HOW TO SET UP A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
Melville-Knox Christian School Aberdeen officially opened today after years of prayer, planning and organisation. We give thanks to the Lord that we have been able to reach this significant milestone; but this is also simply the beginning of a significant mountain to climb in relation to Christian education in our country. In recent weeks, several people have spoken to me and asked me about this school and one of the questions I have been asked is this, “How do you set up a Christian school?” This article is not written as a specific blueprint, but it is a personal testimony as to how our school started, which will identify the many challenges we have faced, and those we now face.
In 2019, when I moved to Aberdeen with my wife and (then) 2-year-old son, the question of my son’s education was a pressing one. This initially started as a family discussion and the conviction that we would home educate our children. I also gave more serious thought to the lack of Biblical teaching about Christian education, the fact that there were very few Christian schools in our country, and the increasingly alarming direction state schools were moving in. These were the factors that led me to begin pursuing the option of trying to start a Christian school.
The essential foundation for starting a school followed a similar pattern to when I started our church in Aberdeen - clarifying what we believe. As a church, Grace Baptist Church Aberdeen is confessionally Reformed and Baptist. The ideal situation would be that such local churches would also begin Christian schools, but the practical challenges of a new church plant with (then) seven constituted members and no fixed church building would have been beyond our means. It was around this time that I met with Rev Timothy McGlynn, the minister of Grace Reformed Church, Aberdeen, which is confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian. I was encouraged by the interest and willingness of discussing a potential Christian school, and so we arranged an initial ‘discussion meeting’ with a small number of members from the two churches. It was good to meet with some people who were enthusiastic about the proposal for a Christian school. It was also encouraging to find out that a Confessionally Reformed Christian school in Glasgow had established a Scottish network of schools with a statement of faith and other documents ready for Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian churches that wanted to partner together to begin new schools in Scotland. This seemed like an ideal fit for our developing group and so a partnership was established, with an Aberdeen board being appointed to begin planning to form Melville-Knox Christian School Aberdeen.
Setbacks & determination
We reached 2020 with a lot of fast progress being made, which included securing Grace Reformed Church as a likely building for the school and setting up a parents’ information event to gauge interest in this proposal. The event was scheduled for March, and we began marketing our school proposal. We then faced some inaccurate and wicked press coverage, and the event soon got cancelled due to the escalating concerns about Covid-19.
The subsequent months proved to be very quiet, but I was greatly blessed by the work of our board’s chairman, Donald McKay. He worked tirelessly in organising, planning and pushing things forward. The strengths that he brought to this project were especially helpful as he covered so many things that I would have been unable to do.
The parents’ information event finally took place at the end of 2020, and we then started to compile a list of prospective parents who expressed an interest or a definite desire to enrol their children in the school. In the months that followed this list continued to grow with many parents enquiring about this school. We also formally applied to register the school with Education Scotland, and discussions were positive pending the appointment of a teacher: which proved to be our next challenge.
During 2021 and into 2022 we started to receive increasing numbers of emails asking about the school, mostly from prospective parents expressing an interest, willingness and desire to enrol their child(ren) to the school. However, it was very difficult to secure a teacher. We had potential options on occasions which included provisionally offering a contract to a woman from overseas which we could not process as a start-up school.
The year it came together
The year 2022 proved to be an increasingly testing time as Donald and I continued to try pressing forward with smaller things, but there was much that needed to be done only after employing a teacher. By God’s grace, in the summer we managed to employ a full-time teacher - a young woman called Ashleigh Moodley from a Reformed Baptist Church in Bristol. Due to the blessing of initial funding support, we also hired a full-time classroom assistant and administrator, Svea Nöll, a member of our church. We also appointed another board member, Louise Witter, who brought much needed support at this vital stage as we worked towards beginning the school. Following the approval and registration from Education Scotland, in early Autumn we began to work towards a start date of Monday 7th November 2022. Before then significant effort was required to get things ready for the school from all our active board members and our appointed staff.
Our current challenges
One process that began was to officially enrol children for our school. We had compiled a list of potential pupils that would have numbered several times more than the building capacity of 15 pupils we were initially allocated. We anticipated that a waiting list would be required from the beginning due to the level of interest and the increasingly horrific situation within state education. How wrong we were. Almost every parent that had verbally committed or expressed interest did not communicate any further when the enrolment opened, some decided to continue home educating (which we would whole-heartedly endorse!) due to the time it took to start, and two potential parents expressed interest but were not able to proceed from the beginning. Therefore, we went from preparing for a possible waiting list to an initial final enrolment number of two pupils, one of which is my son.
Early in October I was invited to preach at an education conference addressing the topic of ‘Equipping the Church’. The lack of urgency and awareness of parents, and the absence of Biblical teaching and application from churches on this topic is a massive concern. We are living in a godless, wicked nation with a leadership that needs to repent before the Living God. And yet, evangelical and Reformed churches are barely engaging with these issues in a Biblically clear and active way. This has been highlighted at this time by the fact that no churches in this area have sent messages of encouragement or expressed willingness to support the only Christian school in this part of the country either prayerfully or financially.
The beginning of this school is a major milestone and something we give thanks to God for. It has been an immense challenge to get to this stage, but at the same time, it is just the beginning of a very lofty mountain that needs to be climbed in our nation. For my family, this has been a personal challenge and sacrifice. We are very happy to home educate our children and we have seen my son progress greatly over the past three years. However, we are also very passionate about advancing the cause of Christian education in our land and feel very passionately about seeing this school flourish and grow. The challenge right now is that very few share our passion. At this time we prayerfully submit to our Lord and trust in His provision in these formative stages, as we pray for strength and humility to press forward for the upbuilding and growth of this school.
Setting up a Christian school is a hard labour, and in many ways, does not feel like a rewarding one. Despite all the challenges and current setbacks, I am still very thankful that the Lord has enabled us to get to the stage we are in, and pray that it will challenge and encourage others seeking to do likewise. This is something greatly needed in this nation, and a big part of claiming back what the churches almost willingly gave up to the state: our children. Our children are a heritage from the LORD (Psalm 127:3) and we pray that churches, Christian schools, and crucially, Christian parents, will invest in the rising up of a generation that will be shaped and governed with a Biblical worldview to the Glory of God.