“Training” is a broad term. Regent University Summer Urban Youth Academy takes “training” seriously. According to the United States Department of Education, “One out of every four students that walks through the schoolhouse doors on the first day of their freshmen year in high school will not graduate with their classmates, if at all. In minority communities, the numbers are even bleaker—it is closer to one out of every two. Every year, that’s 1.2 million students giving up. That’s a student dropping out every 26 seconds.” As I ponder these statistics, the passage in Proverbs gains epochal focus on the blight on early education in our country.
The clause, “Train up a child” bears the weight of divine imperative. Theologically speaking, God cares about the acquiring of wisdom and education (see Hosea 4:6; Proverbs 4:7). Research shows that a society with little education ends up impoverished. The relationship between low education and poverty is staggering. It becomes critical that the church does more than hold weeklong Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday Schools. We need a new theology of education for our young people. They need a holistic education that involves training in math, science, language, reading, history, exposure to college, lessons in virtue, Bible, and global community awareness. We cannot expect for public schools to do it all. The church is positioned in the community, ordained by God and free of the poisons of the government to address the whole child. The future of this country depends on such a theology of education for the children.
As a theological institution, Regent University School of Divinity initiated the implementation of a developing theology of education. The Youth & Urban Renewal Center just finished its 3rd Urban Youth Summer Academy (UYSA). We hosted 56 rising 6th graders from some of the areas of Norfolk (i.e. Diggs Town, Oak Leaf, and Huntersville). Principals at Campostella Elementary School and Jacox Elementary School nominated some of the most promising students for the 3 week program — mostly African American and Hispanic youth. The goal of the UYSA is to prepare rising 6th graders for middle school and beyond. According to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, “The nation’s lowest-performing high schools produce 58 percent of all African-American dropouts and 50 percent of all Hispanic dropouts, compared to 22 percent of all white dropouts.” Research has shown that students physically drop out of school in high school but they would have most likely dropped our psychologically in middle school. So, the UYSA aims to address the issue early and expose students to the possiblity of success to empower them to stay in school. This year, we partnered with Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College to expose the rising stars to the variety of types of schools and the many different majors that are available to their future. At the Regent University School of Divinity, “train up a child” takes on a quintessential meaning with a theological foundation.
From a theological perspective, “training up children” is intricately connected with John Wesley’s social holiness and Walter Rauschenbusch’s social gospel. Although different times and in different contexts, the thread between the two perspectives on holiness and the gospel is the link between God-related things and the everyday life of human beings. The salient question is “does God care about situations of everyday people in everyday life?” Social holiness and social gospel respond with a resounding, “YES!” While “yes” may seem obvious to many, it does not seem so obvious to others — at least in a practical sense. We can say anything in theory. We must translate ideas into practices. In my view, the future of theological education rides on the shoulders of practicality — Practical theology .