Servants' News

Mar/Apr 2003

Needed: Sabbatarian Educational Environment

For Young People

by Norman Edwards

This writer has had numerous conversations with other believers about the difficulties facing Church of God young people today. How can they make the transition from “children living at home” to a “contributing family in a local congregation”? Four basic things are needed in order to make this life transition:

  1. a personal commitment to God
  2. a solid Bible education
  3. a good, Sabbath-compatible job
  4. a Sabbath-observing spouse

The first item, is something that young people must ultimately do for themselves, but their Christian parents need to play a big role that is often overlooked. Some people come to God after living lives of sin and know they would be nothing without God’s forgiveness and mercy. But Christian young people often do not have great amounts of sin in their life. However, they do need to see Christianity work—they need to see people get along with the peace and harmony that Christ promises. If their Christian family or local congregation does not provide that (for whatever reason), parents need to make sure that their young people experience it elsewhere.

It is also possible for young people to themselves take care of items 2–4, above, but there is much that we “established believers” could and should do to help them.

Today, it is difficult enough for an average young person to get a good education and a good job, and find a compatible person who wants to marry them. It is even more difficult for the Christian. Nearly all government-funded universities openly advocate evolution and promiscuity—and discriminate against those with strong Christian beliefs.

Many “Christian colleges” have a much more moral and biblical environment, but will actually persecute a student who believes in keeping the Sabbath. There are Seventh Day Adventist colleges and a very few other Sabbatarian colleges, but these schools are largely focused on turning out people dedicated to their own particular denomination. The concept of young men graduating from a “seminary” in their early twenties and being placed in charge of a congregation is unbiblical (1Tim 3; Titus 1). The biblical term for “elder” means older man and even Jesus Christ, in his perfection, waited until age 30 to begin his ministry (Luke 3:23).

So what options are available to the young Sabbatarian who is just out of high school? God has made as many different kinds of people as he has made different kinds of flowers, butthey do not all need the same thing to survive and grow.

Some young people know early in life what kind of work they want to do. They simply need to find a place to learn it where they can keep the Sabbath.

Some young people find the person whom they want to marry early in life, and it is simply a matter of waiting until working situations make that possible.

Some young people have a natural curiosity to study the Bible. Others find it difficult, preferring the popular literature of the day.

Some young people have ample opportunity for Christian service and want to commit themselves to God. Others are slower and may need some encouragement.

Indeed, some young people are capable of achieving these life goals with only an handful of other believers as friends. Others can have numerous non-believers as friends and still not become affected by them. Others have a great need to be in a community of believers to focus on God, to find someone to marry, to get the right education, to get the right job, and to commit themselves to God.

What Our Young People Need

The initial reaction might be “we need an independent Sabbatarian Christian College”. That would certainly be a good thing. But in many ways, we need more than that. And in some ways, especially when the cost is counted, we need less than that. It would be wonderful to have a Sabbatarian technical school, junior college and “Harvard University” all rolled into one. But it would cost millions, and academic accreditation requirements might ruin it.

Instead, this article proposes a Sabbatarian Educational Environment—“SEE” for short. This is a radically different concept in education, not found anywhere else, to this author’s knowledge. Requirements: The differences between SEE and a traditional college or technical school are numerous and will be expounded below.

The purpose of SEE would be to prepare young people to “make the transition” between home and adult Christian life in the four areas mentioned at the beginning of this article: Bible education, earning-a-living education, finding a mate, and committing oneself to a lifetime of service to God. Obviously, no program can assure anyone that they will find someone to marry, but throughout history, millions of people have gone to a college hoping to find a mate—and did. Marriage is a vital part of the continuance of any society and must be integral to the planning of young peoples’ futures.

Small-School Living Environment

The living environment will be similar to a typical small college: dormitories with a common dining hall. This is a cost-effective way to take care of many people, and it provides a chance for each person to meet a great many others. Private housing will be provided for married students. They do not need to “find a mate”, but they may still need the Bible and job-education and to develop a commitment to God.

Moral standards will be upheld. Students will be disciplined or expelled for tobacco use, illegal drug use, theft, violence, fornication, etc. Students would be expected to observe the Sabbath. An effort will be made to incorporate parental requests in regard to specific standards that they want for their children.

