Sunday, September 22, 2013

Public School Ministry at Grace

Great things are happening around the nation in churches that are supporting educators in the public schools.  Our Minnesota director for CEAI, Norene Shephard, recently wrote a great article that I would like to share with you.  This article first appeared in the September 2013 edition of GraceTalk, a newsletter of Grace Church, Eden Prairie MN. - Public School Ministry at Grace (for the original article)

About 80-90 percent of children who come from Christian homes attend public schools. From kindergarten through high school, each child will spend approximately 16,000 hours in an environment that promote secular humanism. It is extremely transformative, and the church must help parents to understand this reality. Grace Church is taking bold steps in this direction.

A new “across the street” ministry is being launched at Grace this fall to address these needs. Under Pastor Josh Mulvihill’s direction, Mindy Heine, Shyla Allard, and I (Norene Shephard) have leadership roles in this ministry. Plans include events that encourage and uplift teachers, educate parents and students about their religious rights in the classroom, and promote biblical worldview teaching. “We want our classrooms to be fertile soil where truth and righteousness will flourish.”

Among the goals of the ministry are:

  1. To educate Christians within the public schools regarding their rights so they can live their faith confidently. (Joshua 1:9)
  2. To empower Christians within the public schools to share their faith with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
  3. To equip parents to play an active role in their children’s education. (Proverbs 22:6)
  4. To engage students and parents in Christian worldview training so they have a thoroughly biblical worldview and can defend against what is taught in opposing secular curriculum.
Wasn’t prayer and Bible study in our schools overruled by the Supreme Court decades ago? Prayer is happening in schools all across the land, and Bible studies are allowed as well. While schools cannot require or sponsor these activities, students are allowed to pray and organize prayer and Bible study groups. In some elementary schools, Good News Clubs or similar children’s clubs meet after school hours. In many schools, teachers meet daily or weekly to pray. The reality is, they do have broad freedom to pray, lead Bible studies, and express their faith openly without repercussion.

Students Take Action

Central Middle School will have a new Bible study, led by two girls who were looking for ways to share God’s Word about the mission field: Sarah and Alissa. Feeling God calling them to start a campus Bible study, they discussed the idea with their parents. They then prayerfully approached their principal, who affirmed their idea and said they first needed to find a teacher who would sponsor them.

They prayed with their parents before approaching a specific teacher. He seemed astonished at first then said, “I’ve been waiting and praying a long time for someone to ask me to do this.” Under the guidance of their parents and Pastor Travis Armstrong, the girls spent the summer preparing their school Bible study, which begins this fall.

The generation in our schools right now is a very special group. They are not only preparing for careers, ministry, and parenthood, they are the salt and light in their schools, a part of God’s plan for reaching the world for Christ wherever He places them.

Ansel, a fourth grader who attends Grace Church, wrote a homework assignment about God’s work in his life as he dealt with a serious health challenge. His paper gave his testimony and explained his relationship with God. He turned the paper in as assigned, and the next day his teacher chose it to be read to the class. This gave Ansel the opportunity to talk about Christ to his entire class as one of the ways he practices “prayer-care-share.” On another occasion, Ansel noticed that a classmate was experiencing earache pain. Right there in class, he gathered others around and led a prayer for the classmate, much to everyone’s astonishment.

Know Your Rights

Students and teachers need to be well informed about their rights and boundaries regarding the expression of faith in the public schools. One of our ministry priorities is to instill a solid understanding of the religious rights that now exist in the classroom. The United States Department of Education outlined these rights in the publication, “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” available at Some of these rights are:

  • Students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, talk about their faith, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during non-instructional time, as long as it does not disrupt instruction.
  • Students may express their religious beliefs and discuss their faith in homework, artwork and other assignments, free from discrimination.
  • Students may freely pray or address their faith in a speech, such as graduation, but school officials may not mandate or organize prayer during a school.
  • In addition, teachers may use the Bible and other sacred material, such as religious songs, in the classroom as long as it is used for the sake of its literary or historical value and not used for worship or proselytizing in the classroom.

