Religious School: A Responsible Approach

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Non-Denominational Vs. Specific-Denomination Christian Schools

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Ask someone about Christian schools and they'll likely point you toward local Catholic schools. However, Christian schools — meaning regular-education schools that provide both daily schooling and a religious focus (and not Sunday schools) — can be non-denominational or focus on a branch of Christianity other than Catholicism.

For parents trying to find a school for their kids that also provides religious guidance and education, the choice isn't the easiest unless the parents know exactly what type of education they want their kids to get. For those who aren't sure how the difference in focus might change their kids' education, they need to understand how a narrower focus can affect their child's education.

More Focused Religious Education

When you send your children to a school that focuses on one specific denomination, such as Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and so on, chances are that the religious side of the education is going to be fairly intense. The school still needs to provide "regular" school education in accordance with state standards, but any religious focus is going to go pretty deep into that one faith. Keep in mind that how deep it goes will depend on the people running the school.

Exposure to a Wider Range of Beliefs

If you choose a non-denominational Christian school, your children should be exposed to a wider range of Christian beliefs. Religious coursework may be more comparative work than religious guidance, and the school may have parents sign an agreement that it's OK for the school to teach a certain set of moral beliefs. Whether the school offers any denomination-specific courses or clubs is up to the school. Parents should find out what extracurricular activities exist and look for a good mix of secular and religious clubs.

Mixed-Religion Families

Families where the parents are of different religions, be they different sects within Christianity or different religions altogether, may think that a non-denominational school is best if they're opting for a private education. In fact, some parents may consider private Christian schools for their kids just for the smaller class sizes and chances at a prep-school education, even if their children aren't religious. There's no pressure to focus on a denomination that might not be what the family really follows. This isn't always the case; it really depends on the school. A non-denominational school may require all students to participate in Christian religious activities at the school, even if a student is half-Christian and half another religion. A Catholic school may allow students to opt-out, and the reverse may be true, too.

Parents need to think carefully about what they want their children to get out of the schooling because that will help guide the family to the right decision. Christian schools come in many different styles, so be aware of what options you want for your child.