On-campus recreation activities, including sports, will be provided as facilities and funds permit. Optional trips to off-campus recreation activities will also be made available. Students will be encouraged to organize these events as much as possible.

The SEE staff will be commissioned to take a caring but not controlling interest in social life of the students—helping to moderate the obnoxious, and bring out the quite and timid students. A conscious effort will be made to maintain a family atmosphere where nobody is left out.

Required Christian Core

All students will be required to take Bible classes appropriate for their year of attendance. These classes emphasize reading the Bible and understanding what it says. They will avoid the common errors of “traditional Christianity”, but there would not be a specific attempt to teach the doctrines of any one church organization. Students will be tested on their Bible knowledge, just as other subjects include tests.

All students will be required to attend weekly assemblies to hear speakers from within and without SEE. These meetings of everyone help to build a family atmosphere. An effort would be made to expose the students to a wide variety of Christian work.

Students will also be required to spend a few hours per week in some aspect of Christian ministry: visiting shut-ins, helping the needy, teaching children, answering Internet Bible questions, etc.

In their second year at SEE, students will be required to take a class on Christianity and today’s law. As the apostle Paul knew his rights under Roman Law and used them for the furtherance of the Gospel, so today Christians should know rights under current law and use them for the furtherance of the gospel. The ministry of Jesus and the apostles was so powerful that the civil authorities feared that they would lose control and tried to stop their preaching by unjustly persecuted them (John 11:48; Acts 4:16–21)

Students will learn about the laws and court decisions regarding how and where Bible studies can be held—school, workplace, home and elsewhere. The paperwork aspects of how to organize a local ministry will also be discussed. It is not expected that students will immediately leave college and begin organizing Bible studies and local ministries—though some might. The goal is to teach these issues that are otherwise seldom taught, so they can help other older church leaders do it, or so they will know how to do it as they grow into church leadership positions.

A Certificate of Christian Ministry will be given to everyone who completes their program. The biblical meaning of “ministry” is simply “service”—not necessarily implying a leadership role. From a legal perspective, this will clearly make SEE an ecclesiastical institution, protected by the First Amendment.

Everybody Works

Students will also be required to spend several hours per week working. The work will help reduce the costs of SEE, but will also serve the important need of teaching young people to be on the “doing” side of things, rather than just “watching” or “receiving”. The goal of SEE will be to provide enough work that a student with very minimal resources will be able to enter the program and work his/her way through. Three separate areas of work are possible:

1. Campus maintenance: kitch-en, custodial, maintenance, office work and other jobs necessary to operate SEE.

2. Campus improvement: Every class (year of students) will be required to do a project for long-term campus improvement. A plaque on the project will bear their names for the life of its existence. Such projects might include repainting a building, putting on a new roof, remodeling a room, planting a lawn, etc.

3. Work related to one’s field of study. A great effort will be made to provide work related to the various fields of study. For example, students who are learning web site development may actually assist in development of real web sites. The goal for many students will be to leave the program with actual work experience as well as education.

Accreditation Not Possible

No accrediting organization would approve the plans that have been stated thus far. Secular college accrediting associations would not accept requiring students to work and to serve in Christian ministry. Bible college accrediting associations want to see the teaching of the Trinity and other traditional Christian doctrines.

This program is simply too different from traditional schools to fit into any current standard of evaluation. So what value will there be to education without accreditation?

Two methods of providing students with effective ways of earning a living will be provided.

Internet College Access

The number of well recognized universities and colleges with Internet courses is increasing all the time. (Certainly there are bogus or very poor schools offering Internet degrees—these will be avoided.) SEE will research and find the best and most cost-effective programs in various fields of study. Certificates, two-year degrees, four-year degrees or even advanced degrees are all available on-line.

SEE will provide the computers and high-speed internet access to make studying effective. When several students are enrolled in the same program, SEE will provide tutoring if needed. Some fields of study require students to purchase expensive lab equipment, books or software. SEE will purchase these items and allow students to share them, reducing the total cost.

Students will have the best of both worlds. They will live in a Christian Sabbath-observing environment, they will benefit from group savings on materials, and they will be able to have face-to-face contact with other students and tutors. Yet, their course work will be accredited by the providing Internet institutions.

