April 1, 2019

Prized Possessions

Creative ways two Michigan churches are financing Adventist education.

Financial advisor, Dave Ramsey, warns parents to avoid going into debt to pay for a college education. He offers a number of suggestions on how to do just that:

  1. Encourage your child to get good grades in high school and do everything they can to increase their score on placement tests such as the ACT and SAT.
  2. Start a college fund, hunt down additional scholarships and government funding.
  3. Take advantage of the local junior college, and make sure your student has a part-time job while attending college. All great ideas for making college affordable.

But what if the need to finance a child’s education starts when he is still in elementary or secondary school — before scholarships, government grants and part-time jobs are available?

Our Seventh-day Adventist church schools offer many advantages over public education. Most important is the focused attention on Bible study, prayer, character-building and service. But even beyond the spiritual aspects, there’s proof that Adventist schools produce academically advanced students.

The ground-breaking CognitiveGenesis study, completed ten years ago on more than 50,000 elementary and secondary students enrolled in Adventist schools, showed that our students out-perform those in public education.

“In each subject category, students attending Adventist schools scored higher than the national average. They also scored higher than their expected achievement based on assessment of individual ability — a factor few other schools measure. . . . The more years a student attended an Adventist school, the more his or her performance improved” (Christian Science Monitor, November 15, 2010, article by Elissa Kido).

So what are parents to do when they can’t afford to send their children to an Adventist elementary or secondary school? And what responsibility do churches have in making a Seventh-day Adventist education available to the young people in their congregations?

Two churches in the Michigan Conference have come up with ways to answer these questions and provide a Christian education for the younger generation.

The Paw Paw Church is very focused on their young people, involving them in Pathfinders, and providing opportunities for them to help out with vacation Bible school, dramas and musical presentations, special music, song service, and running the public address system.

Some years ago, the church members raised enough money to start their own church school. However, rather than compete with the other church schools in the area, they voted to create a fund that would pay up to 90 percent of the tuition costs of their students in grades 1–12. At the present time, this represents over two dozen young people who are attending five different church schools. Forty percent of Paw Paw’s church budget is earmarked for Christian education. Ten years ago, an endowment fund was created to help offset the financial obligation the church has made. It is hoped that, eventually, the fund will earn enough interest to cover the educational commitment the church has made.

I greatly appreciate having a church that has supported me through
my toughest time. Having the church- supported school has helped lead me to the decision of baptism.

Solomon Boerschinger, student, Wilson School

Four hundred forty miles northwest of Paw Paw is a small, Adventist community located in the upper peninsula town of Wilson. Wilson Jr. Academy is located on one side of County Road 561. The site of the former church building and its quaint little cemetery are across the street. (The Wilson church was destroyed by fire in 2017, but the church members are hoping to break ground in May.)

Like the Paw Paw church, the members at Wilson have a long history of supporting Christian education. Their school, which opened in 1966, was financed through individual church members taking out loans at a local bank. With a member- ship of nearly 250, the Wilson Church has some- thing special which endears it to those who have once been part of the congregation. Church elder Aaron Berger explains: “It is not uncommon for the younger members of the church to go away for college, but then return when they have a family. They want their own children to experience the warmth of this small community.” And that’s exactly what happened with Tom Hubbard, who as a child went to Wilson Jr. Academy in third grade, but recently returned with his family to take over the church’s leadership as pastor.

The Wilson Church has found a way to provide tuition funds for the 33 students in grades 1–10. Parents pay a registration fee for each child but, af- ter that, there is no additional charge for students in grades 1–8. (There is a nominal fee for grades 9 and 10.)

Through the combined effort of all the church members (those with children and those without), the church has been able to keep their school up and running by asking everyone to contribute 8 percent of their income to the combined budget. Church members have been willing to sacrifice in this way, whether they are directly benefitted or not.

Although this is the plan on paper, the church never turns anyone away. They always work with families and ask only that they pay what they can afford.

A few years ago, there was a discussion about eliminating the 9th and 10th grades because of low enrollment. The church members gathered together and prayerfully made a commitment to step out in faith and continue their full program. Their faith was rewarded — they were blessed with the needed additional students.

Two different churches. Two different ways of providing a Christian education for the children in their congregation.

If young people are to help finish the work of preparing the world for Jesus’ soon return, nothing is more important than supporting them and mak- ing sure that they have the opportunity to learn more about Jesus and the plans He has for their lives. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to provide church schools with the best environment for students to grow as Christians. P

The Paw Paw Church’s model of education assistance for their families is phenomenal. It makes attending a local Adventist school not only financially possible but also a ‘no-brainer’.

Chad Higgins, principal at Gobles Jr. Academy, one of the schools which benefits from the financial support provided by the Paw Paw Church.


After having a massive heart attack in 2016, I am very appreciative
that the Paw Paw Church has a tuition assistance program that allowed my wife and me to send our son to an Adventist school just as he was starting the 9th grade. With the tremendous financial expenses we incurred during my treatment and recovery, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the tuition without the church’s support.

Dan Bledsaw, Paw Paw church member.