and they would start talking about how they homeschooled their kids. So he started to see that our kids wouldn’t be the only weirdos out there, and I just thought that was so funny because I mean, I think God has a sense of humor, especially. I think if you ever say the words, “I would never homeschool.” You know, he’s going to come along and very likely change your mind and that’s what happened to us. He’s my biggest cheerleader now. He talks to everybody about homeschooling and I really couldn’t do this without him so.
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Yvette: I love that so much and that was our story too. We said, “We would never ever homeschool.” Now we’re making a movie about it! So I think we need to just stick on this never train and say, “I’ll never ever, ever make it to Europe.” “I’ll never ever, ever go back to Hawaii.” Let’s use those nevers to our benefit, right?
Misty: Yes, absolutely.
Yvette: Well I love that he is now really on board with homeschooling, and that is a big part of why we’re making this documentary. We want to open the eyes of parents to see what homeschooling really is and, because we had all those misconceptions too, like our kids are going to be weird.
You were actually one step ahead of us. You had a van it sounds like, because you said you were having your van worked on. So, every good homeschool mom has a minivan, and I didn’t have a minivan, but I still call myself a homeschool mom, so it’s all good.
If not, you have to have some kind of other bonus points like really, really long hair, or something like that. I’m not exactly sure what all the requirements are.
Misty: Denim jumpers.
Yvette: Right. Anyway, there all of those stereotypes. we think that homeschooling should look a certain way and it doesn’t. It is so individualized and so different for every family, and it’s what makes it so beautiful, is that every family can do this and do what’s best for their family, and every family looks differently, they act differently, they have different methods and ways of schooling, but it all points back to doing what’s best for your kids and your family.
Misty: Yes, absolutely.
Yvette: So, let’s talk about this whole salt and light argument. I know this is something that you’re really passionate about, which is why I was excited to have you on to talk about this because often times people will talk about the argument well we can’t take our kids out of public school or even private school because they need to be the salt and light of the world. There are, you have, I mean, we have so many great arguments against this, but I really want to talk and focus on what scripture says about this. What does God say about our kids being salt and light, and are we being unbiblical by taking our kids out of that public school system and not allowing them to be in there as salt and light and telling other kids about Jesus, or are we … Is there a benefit to having them out of the public school system? I know parents teeter both ways on this.
Misty: I became passionate about this topic because my daughter was taking some leadership training classes to help prepare herself for working at our local Bible camp, and the conversation turned to how she would be less equipped to work with some of these kids because she was homeschooled, and that really, she really came home really bothered about that, and at the same time actually our pastor, our youth pastor had made the comment about the kids needing to be the salt and the light in the public school system, and how that’s one reason he had never homeschooled is because he wanted his kids to be the salt and the light. So at this point my daughter felt very negative about, not negative about homeschooling like she wanted to go to public school, but she felt guilty. She felt like she wasn’t doing what God wanted her to do because she was homeschooled instead of being in the public school system.
“I cannot find anywhere in scripture where Jesus goes and he tells kids to go out there and to preach the Gospel, because throughout scripture whenever children are mentioned, even Jesus as a child, they’re learning. They’re not out there discipling or teaching other people.”
Misty: So she and I were talking about how it’s just not our kids’ job to be the salt and the light, and I say that because if you look at scripture, a lot of times when people talk about that verse, or they talk about being the salt and the light, they are referring to in scripture where in Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “salt of the Earth and the light of the world,” and that they need to go and “let their light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is at heaven.” But I think a lot of times what people don’t look at is whenever he’s talking about that and talking to his disciples about them going out and being the salt and the light, he’s talking to adults. He is not talking to children, and I cannot find anywhere in scripture where Jesus goes and he tells kids to go out there and to preach the Gospel, because throughout scripture whenever children are mentioned, even Jesus as a child, they’re learning. They’re not out there discipling or teaching other people.
They’re learning under their parents; they’re learning under people within the temple. He’s telling the children to come to him, but he never, I can never find a place in scripture where he’s telling people to go, telling children to go out and be missionaries because that’s not their job.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s right. It’s not their job.
Yvette: It is their job to be salt and light wherever they go, but that doesn’t mean putting them in a system that is teaching everything contrary to the word of God and expecting them to be strong enough to defend that, and kids don’t … Kids can understand God’s word of course, kids are really smart and they are usually in that process of trying to figure out what they believe in and why they believe it, but a child does not, I would say even many middle school and high schoolers, they don’t completely understand yet what they believe and why they believe it. They’re still in the stage of asking questions and trying to figure out okay, this is what my mom says, this is what the world says, this is what my dad says, this is what my neighbor kids, my neighbors say, and where do I fit into all of this and what do I really believe. So expecting these kids to be able to say, “Well this is exactly what’s true and this is what I believe, and here is how I’m going to defend it.” They haven’t been taught yet how to do that.
