Fix Adventist Schools: Focus on Jesus, Change Church Leadership, Increase Pay

Editor’s note: Gale Crosby spent 41 years working as a Seventh-day Adventist educator, most recently as the Vice President of Education for the Oregon Conference. While in that role he oversaw 32 schools with 2,400 students, and he raised $50 million. In this article, he offers three brief suggestions for improving the Adventist educational system in North America.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I am supportive of the points Mr. Crosby has made, particularly the one about the priesthood of ordained leadership, the royalty of the preacher when it comes to leadership. BUT, the suggestions are ideas for “fixing” a broken strategy. He is leaning the ladder on the wrong wall.

It is estimated that approximately 30% of our school age children attend Adventist schools. The estimates for Adventist college attendance are lower. In other words, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually in conference and church subsidies to support schools that reach a minority of our children.

We need a different strategy than schools. We are stuck on the model of building a box in hopes that children will attend. Mr. Crosby’s own statements reveal that it is a strategy that has been failing for decades. Attendance, on the whole, generally goes only down. But then, it is our church’s history generally to invest more and more money in failing strategies until there’s no more to spend. It is a church “character flaw.”

We need to shift to a new strategy where we redirect monies now invested in schools and find new ways to invest in all our children, 100% of them. We could do a lot with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. For example, see the post below.

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Is the LDS model instructive here? SDA’s, like Orthodox Jews, worried about the Sabbath and our distinctive doctrines, important issues to be sure. LDS has few (if any) private schools for elementary or secondary students, thus saving $$$ we can hardly fathom. What do they do instead? Every young member goes to religious instruction every morning at the LOCAL CHURCH which is richly funded for youth ministries. Their faith is tied to a congregation and not to a school. Leaving an SDA school does not mean leaving the church. Their retention rate, I would wager, is as good or better than ours and the schools they do operate at the college level are richly funded.


I live in a small, majorly-LDS town; their public school students’ religious education takes place at the Seminary, a small brick building next door to the high school so the kids can walk there on their study hall periods or before/after school. The other strategy employed is to always run for school board positions and apply for school district jobs. Now this probably wouldn’t work for SDA’s in this type of small rural situation (teeny weeny membership and influence) but in large school district areas with large SDA populations such as college or health care institutions, it might. I do agree with the author’s points about hiring/paying exceptional personnel which should also increase the academic rigor. The boarding academies should close - parents just don’t want to send their kids away - oh wait, unless they are delinquent - and the colleges should consolidate. Teaching “Jesus” more and SDAism less is good for any parochial school. In my opinion, the EGW quotations were un-needed and irrelevant to 21st century education, considering her whole 19th century viewpoint (just remembering the self-supporting school ideas which are defunct now).


Adventist education has never focused on Jesus.

It’s focus is on what Governor Lepetomane in the movie Blazing Saddles referred to as “protecting our phoney baloney jobs.”

The primary tactic used in this system of indoctrination has always been to destroy the child’s confidence in his own conscience and consciousness so that he will constantly look to others (guess who?!?!) for guidance rather than relying on himself.

What Jesus thinks about this type of education is impossible to say, but if the quote “of such is the kingdom of heaven” is accurate, then according to him, adults should be learning from their kids rather than trying to teach them anything.


I think the points made are fair. I don’t have kids and didn’t attend sda schools myself, but they are definitely dying. Yes more focus on Jesus would help. Yes paying enough to attract good teachers would help. But just as with the church, I really think the root is at the home. Kids aren’t staying in our churches either and the blame can’t all go to the pastors or leaders that see the kids maybe 3-4 hours a week. What I have learned is that a strong home family connection with God will result in young adults staying in church, attending sda schools , and most importantly knowing and following Jesus for themselves not just out of habit. I really do feel parents aren’t connecting their kids with Jesus. I’m not saying it’s easy, it is not! Society is structured to completely separate youth from God, but it all starts in the home

Kids like to have fun. There is very little difference between public school and church school kids. Christianity in education should come from the way kids are treated by the Christian adults “in the room”. If scholarship is secondary, in “church schools”, school becomes an extension of the weekly SS class; and “Bible classes” are used to make more Adventists. Church retention is the main objective of “church school”- fair enough - “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs).

