A Little Church with a Big Vision
The local church we attend here in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia may only have 70 members, but they have a big vision for reaching this city of 80,000. In 2006 Slavo (the pastor of the church and Jana’s brother) and especially his wife Martina opened up the first grade of Narnia Elementary school with a vision to provide education based on a Christian worldview for students of all backgrounds. The school is, in essence, an outreach ministry of the local church.
An Elementary School?
You might wonder how such a small church could possibly undertake such a huge task as starting a Christian elementary school. The answer is “vouchers.” In Slovakia, the government provides the same funds per student for private schools as they do for public schools. Basically, “all” they had to do was come up with a good plan (financial, pedagogical, etc.) for running the school and get approval from the government. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that but the fact that it’s even possible has a lot to do with the government policy on this issue.
We’ve known about this since probably 2004 when Slavo and Maťa first started talking to us about their dream. It seemed far fetched to us at that time, but due no doubt to divine intervention, some help from a similar school in Bratislava, some expertise on the part of Martina (who has a postgraduate degree in education), and Slavo’s entrepreneurial skills, we arrived in Slovakia to be amazed at the success of the school.
A Christian Elementary School?
In Slovakia, 1 in every 500 people is an evangelical believer. Banská Bystrica is a town of 80,000 people. That means the statistics would predict about 160 believers in our town. So you can see that most of the students are not going to be evangelical believers. So what’s Christian about Narnia Christian Elementary School?
For one thing, the teachers. Every year it’s a struggle to find the additional teachers that the school needs to keep going (every year they add a new grade) but so far, they’ve been able to do it. Narnia has some great teachers!
In Slovakia, as in many other European countries, religious education is a part of the school system. Students are able to choose a religion class based on their faith and availability. Any government registered faith is allowed to offer religion classes (Catholics, Lutherans, etc.). If the student doesn’t belong to any faith then they can opt into an ethics class instead.
At private schools, however, religion classes need not be optional. Private schools are allowed to offer and require the religious class of their choice. At Narnia every student; whether Catholic or Atheist or Bahai, is required to take the Evangelical Religion class. Since by far most of the students come from unchurched or nominal backgrounds, there are a lot of students and parents that are learning about the gospel through Narnia Elementary School.
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Narnia also helps to build bridges between the families and the church. One of the afternoon English activities that kids are involved in is a musical that they perform in the English language. At the end of the year they perform these musical for our local church. That gives some of these parents their most direct exposure to the church and the people in the church. (These are the musicals that Jana has been directing.)
Another way to build bridges is through the Friday afternoon kids club. This is something like a youth group except that it’s attended mostly by non-believing kids from Narnia.
A Crucial Year
Jana and I are excited about the potential for Narnia as an outreach tool of our local church. We know that over time we’re going to see kids and families come to faith in Christ as a result of this School and we’re more than happy to do our share to help. We hope you’ll pray for the day to day activities, relationships, and opportunities to share the gospel. But we hope you’ll also pray for some important decisions that have to be made this year.
Elementary school in Slovakia is grades 1-9. Right now Narnia offers grades 1-6 and they will continue to add one additional grade for the next three years. Right now, however, they are renting facilities from a public school and there isn’t room for three more classrooms. The school needs to find a more permanent solution and it looks like the best option is to build. As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking with some significant risk involved. Please pray for wisdom and provision!