Cost is a significant factor, but there is a sinister underbelly that will affect the future of this church. Currently, there are families faced with the decision between lower-cost community colleges, schools offering larger scholarships, or the sacrifice of church school tuitions. They are opting out of the sacrifice for reasons mentioned in the article (lower investment value towards future employment), but a parallel is a statistically lower return for investment in those church school graduates who choose to remain in or serve the church, which was an original reason for the existence of church schools.
There are a number of church school alumni and their children who claim an unshakeable belief in God and His Word, but question the church’s relevance in their lives. In conversations with various ones with college-age children, they view the rules and regulations of the denomination and its schools as unnecessary and optional, not worth the tuition investment or “trauma” for their child to get ahead in life. I dare say that if our focus as a denomination was to religiously adhere to the real two commandments (love God, love each other) instead of the exclusive pride of the 10 (and particularly the 4th), our schools’ relevance would be obvious.
I am not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water and eliminate standards. I am saying that from my vantage point in a corner of North America, our reputation as a denomination needs an alignment. Recent media attention demonstrates we’re known as Sabbatarians, more healthy, cultish and sectarian (re EGW) and possibly not Christian, traditional and conservative (which can be code-speak for homophobic, racist, chauvinist—you get the picture), a bit eccentric (Ben!) but benign in community threat or influence. “Loving, caring people” is not usually the first descriptor and too frequently does not even grace the list, but “love one another” actually was the first commission, predating “go ye into all the world . . . .” Our schools already are primary evangelistic centers, and both schools and churches could take a more significant role if active alignment to loving God and humans is commonplace and supersedes ego.
Just a note: this sweeping generalization of our reputation may not hold for pockets of places where our members truly have been conduits of God’s grace to their community, and I apologize for lumping you in with the rest of the reprobates!