In our area, we have many preschools and pre-kindergartens that are located in the buildings of different denominations. Some are government-funded and some are just private schools. These schools are like any other in that they are preparing the children for kindergarten. The only Bible teachings are just Bible stories being read and, of course, daily prayer. As a whole, the teachers working there are not members of the church there and the schools themselves are not funded by the church but from the money made from the school itself. My question is: Is it wrong for a member of the Lord's church to send their children there and to work as a teacher there? I hope this does not confuse you, but it is of great concern to me and others.
I'm not a fan of preschool because it separates a child from his mother too soon in life. But I know parents who think that these schools are important. Your question, however, is not just limited to preschool. The same question can be asked about elementary and high school education. Is it good for Christian parents to send their children to a school operated by a denomination?
You were careful to note that the school funding is independent of the denomination's coffers. There is probably more ties than you are aware of. Few schools are profitable. More likely the school is receiving aid from the denomination in order to keep its doors open. In a number of cases, I have seen denominations operating their schools from one treasury. The only separation between the school and the church's operation is through the budgeting and accounting practices.
You are also careful to note that the teachers are independent in their religious beliefs from the school in which they work. I couldn't say off-hand if that is a good thing or a bad thing. It would mean that the child is exposed to a mixed bag of religious beliefs.
In a sense, you are purchasing a service -- the teaching of a child. That service comes, generally, with more than most parents bargain. If you approach the secular industry, your child will be exposed to secular beliefs. If you approach the religious community, your child will be exposed to religious beliefs that are not your own. Thus, in either case, the parent must combat the false information given to his child. This will always be awkward as it pits two authority figures, the parent and the teacher, against each other.
Fortunately, small children don't retain much and thus the teachings given are always of a vague nature. However, you will be surprised what a child picks up. I remember when my children were very young. We never watch a lot of television in my home, but we sometimes turned on Sesame Street to distract the children while a household chore was being done. It didn't last very long because we suddenly found our children using euphemistic swear words. My wife and I don't swear at all, not even euphemistically. Listening to an episode of Sesame Street quickly showed that the children weren't just learning letters and numbers. They learned to politely swear and one episode even taught them how to handle anger in an inappropriate way. The television quickly went off, but how do you explain to a very small child just learning to talk about the difference between good words and bad words? In other words, the damage done was difficult to extract.
I wonder if a parent sending a small child to a Catholic preschool is prepared to discuss why praying to Mary or genuflecting is not appropriate. Or would a small child going to a preschool run by the Pentecostals want to imitate the showy praying styles of this group? As with all schools, I would be very careful to see exactly what my child is exposed to and what I must be prepared to deal with at a later time.
Given an alternative between secular and religious-based institutions, I would be more inclined toward the religious based. The lack of moral structure and the parents who don't care about the lack of morals bothers me more than combating false religious ideas. I've known Christians who successfully sent their children to Catholic schools. The children were very well trained in why Catholicism was wrong -- to the point that the teachers asked them not to discuss religion in class. But failures can happen as well. I have taught in a school run by Pentecostals (for a year and a half) and by Catholics (for almost a year) and in neither case was I comfortable with the incidental things that I saw taking place. But overall, I enjoyed it more than the amoral atmosphere of the public schools.
I recall two incidences in the New Testament. "Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side" (Mark 9:38-40). When a person does what is right and good, even though he is not intending to follow Christian principles, he still shows favor toward those principles. In Luke's account of this same incident, Jesus also said, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side" (Luke 9:50). If truth is being taught, even by a person not committed to the truth, then God's way is still being done.
Paul commented, "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18). Here we learn that we can rejoice that the truth is taught regardless of the motivation behind the teaching.
Applying it to this situation, if I could be assured that what is being taught is accurate, even if those teaching it are not faithful Christians, then I would have little to object to the service being provided.
I just wanted to thank you. I really enjoy your site. I go there often to read the questions and answers. I teach in a Bible school and I have found your site very helpful to me in answering questions from others that I am teaching who are outside of Christ. Thank you.