Now, there are some amazing Christian parents who of course teach the word of God to their kids on a daily basis, and they have their family Bible time and stuff, but it’s very different when you’re not being able to teach them that day in and day out in a home setting where it’s you and it’s them, and you get to observe their struggles, and their victories, and all of the things that your kids deal with in their childhood, and you get to be the one to instill truth into them. When they’re apart from you for 35 hours a week, it’s not possible to be able to do that.
Misty: Yeah, and I think that that’s exactly it. I think that particularly when our kids are young, their job is to be trained up by their parents. It’s to hide the word of God in their heart so that when they’re older they can go out and serve him. Now, that doesn’t mean that our kids can’t be a positive witness to those around them, but it also doesn’t mean that we need to place them in a spiritually hostile environment at a young age just because we think our kids should be the salt and the light to the public schools because I think that our public schools are set up to where really our kids, our Christian kids are failing in the public school system. They’re not set up to where they are a place where our kids can even be a light to an extent because everything around them is so anti-God, and particularly I look at my two younger kids, and they’re seven and 11, and I don’t feel that I have had the time to fully prepare them for the world, to prepare them to be missionaries, to go into an environment full of people who are not Christians and spread the love of God.
Misty: Now, they can do it with me. We can go out somewhere as a family.
Misty: And they can be that light. They can be that light on a sports team. They can be that light if we go out as a family and serve homeless people, or serve at funerals. There are ways that they can still be a light, but it does not have to be within the public school system, and I don’t feel at that, at their age that’s really what they should be doing anyway.
Yvette: Right, yeah, and I agree. I think that’s a huge responsibility that we put on them, and to be quite honest, most wouldn’t do that. Now, that’s not to say that there are not Christian kids in public school or in private school who are really impacting the lives of other people because I’ve known them personally.
Yvette: There are certainly are kids out there who are, they’re hosting Bible clubs, and they’re leading Bible studies, and they’re inviting their friends to church, and they’re inviting their kids to youth camp and things like that. There are definitely kids out there who love Jesus and who are very solid and confident in their walk with the Lord, and they go out and they can really make a difference. So it’s not to say that that doesn’t ever happen, but I.
Misty: But it’s a rarity.
Yvette: It’s a rarity.
Misty: And those are the rare cases.
Misty: And a lot of times how old are those kids too? I mean, I don’t think they’re elementary age students or even early middle school. Most of the time they’re high schoolers, right?
Yvette: Right, right, yes, yeah. I definitely would think so, at least at the very youngest usually middle school.
Yvette: Yeah, and you know we’ve talked a lot with our girls about foundations, and you just use the structure of a building. You wouldn’t, we were driving by recently some houses that were being built and they were pouring the foundation and I said, you know, they would never build those walls around that house and start putting the roof on before building that foundation because the house would not be able to stand. You have to build that foundation and it has to be a strong solid foundation in order to hold up the walls, and hold up the roof, and be able to protect the family that’s inside of that home. So why do we do that with our children, with their hearts?
We think oh, let’s just ship them out there and then we’ll undo everything that they’ve learned, and we did a great interview with Bryan Osborne for Schoolhouse Rocked and he had been a public school teacher for I think about 13 years, and one of the things he said is he said, “If you are a Christian parents and you have your kids in a public school.” He said, “You need to be prepared to know everything that they’re being taught and then be willing to undo all of the lies that they are being taught.” And he, I mean, this is, he taught public school. Our kids are going out there in these schools and they’re learning lies, and so to have to bring them home, and it’s not even possible to know everything that they’re being taught, but to bring them home and then have to undo it all, well, you may as well just homeschool them because that’s, it’d be much easier to just teach them the truth in the first place. But talking about the foundation and our kids being able to build that solid foundation.
That’s our job as their parents, is to build that solid foundation of what they believe and helping them to understand why God’s word is truth, and then they can go out and defend that. That’s what apologetics is all about, and so I love that. One of the verses that constantly comes to mind is Luke 6:40, that, “A student is not above the teacher but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”
Yvette: So first sending our kids out to these schools that are teaching untruth and we’re telling them okay, your teacher is telling you two plus two is four, believe them, that’s true, and your teacher is teaching you that evolution is true, okay well don’t believe that. Okay but believe this, but don’t believe that, but believe this, but don’t believe that. How confusing is that?
Yvette: For any child.
Misty: Yeah, exactly, and I think if we look back to when we were kids, I was never taught to question my teachers. I was never taught to even remotely doubt what they were teaching me, and particularly when we send our kids to public school we want them to be respectful to their teachers, we want them to listen, we want them to learn, but like you said, they’re filling their heads with all of these untruths, and I don’t know about where you guys live, but where we live, our kids really they’re not, we live in pretty much the Bible Belt, but at the same time there are so many issues as in our public school system where God has been mocked, where religion has been mocked, and to where even Christian kids that my daughter is in youth group with have all said that they feel uncomfortable being a Christian within the public school, and these are teenagers, and I don’t remember. I was a church bus kid. So I grew up, my parents were divorced and I was one of those kids who was not raised in a Christian home but I had a friend who invited me to church, and the church bus took me to church every week.
