Here Come The… Parochial Baptists?

Imago Dei Classical School is what is sometimes referred to as a “church school” or more traditionally, a “parochial school.” The root of the word “parochial” has an interesting history. In Greek, paroikia refers to the sojourner or stranger in a foreign land. Many Christian peoples establishing communities or colonies would still refer to themselves as sojourners, acknowledging that their true citizenship was in the kingdom of heaven. In Latin, parochia would come to refer to a group of Christians in a given area under the authority of a local church and its leadership, this was later referred to as a “parish.” So, Imago Dei is a school made up of Christians from a particular area and under the authority of the local church, that church is Missio Dei Fellowship. This model of schooling has a long tradition amongst God’s people, starting with Jewish synagogues during the Babylonian exile and with the New Covenant, catechetical schools, monasteries, and the schools of the Christian humanists before and after the Reformation. This tradition has a history in America as well but because of our unique history, public schools were actually seen as Protestant due to their use of Protestant catechisms and bible classes during the day. Because of this, and we see this especially here in Southeastern Wisconsin, Lutheran and Roman Catholic communities started their own parochial schools.

Now, with the nature of today’s public schools no longer being as closely tied to the community and more importantly, being in direct opposition to the Christian worldview, we believe it’s wise for Protestants to continue in the tradition of parochial schools. As Christians, we are pilgrim-citizens, our greatest identity and citizenship belongs to the kingdom of God. Yet, we still have families, communities, and our own local churches in which we live our everyday lives. If the summation of God’s law is to love Him and to love our neighbor, then we have a very real responsibility to the people we live with. What we cherish, promote, what we build, and accept within our communities has a very real influence on the culture we live in, which means, it shapes the lives of our children and great-grandchildren.

This is why the discipleship ministry of Imago Dei is so important.

For good or for ill, the places we grow up and the schools we attend have a profound impact on us. At Imago Dei, we argue that the best place for a person to grow up, to be taught the discipline and instruction of the Lord, is the local church.

The walls of Imago Dei will shape the childhood of our students and these walls will be tied to a community of faith with shared memory, story, song, and dance. Our students will grow up going to events, feasts, and festivals on our church grounds. Some of their greatest sorrows and highest achievements will happen right here. As students will sing in anticipatory Advent concerts and mournful Tenebrae services, so will they experience the joy of weddings and the sorrow of funerals. Our students will be preparing for life, for death, and for eternity; what better place to do this than the church?… There is none, as Christians, our true family, those we will live with for eternity, are God’s people, the body of Christ.

With that being said I’d like to share a few of the practical benefits of a parochial school, even if you call another local church your home:

First, in a parochial school you know what you are going to get… or at least what you won’t get. A variety of Christian traditions may be present and respected but you will know that the teachings of the school’s church will not be taught against. What is that church’s stand on primary Christian doctrines, how about marriage, abortion, critical theories, evolution… the list goes on. Is there unity among the church’s leaders and teachers? If looking at a school not connected to a church, what do the churches of each of the board members, the leaders, and the faculty believe? Are they united? Now, whether admitting it or not, if the school’s leadership is convictional, not separating their faith from their everyday life, the beliefs of their church will be woven throughout the school culture. In a parochial school, we do not need to tip-toe around any issues; this allows clarity and conviction.

Second, the primacy of the church. Imago Dei Classical School stands or falls with the local church. We are a ministry of Missio Dei Fellowship because we believe that God’s primary institution for carrying out His mission is the local body. The more students, parents, teachers, and church members involved in the school, the more it helps to enrich the life of the church.
Daily, these students are loved on by faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who truly care for them and their families; their teachers love God, they love His Word, they love His church, and they desire the salvation of the lost. Each day these children are observing mature Christians and learning what it means to walk in the way of Christ. The school is also another outlet where the wisdom and skills of other members of the church may be put into service whether it be academics, athletics, marksmanship, hot lunches, music lessons, or skills working with our hands, these are all opportunities for older Christians to teach and disciple the next generation. A respectful, educated, and biblically literate youth with involved adult role-models shapes the participation, the intentionality, and the depth of everything that takes place during the gathering of the saints on Sunday.

This also means, those joining the school from other churches are supporting our ministry while we model for and teach their children to honor and love their parents and their own local church while they receive a holistic education from a Christian worldview.

A third benefit is the development of a true culture, not an anti-culture or a “blah” culture. Education is complete human formation, it is the shaping and enculturation of a certain kind of people. Today, much of society and evangelicalism is critical of tradition and culture – often defined by its subjectivity and openness rather than its objectivity and normative expectations. This has led not to a great multi-cultural expression but an anti-culture defined by criticism and self-centeredness. A true culture puts forth a set of beliefs about the true, the good, and the beautiful, and then it claims to have a way to pursue and embody such things; it humbly receives tradition and is centered on service to others rather than to self. Anti-culture or “blah” culture is an inherent flaw in secularism, and is sadly prevalent in many parachurch ministries, but we believe that it’s not the ideal way of the classical Christian school. Rather than a watered down “mere Christianity” which actually – though unintentionally – signals to children that their parent’s and pastor’s denomination isn’t important, we will be a proud Protestant Baptist school who loves to see proud Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian families joining us. A principal of classical Christian education is piety: the cultivation of one’s love for their God, family, and people (primarily the local church). A true culture is something received, it’s received from the child’s family, church, and their school, and as the classical tradition argues, they’re actually not able to responsibly critique their own people until they have received their traditions and have become culturally literate in those traditions. So, by not setting aside all differences, we find that we are actually respecting our church and the other denominations among us; we are respecting and creating a true culture rather than an amorphous/shapeless, and impotent culture. We believe we should be hot or cold, and not lukewarm. Now someone could point to a number of quality schools in the classical Christian movement which have their own unique and strong culture. We don’t deny this reality, we appreciate the work of many of them, but aside the important point already made about unintentionally signaling that denominational beliefs seem to get in the way of what matters, we also believe that the time and effort put in to building such a great school culture is actually taking away from the time and effort we could be putting into our local churches. Why leave the church to study the bible, theology, the good, true, and beautiful? Shouldn’t we be going to the Church to receive training in such things?

Well, we think so, and that’s why we’re parochial Baptists.

Want to be a part of what God is doing at Imago Dei? Contact us for more information.

Author: Nicholas Dellis

1 Comment

Dale - December 20th, 2022 at 7:24am

Well said Mr. Dellis I am praying for our school and everyone involved daily.