Technical Education

SEE will offer a number of technical programs, starting with a few for which there are interested instructors, and students. More courses will be added as budget, staff and student interest allows. In many technical areas, a certification is established only by testing. It makes no difference whether people learn the information on a job, from an expensive course, from reading a book or from a Christian teacher at SEE. As long as they can pass the test, they are certified.

Certifications via testing can come from several places:

1. Large Companies provide certification for independent contractors to service their products (for example, Microsoft has a Certified Network Engineer program).

2. State Governments have a whole host of areas of certification: appraisal, auto repair, construction, child care, heating & air conditioning, real estate, refrigeration, etc.

3. Professional Associations offer certifications for numerous things from sports referees and camp counselors to computer and radio operators to management and secretarial skills to legal and library services.

The number of possibilities is almost endless. The goal of SEE will be to find certifications which

  1. are of interest to a significant number of Sabbatarian young people,
  2. are possible to teach with available instructors, and
  3. provide good job opportunities.

SEE will also persue fields of work where few certifications exist, but an individual may easily obtain a job based upon samples of their work (e.g. a photographer or layout artist may often obtain a job based upon a portfolio of previous work.)

Possible technical study areas for the near-term include:

More complex programs for the future might include:

As these technical course areas are developed, it is hoped that SEE can obtain practical on-campus work in these areas. For example, SEE may take on outside contracts for computer programming, word processing or web site design where students will be able to work on them. Also, SEE may make arrangements with local vendors to repair refrigerators, computers or small engines. This will provide students with the ability to leave with actual work experience in addition to their education.

Technical Education Often Better than a College Degree

Some people may object to the idea of technical school saying that “people need a well-rounded education in history, literature, math, science, the arts, sociology and ethics—they should not just learn about a job.” One or two hundred years ago, colleges and universities may well have been producing a well-rounded education. The Bible and Christian literature were required reading at Harvard, Yale and other prestigious schools. Today, many of those things are replaced by evolution, political correctness, government & corporation “worship” and maybe a homosexual or new-age agenda thrown in. Today, Christian young people who go to secular colleges and universities usually are less negatively influenced in technical programs with few general education requirements.

The age when a person needs to go to a school to learn worthwhile things is over. Years ago, much significant knowledge could only be found among the teachers or libraries of universities. But now, through the Internet, a person can have access to an incredible amount of original information online or be able to buy just about any book that was ever written. If a person or a small group is willing to limit their entertainment, they can learn about almost anything they desire.

Nevertheless, there is still a need in our society for the standard university or college degree. Some professions, such as engineering, medicine, education, etc. utterly require a traditional degree. Other professions are possible but very difficult without a degree. But obtaining a college degree in a field that does not require one is not the “key to a good job” that it once was.

Over 150 years ago, almost anyone who finished high school could have a good job. In general, only the bright and the diligent stayed in school that long, and those hiring knew it. Over 50 years ago, anyone with a college degree would receive a well-paying job. Again, most people who finished college were either talented or diligent, and they would make good workers. But now, with massive amounts of aid programs to help people though college, many are graduating who are not particularly talented or diligent, and those hiring realize that a college degree is no guarantee that a person will be a good worker. While a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree certainly qualify an individual for jobs not available to others, they no longer “guarantee” one a job.

Today, less than half of the students who graduate with a bachelors degree remain employed in their field of study for four years after graduation (statistics from About half of them owe money upon graduation—averaging about $14,000. Average salaries are in the low $30,000s. A person with two years of auto-repair school and two years of experience could expect to be making more than that—and probably much less likely to still be paying for his schooling.

Technical schools generally rate themselves by the percentage of graduates that they place in jobs. Colleges granting degrees do not always even keep such statistics. Those that do keep them may not prominently display them. It is still quite possible to spend 4 years and $40,000 to obtain a degree that does not really qualify one for any job. Part of the problem is that university programs are often designed and approved by professors and accrediting associations made up of older college professors and administrators. These college officials may be out of touch with today’s industry or they may simply include subjects that are of interest to them. There is also a tendency for academics to add requirements for more and more advanced courses, which increases the need for expensive teachers and materials. Since so many people see college as the key to a good job, they pay the costs that are rising much faster than inflation. But is it always worth it?