So, I was a Christian in high school. I felt I had a very good grasp on my faith, but I also remember being tempted on a regular basis within the school system. I remember being mocked for having Christian T-shirt. I remember being one of those kids who felt like they didn’t fully fit in, and even though I had that good grasp on my faith, I don’t remember teaching or talking to other people within the school about God. They knew I was a Christian, but I never felt comfortable ministering or being that light within the school system because it did feel so dark, and if it felt that dark 20 years ago.
Misty: What does it feel like today? And I don’t know any of us that can look back as a child and say that we really had a good enough grasp on our faith, a good enough grasp on scripture that we could have really made a huge difference in a world that was so, so, so dark, and I think one-on-one ministering with our kids, one-on-one going as a family and doing those mission-led activities, it’s just a much better way to train our kids up in the word of the Lord, and to train our kids to be ministry focused and mission focused, than throwing them into the dark system of the public schools so.
Yvette: Yeah, and I love that you said that because that’s one of the questions then is if our kids are not going to be salt and light in a public school, how then can they be salt and light? How can God use them? Because certainly God can still use our kids. We’re not at all saying well, kids are kids, they can’t be used at all to impact the kingdom of God, certainly they can. How does your family do that?
Misty: So, for us, I feel that our kids are able to be the salt and the light by going out, and our church as a church we do back to school bashes every year and we give free backpacks to kids. My oldest took leadership training like I said at our church camp, and she was able to work as a cabin leader this past summer with eight, nine year olds, and six and seven year olds, and so many of those kids came from rough homes and they would talk to her about things that they had experienced within their home, and she was really able to pour the love of God on those kids, and there was one scenario where one of the girls was talking to her about some things about her home and she didn’t know how to respond, and I wasn’t there, I wasn’t at camp with her. So, she went to a good friend of ours and she was able to talk to her. Okay, one of the kids in my cabin told me this. How can I help them? And that right there, that mentorship relationship is exactly how our kids need to be trained up in the mission field and in the ministry.
So they were able to talk together and then she was able to go back to this child and talk to this child and really be the light, and I saw those kids when I came in and watched her at camp and how they just loved her and how she had just poured so much of herself into these kids.
Yvette: So cool.
Misty: Other ways that we do that is as a family, if there are people within our church or people within our community that we knew that passed away, I’ve always told my kids if somebody dies, take them food. Take their family food, go serve that family, and that is something that we as a family have always done, and we counted a school. That is going out and showing our children how to be servants, how to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Misty: So, we do that. My middle is a huge, huge animal lover, and while I would love to encourage her to love people more, she prefers the furry four-legged creature, but I feel God can still use that gift.
Misty: God can use that gift and that passion she has for animals. So we have went and worked with abused dogs. We’ve went and walked the dogs at the animal shelter. We have, she did one year for her birthday instead of getting birthday gifts she took up donations for the animal shelter and then her and a couple of friends went and worked for the day on her actual birthday at the animal shelter, and they spent the whole say scooping poop. But she was still being the light of God. Those people knew she was a Christian within the animal shelter. She had talked to them and said, “I’ve been praying for these animals.” And there are ways our kids can make an impact without being in the public school system.
Misty: And I think that one thing we don’t talk a lot about whenever it comes to the question about our kids being the salt and light is, we don’t talk about the aftermath of some of these Christian kids who go into the public school system. Is the public school system changing, or are Christians in the public school system changing the public schools or is the public schools changing our kids?
Misty: And I think that’s something too that we need to ask ourselves whenever the question about the salt and the light comes up.
Yvette: Yeah. Yeah, I agree, and statistically more kids are walking away from the faith coming out of high school and more of the public schools. I’m not going to say every kid who is in public school is going to walk away from the Lord, and certainly not every kid who is homeschooled is going to continue walking with the Lord. We’ve known both sides of it. We’ve definitely known-
Yvette: Public school kids and private school kids who are strong in their relationship with the Lord and they’ve gone on to do ministry and serve the Lord in amazing ways, and we’ve known homeschooled kids who have just said, “No, this God thing is not for me and I don’t want anything to do with it.” And they completely go off the other direction, but statistically there have been studies done that have shown that a larger majority of kids who are raised in homeschool families continue down that path of serving the Lord, and many, many sadly who are raised up with a Godless worldview are walking away.