Christian educators are on the frontlines daily, facing detractors who would skew the delineation between truth and lies. They are quietly and effectively praying, caring, and sharing, living out the Gospel as they hold back the tide of unbiblical ideas that bombard our children. They need discernment to deal with false doctrine that creeps into school curriculum. As a retired teacher and Minnesota field director of Christian Educators Association International (, I lead the part of the public school ministry at Grace that addresses their specific needs.
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Parents need to be informed and equipped as well. It is not enough to presume the teaching our children receive in Sunday School will be sufficient to counteract what they are learning from the secular curriculum in our public schools. Parents must become active participants at the schools their children attend. Mindy Heine, a mom of three in the Eden Prairie public schools, works directly with parents. She has hosted several groups, sharing her vision and brainstorming ideas that can positively impact schools.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he states that he labors and struggles “to present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28-29) Education must be on every parent’s radar as it either helps present or prevent maturity in Christ. During a devotional presented at the “4 to 14 Window” conference in May, Pastor Dobbs said we all respond to the erosion of the culture in one of three ways: we can reject it and totally isolate ourselves from everything, we can receive it and accept everything about it, or we can redeem it. Please join as we seek to redeem our schools.

For more information about the public school ministry at Grace Church, contact Mindy Heine at or Norene Shephard at

Prayerfully dependent,

PS. Don’t forget to spread the word about the 1:16PM Prayer Movement.
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      Visit,  "like", and add comments the 1:16PM Facebook page.
      Sign up for text message prayer prompts from Remind 101 (we have 205!)
      Follow us on Twitter for the prayer prompts @one16pray
      Look for the prayer prompts on the 1:16 PM website or Facebook page.

May God bless you with success His way this 2013-2014 school year.

Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry byclicking here.

Christian Educators Association International is the only professional association in the United States specifically for Christian educators in public schools.  CEAI protects our members first in prayer, next with excellent professional liability insurance and other benefits while helping them live out their high calling as a Christian in the public school.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Educator Sunday 2013

This Sunday, September 22nd, is Educator Sunday! It is a special Sunday in churches across America to honor educators in their high calling. Even if you never heard of Educator Sunday before, why not mention this opportunity to pray for the educators in your congregation. It doesn’t take money. It doesn’t take preparation. It doesn’t even take a lot of time. All you need is love and honor for those who are serving children in the public, private, charter and home school settings.  When educators feel the support of their church community, it releases them to minister to the children God called them to serve.  Did you realize that the public schools are the largest mission field in the world? There are millions of students and parents whose lives we touch that do not know the Lord. Educators are in a godly position to influence and though we always pray that every child has the opportunity to be positively influenced by our teachers, we know that is not always true. Praying for the teachers in the school where your children attend is a covering needed. Honoring the educators who attend your church speaks volumes to those who are “in the trenches.”
A simple suggestion for Educator Sunday is for the pastor to ask all the educators (administrators, paraprofessionals, and teachers) to stand and be recognized. The pastor and congregation can then pray over them and for them in a manner and style that is customary to their church. The pastor can briefly explain to the congregation the incredible role that teachers play as missionaries in all settings, public/private or home school. Finally, the pastor can commission these educators to be Jesus in their schools. You see, we all know, particularly in the public schools, that we cannot establish a religion, but every educator can “Be Jesus” to those children and treat them as He would have. What an impact our Christian educators can make in a school district when they are empowered by their church to be missional in their high calling and legal and graceful in their approach. Please check out this video from Grace Church in Eden Prairie, WI for an awesome example of commissioning the educators in their church.
Christian Educators Association International, CEAI, since 1985, has named the Sunday before See You At The Pole, as Educator Sunday. It does not have to be that particular Sunday, especially if you want to prepare a special Sunday for all the educators in your church, but that pattern has helped congregations honor both the teachers and prepare the students for the incredible honor of praying for our schools. CEAI has downloadable resources to help you plan and celebrate Educators Sunday on our website.  It includes a brochure describing the event and bulletin inserts in a couple forms so you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
Educators are in a position to be the most influential people in the world. They teach and prepare us for all the other jobs and positions we may hold in life. National Teacher Day in May is a great way to celebrate educators, but Educator Sunday is a much more spiritual and empowering way to recognize how our teachers must answer to God first for all they do and be reminded of how important it is to guard every word, every lesson and hold up their position as the high calling it is. May God bless the educators of our great nation and in our congregations across America.

Prayerfully dependent,

Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry by clicking here.