Additional SEE Courses

Additional courses will be offered that will nicely compliment the technical courses. Unfortunately, they cannot count as electives for those taking Internet college programs, but they will be valuable enough that many students will want to take them anyway. They will be of especially great value for those who plan to run their own business.

What are the additional courses?

Much of the information that would be of the most value to our society is rarely taught in schools or anywhere. Large corporate businesses frequently try to influence what is taught at universities by funding research projects, professorship, etc. Hence, universities have a tendency to teach students to go to the “professionals” for accounting, legal, medical, psychiatric and other kinds of advice. Their purpose is to educate people to keep the money going to them—the “professionals”. Universities tend to teach very little about where “professionals” go astray or where less expensive alternatives are available.

To give some examples: The right computer program and a few hours of instruction may produce the same reports as a professional accounting firm, but at a fraction of the cost. Our founding fathers were tired of the abuse from the professionals who represented (or misrepresented) them in English courts, so they made sure that in the USA a person could represent themselves; but today, almost everyone teaches the use of lawyers and almost nobody knows how to represent themselves. Heart bypass surgery and chemo/radiation cancer treatment represent multi-billion dollar businesses; while other less expensive treatments effectively used in other countries go largely ignored. People may spend thousands on psychologists, when their problems could be solved by repentance, a proverb and/or a prayer.

This is not to say that all or even most mainstream university teaching is bad—or that all “alternative”: methods are good. Many “alternative” practitioners do a good job of pointing out the errors and inefficiencies of the mainstream, but then they often go on to introduce panacea solutions which are also expensive and/or ineffective.

Somewhere in the middle, often found in small clinics or moderately priced books and videos, are those who have studied and found effective solutions to some of the problems of our day. There is often not a lot of money to be made in showing a person the best way to solve problems. But this is the kind of information that Christians should want to learn and to teach their young people. Solomon understood that there is little glory in humble, wise solutions:

There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man (Eccl 9:14–15).

Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth (Prov 4:5).

Additional SEE courses will include such things as:

Teachers Will be Good Christian Examples

Teachers will be selected for their Christian example, ability to teach, knowledge, and desire to help young people. This writer has sat in the classroom of instructors with doctoral degrees who had a terrible time explaining almost anything they knew; but has also learned profound concepts from men and women who never finished high school, though they actively continued learning throughout their lives.

Because there is no accrediting institution, SEE leadership will be able to use biblical standards and concentrate on teachers that are best for their students.

Every effort will be made to hire Christian, preferably Sabbath-observing teachers. However, there may be times when an unexpected departure of a teacher requires the speedy hiring of a replacement in order to allow students to complete their course of study. In other cases, a non-Christian or non-Sabbatarian teacher may be the only one available to teach a specific program that is greatly desired. SEE leadership will simply have to use Godly wisdom in making these decisions.

Teachers that violate Biblical moral standards or who are a bad example to the students should be expeditiously replaced.

Custom Plan for Each Student

Each student entering SEE will need to make their own custom educational plan. The goal will be to allow enough time to a good job of classes and work, to have an uplifting social life, but not leave enough time for students to get into trouble.

The number of years required may vary from one to as many as six or seven. Everyone must take the required core in addition to their chosen Internet degree program or technical program. Also, campus work will take up some time—a lot of time for those depending upon it to pay their way through school. Nevertheless, some diligent students who do not need to “work their way through school” may be able to finish a two-year Internet degree in two years.

On the other hand, students who need to work a lot or who want to take a lot of SEE’s additional courses may take substantially longer than normal. For example, a person may want to do a two-year internet degree program in three years. Or they may want to do a four-year program in five or six years.

Technical school programs will vary greatly, from as short one year to several years. Again, these will depend greatly upon how many additional classes a student wants to take and how much work he or she does.

Every student must submit a plan to SEE. Then, they must either stay with that plan, or make a new plan.

Students will be permitted to marry and continue attending SEE, provided that housing is available and they are able afford it. The old philosophy of “finish your schooling before you marry” made sense when people were just finishing high school—or just high school and a four-year college. But the modern practice of going to college till one is 25 or 30 to obtain an advanced degree, then working hard to pay off school loans and then finding someone to marry has not always worked well. Some women have more difficulty bearing children in their 30’s, and family size is often smaller for those married then. Staying up all night with a crying child is much more difficult at age 40 than it is at age 20.