Misty: Yeah. The studies that I found show that about 80% of Christian teens walk away from the Lord when they enter into their college years, but I’m thinking that the statistic of homeschoolers is somewhere around 10%. It may be 20%. I know it was no higher than that, but the difference is phenomenal to me and I think it goes back to making sure, like you said, with the house. With that they have that foundation.
Misty: They have been raised in a biblical worldview. They know how to discuss other cultures. They know how to discuss the Bible. They know how to talk about all these questions that they may get asked like well why do you believe in God? And well why would a good God let so many bad things happen? They’re raised to talk about bad influences and how can they can turn away from those bad influences, and they also have more Christian examples. They have more influences around them that are biblical and they get that more solid foundation, and I don’t think if our kids are away from us for six to eight hours a day, how can we do that? How can we teach them diligently? We can’t, and if we can’t teach them the word of God, and teach them those biblical principles, and those foundations in the little bit of time that we would have them if they’re in public school, then how do we expect our kids to go out there and to be a salt and the light in a world full of darkness, which is what we are doing. We’re expecting to send our kids into these public school systems as missionaries but they’ve never been properly trained.
Yvette: Right. That’s right. That’s exactly right. And it’s not like they’re not going to have opportunities to do that. They’ve got neighbors most of them that they can go and talk to and just be a good witness to. In our house that we left in California, we had a great neighborhood that had so many kids in it, and we didn’t keep our girls from playing with the kids, but there were many times, I mean, our girls would invite them to church, and they would invite them to just do all kinds of different things, and they would talk to them. They gave one of our little neighbor girls a Bible, and so my girls weren’t afraid to talk about those things, and so there were still plenty of opportunities for them to tell others about Christ.
Let me ask one quick question because we got to wrap here in just a minute, but if we’re not sending our kids out to be the salt and light in a dark world, who then? Who do we send out? Who goes to be the salt and light to tell these kids who desperately need to hear about the love of God?
Misty: Yeah. So I think that there’s a couple different ways we can do that. First of all, I want to say real quick or that something that had come up recently with the salt and the light is my daughter has been doing cross-country for our local school system, and she had ended up inviting a bunch of the kids from cross-country to a recent youth night. So even though she’s not in the public school, she still has this association with the public schools through sports teams.
Misty: And she was able to lead one of those little girls to Christ actually this past Sunday night.
Misty: She was living that example of being the salt and the light even though she’s homeschooled to these public school kids.
Yvette: That’s awesome.
Misty: So, I think that is one way right there, particularly as our kids get older. My kids where we live in Ohio, they are able to participate in sports teams. So even though they’re not within the public school system, they can still have those relationships with some of those public school kids, and my kids always invite them to church. They always invite them to church. They always invite them to Bible school, but they’re able to do that more in a controlled environment. They’re not being thrown into a school system without me. I’m able to be at practices, I’m able to know these kids through games and different kids. So there is that.
Also within, one thing that has happened that I’ve heard a lot of is something called the Good News Club. They are actually a Christian organization that go around and set up Bible schools or Bible clubs within the school system, and anybody can do this. I’ve actually thought about looking into starting one in our area. There’s programs like that. Also one wonderful example that I know personally, actually my homeschool mentor. So, her name is Janie and she raised her kids, she homeschooled them and they grew up to be wonderful, wonderful adults. They’re all serving God in the churches where they’re at. Her son is actually a missionary in the Middle East. They’re in the process of going over there. Wonderful, wonderful family, but after her kids were grown, she’s now working in this, in the public school system, and I think that is something to consider too. Public schools, they do need that light, but it doesn’t have to be our children, and when I look back on my school days, I do remember the teachers. They might not have been able to tell us about God, but I could tell the ones that were different.
I think that you can still be that light. You can even get involved as/us homeschool parents, we can get involved in the PTO. We can still get involved in our public schools without sending our kids into those environments to be the missionaries.
Yvette: Yeah. No, it totally did and I think that’s perfect. We have a good friend who is our public school math teacher and he’s a cross-country coach, and he is just, he always finds opportunities to talk to his kids about Christ, and he has led some of his students to the Lord and it’s just been such an amazing thing. He’s a homeschool dad, but he’s an adult who knows what he believes, and no one is going to shake his belief. So he goes out. He uses the platform that has given him to be able to be a light to these kids in a very, very dark world, and so it’s really exciting. And there are things, Young Life is another organization that goes out into public schools and has Bible clubs and tells kids about Jesus, and you’re right. I mean, there are a lot of ways that we can get involved as parents and then just pray. I think pray for the kids in the public school system and pray for the Christian teachers and administrators who are in the thick of it because it is a huge battle that they’re fighting right now and they really need our prayers, and I so respect those Christian men and women who are leading these kids in a very, very difficult time and in a very dark world, and everything is against them and they don’t have the freedoms to tell these kids what they desperately need to hear. But God can still open up opportunities for them to do that.
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