The word “train” conjures up obedience training of dogs. The word seems to be cultural rather than specific to some Hebrew word. Strong’s Concordance presents a confusion of concepts this word represents. We say our kids should be taught HOW to think, but we don’t mean it. We teach them WHAT to think. This is, indeed, indoctrination. We don’t educate to prepare kids for anything but church membership.

Why do schools always have the most difficulty finding math and science teachers - because we don’t encourage our students to get degrees in math and science (math only because the two go together). We don’t trust our academy graduates to enter higher education in those fields. Therefore, academy science (and math) classes are the weakest. If we are to live in a world where the earth isn’t at the center of the universe (pre-Gallelio). we have to learn and teach the truth, and not a SS class version of it. Some will have a problem with that statement, but they haven’t had to deal with a fifth-grader wondering where the dinosaurs were kept in the Ark. And that question is ignored into adulthood.

Finally, in this discussion, what does “focusing on Jesus” actually mean?


Connecting their kids with Jesus?

Of course they aren’t.

I mean it’s not like Jesus is on Facebook, sending out tweets and IM’s, or is uploading videos to YouTube.

Indeed, the fact that we have all this communication technology available, and still Jesus hasn’t said a verifiable word to anyone, is enough to convince a reasonably skeptical person that the guy died 2,000 years ago and has stayed dead, ever since!


BTW, “train up a child” and “spare the rod” is OT stuff which may or may not have anything to do with Jesus’ “good news” approach to parenting. Matter of fact, there’s virtually no biblical advice on raising a kid or the education of child. The take away being that the book is virtually useless in such matters and it’s child psychology is, not surprisingly, 2,000 years behind the times.


I think this platform assumes the Bible to be the basis of communication. That would be another discussion, which we have had numerous times; but you’re welcome to raise it yet again. :upside_down_face:

From what the I’ve read, there are at least a few in this forum who do not make this assumption and are very interested in discussing the profoundly deleterious effects of being educated by those who do.

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Is that the rebuttal to everything attribute to Jesus?

The burden of proof is always on the claimant so I don’t and can’t claim to have rebutted anything.

I’m just left with reasonable doubt about what actually constitutes Jesus gospel.

That said, I would be as interested as I suspect the rest of the world would be to see any tangible evidence anyone has to show that Jesus is still alive, though.


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The opposite of faith is certitude.

And in the ancient world there was the same skepticism…no one came back from the dead. It was foolishness then. Iow, the points being raised here about the ridiculousness of Jesus’s resurrection are nothing new.

I agree, biblical faith is not just in what is generally received as empirical evidence. It is not certitude in the material sense. It is revealed by the Spirit in the Christian sense. I know that Jesus lives because I have experienced the life changing power of his Spirit and his gospel.

Disputing back and forth will lead to the same dead end. If one is open they will come to faith in this sense. If not, then nothing can convince…



This simply is not the case.

If anyone had physical evidence to support the case for the resurrection the question would be as moot as the debate over whether or not gravity is a real force of nature.

Not sure what your point is as I never said anything about certainty.

And hopefully you’re not saying that faith is necessarily a virtue, as history is replete with instances where faith in the wrong thing has led to all sorts of undesirable consequences.

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We can’t even trust what we think is solid matter. Matter is just energy tightly packed. What gives the sense of solidity is actually the energy that holds electrons running around the nucleus. What seems solid is visually as nebulous as energy. It’s complicated. :thinking:

It takes faith to even count on what your eyes are seeing.

It is only by having doubts and asking questions that we’ve come to a clearer, if still uncertain, understanding of the essential nature of matter.

But I don’t think anyone would argue that our understanding of matter-as incomplete as it is-isn’t infinitely superior to the idea that there are four essential elements in nature and I have much more faith quantum physics than the theories of Aristotle.

Similarly, I question what I was taught by those who were certain that Jesus was alive and well and would return before 1983.

But I’ve learned from that experience and now understand that faith is a relative thing-complicated, as you say-and that some people’s truth claims are more reliable than others.

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I’m not surprised that the physical world seems more real to someone who was brought up in a fundamentalist religious world. Like the ancient Hebrews the concepts of contrition and forgiveness had to be acted out in a physical ritual of killing of the lamb and the sprinkling of the blood on an alter in order to understand forgiveness. Even since, people have to imagine compartments in heaven and some rituals taking place in order to understand spiritual concepts of grace and salvation.

The world of ideas can be more powerful than the temporal world we tend to live in.


Religion and politics - not much different.