On July 1, the Headmaster “baton” at Wilmington Christian School was officially passed from Dr. Roger Erdvig to Jonathan Nazigian. We are praising God for the legacy of faithfulness He has shown our school for over 77 years, and eagerly awaiting what God has in store in the days ahead. In an ever-changing cultural landscape, we remain anchored to the never-changing truths of God’s Word.
As part of the leadership transition, Roger and Jonathan met frequently on a number of educational and operational items. But they also had the opportunity to step back and engage together on what the future might hold for young people and families, for our culture, and for the future of Christian education.
Jonathan: Some characteristics of children and teens never change, but in some ways, young people are different now than in previous generations. As a Christian educator for many years, what are the major ways that today’s young people are different (for good or bad)?
Roger: I do agree that many characteristics do not necessarily change—especially over just a generation or so. I’ve been involved with children in multiple educational and ministry settings since 1990, and kids are still kids! They long for freedom, approval, and fun. They still struggle to figure out how to grow into young adults and leave the comfort and safety of home. Much hasn’t changed. However, there are some things that have changed.
The biggest change I’ve seen is in what a friend of mine calls “sturdiness.” While this is a big generalization (and I know there are many exceptions) I would have to say that overall, today’s young people are not as sturdy as they once were. I believe this reality is driven by two main factors.
First, parents and families have tended towards a parenting philosophy suggesting that children need to be shielded from difficulty. In reality, the healthy struggle is what builds strength in humans. Our culture has created an expectation that children should not face difficulty and that parents should create environments for their children that minimize hardship and maximize the child’s ability to choose what he or she wants. The end result is that many children don’t have the internal fortitude to face suffering, which is pretty much a universal human experience.
Second, growth in sturdiness has been sabotaged by anxiety, which is being fueled by social media. Over and over, studies keep connecting social media use with anxiety levels—the more a child uses social media, the more he or she will struggle with anxiety and fear. This is crippling so many young people.
But on the side of positive change, I see a new generation of young people who are passionate for Christ and excited to live out his purposes. Even amid a darkening culture, I am consistently impressed with Christian youth who are standing up for truth and being bold in sharing the Gospel and in living out the implications of the Kingdom of God in their workplaces and families.
Jonathan: Through your work with Summit Ministries, you get to engage with research and discern emerging patterns and trends affecting young people and Biblical worldview development. What do you think is the greatest challenge facing young people in the years ahead?
Roger: The greatest challenge young people are facing is the erosion of confidence in objective truth. It seems like everywhere our children turn they are being immersed in an environment that does not seek objective truth as a means to make decisions about how to live and function in society. Of course, there are limits to this. We cannot get out of a speeding ticket by simply telling the police officer that we don’t identify as someone who was speeding. However, in many other arenas, personal feelings and self-perception have taken the place of objective truth.
Thankfully, Christ has provided our students (and us!) with the ability to live in the truth, no matter what’s happening in the culture. He himself is the Truth, and He has given us the Spirit of Truth to live within us. So, while the rejection of truth in our culture is difficult to navigate, God still offers our children everything they need to live as lights in a fuzzy and unclear culture. I can echo 3 John 1:4 which says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” There’s really nothing better than that!
Jonathan: What are the major challenges facing Christian schools across the country in the coming years?
Roger: Christian schools are surprisingly in a time of growth after many years of decline. This is great news, and I am thrilled that so many families are seeing the value of a Christian school experience for their children. But with growth comes challenges, like restructuring budgets and financial plans to accommodate more students and the needs they bring to school; ensuring that families are mission-appropriate and are not just fleeing another school model; and staying true to a Biblical worldview when it seems like fewer and fewer Christian families actually have a Biblical worldview. In addition, the culture is becoming more unfriendly to distinctively Christian schools. Christian school boards and leadership teams will have to think carefully about how to remain true to their mission in such an environment.
But again, I see these challenges as tremendous opportunities to shine brightly and attract others to Christ. As the richness of a Biblical worldview and insufficiency of a secular worldview become more obvious in our culture, I believe that the way of Christ can become much more attractive to hungry souls. I’ve heard many stories even here at WCS about how entire families have recommitted to serious Christian discipleship as a result of being a part of the WCS community.
As WCS continues its good work in classrooms, hallways, athletic fields, art rooms, on stage, and in the community, I know that many will be drawn to Christ. So, in spite of the challenges we in the Christian school movement will continue to face, there’s much cause for joy and hopeful expectation that comes from being a part of God’s work of reconciling all things to Himself.
Cultivating godly influencers
Wilmington Christian School provides a distinctively Christian, innovative education that effectively develops Godly influencers who are well prepared for life after high school and who impact the culture for Christ.