Parents: do not worry that your child will go off to school and then call home someday and tell you that they are married. Read on.

Parental Involvement

Because SEE does not answer to any accrediting institution, and because each student makes a custom plan, parents can have a level of influence on their child’s education that is far greater than most schools. If parents desire, they can routinely receive copies of their young persons important documents: custom education plan; grade reports; work completed and disciplinary actions (if any). Parents may also ask to be informed of any obviously serious opposite-sex relationships.

Ideally, young people would keep their parents informed about all of these issues anyway. However, we realize that does not always happen. And in those situations where family relationships are strained, it is probably not good for parents to try to prevent their children from attending some place like SEE just because they “don’t know what will happen”. By notifying parents of significant events in their young person’s education, it allows them to talk things out, and in extreme cases, insist that the young person change or come home.

The purpose of SEE is to educate young people to better serve God, to qualify them for a good job, to give them opportunity to find a mate, and to return them to the area from where they came, so they can become Christian leaders there. Obviously, if students from opposite parts of the country end up marrying, one of them cannot go back to live in their home area. (The only solution to this problem is for everyone to marry someone from their home area; with small Sabbatarian churches, there often is nobody in a home area that a young person wants to marry.) Parents, as well as SEE staff should encourage students to take courses of study that will lead them to jobs that are available in their local area.

One reason why serious relationships and marriages are not discouraged at SEE is to increase the number of students that return home and to avoid the “single graduate hangout” phenomena that otherwise occurs. When institutions have a “no marriage till your out” rule, it does not make sense for students to get serious about marriage until their last year or so. But relationships do not work by the clock or by the calendar. A person may look hard their last year, and find that they just cannot find anyone suitable—who is not already spoken for. Or they may think they have the right one, but then insurmountable differences are found a few months before graduation and there is simply not time to find another. So when graduation comes, they do not want to return home, because they know that they do not want to marry anyone at home. So they move to a “single graduate hangout”—usually a city near their school where other single graduates go for jobs and a social life. This may indeed be a reasonable place to find a mate, but it is probably not as good as the school, and each year in the “hangout” is one more year away from home, and one more step toward finding a reason to never return home.

What Will This Cost?

No educational entity ever started by a bunch of students paying enough tuition in advance to purchase the necessary facilities and pay the instructors. Campuses and teachers are expensive, and most students do not have a lot of money.

The only way something like this Sabbath Educational Environment (SEE) can be created is by able people who are concerned about the future to decide to do it.

If it were all to be done with cash offerings, it could cost a couple millions dollars to start. It does not all have to be done with money. Some person or group might be able to make a campus available. Others might be able to help get it into working order. Some capable retired people might volunteer to spend a few good meaningful years teaching or working on the new program. There may be others who have flexible jobs who could afford a year to help with their particular expertise. Someone else may have inherited a working auto or electronics shop—which they were intending to sell at auction, but could give to SEE to start a program in that field.

People are needed to serve as an advisory council and to promote the idea to others. Yes, there will always be a need for money. Maybe someone would rather leave a place of Godly learning as their legacy than hang onto a piece of property, a boat or something else that really makes little difference in their life.

Church Bible Teaching Ministry does not have the resources to do this. But we can compile the ideas and offers to help from those who read this. We can pray for God to show us his will. But if there is enough desire from Sabbatarians—of whatever group—SEE can come to be.

The goal is to make the program as inexpensive to students as possible. SEE students taking Internet classes would be largely responsible for the cost of that tuition, but it is usually cheaper than attending a university (young people don’t prefer it because it is so boring to do it all alone at home). If Sabbatarian students who already have a college fund could pay the difference between university and Internet classes to SEE for room board and Bible classes, it would help to start the program.

Let Us Hear from You

Please return the response page and let us know about potential students, teachers, course information, facilities, supporters, etc. The ideas in this article came about from discussions with a variety of Sabbatarians—both independent and denominational. While some of the Sabbatarian church organizations might have some reservations about sending their young people to an educational facility that they do not control, it ought to be better than sending them to state or private non-Sabbatarian schools which they do not control. If a Sabbatarian church group would like to provide a man to conduct Sabbath services for their students or to teach doctrine or Bible classes specifically for them, that would fit within the goals and purposes of SEE.

May God help us to work together and to pass on to our young people that which is most important.


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