Onward Christian Teachers
" Are Christian teachers making their influence felt in all the ways that are legitimately possible?
Two men decided that a Fellowship of Christian Educators would help to uncover new ways to extend it."
By Virginia Rose Page, "Light and Life Evangel," Volume 62, No. 3, January 19, 1958
Approximately one out of every seven persons in our nation is in school. Who is teaching them? What patterns of thinking are being laid before them? Are they making their influence felt?
Pondering these issues, a tall, bushy-haired man named Clyde M. Narramore, psychologist and education specialist on the staff of the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, got off a train in the Los Angeles Union Station one warm summer day in 1953. He hurried through the crowd to a restaurant where he had a luncheon date with a man he had never met.
Arriving at the dining room, he met a kindly gentleman whose calling card read, "Benjamin Weiss, Principal, Metropolitan High School," one of the largest schools in Southern California.
"You must be Mr. Weiss," said Narramore, extending his hand.
"That's right, Dr. Narramore," said Weiss. They found a table and sat down to eat.
While exchanging familiar terms in the field of education, the two men talked of future plans and of the unique opportunities presented a Christian teacher in public schools.
As Weiss talked about his work, Narramore smoothed out his paper napkin and wrote three words on it to remind him that he wanted to talk with Weiss about a certain matter.
Then, with sudden enthusiasm the principal said, "You know, lately I've had a special burden on my heart about an organization that ought to be brought into existence - a teacher's fellowship."
Surprised, Narramore turned his napkin toward him and said, "Look what I've just written here - fellowship for educators!"
Finding mutual encouragement for their mission, the two men went to work on the idea. They called a meeting of twenty-five consecrated believers from the field of education representing many denominations. They explained to them their plan to organize Christian teachers, school nurses, administrators, curriculum supervisors, school psychologists, college professors, and all others who were responsible for the education and welfare of American youth. To say the group was enthusiastic is to put it mildly. Before the evening passed, they had decided their over-all objectives, had elected Narramore and Weiss as co-directors, and agreed upon a statement of belief. They called it the Educators' Fellowship.
Weiss and Narramore were hard pressed to locate names and addresses of Christian teachers. Strangely enough, hardly any Christian teacher knew more than three or four other born-again educators.
When Narramore phoned the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles to arrange for room and refreshments for the first regular meeting he was asked how many would be attending.
"I don't know," he said, "This is our first meeting. I'll make a wild guess and hope that we'll have somewhere between seventy-five and one hundred."
The hotel representative was helpful. She told Narramore that she would arrange for the Educator's Fellowship to have an adjustable room.
Came the night for the first meeting and one hundred and thirty teachers, administrators and supervisors form all levels of education attended. When Weiss and Narramore looked through the registration cards, they found that their organization represented seventeen different denominations. Their associates were elated.
"It's the first meeting I've attended," said a college instructor, "where I've been in the majority."
"One of the most spiritual meetings I've ever experienced," said a prominent school nurse.
But the localized project soon spread from Southern California. It swallowed up other independent groups across the nation which were glad to affiliate with a central work. Before long it was incorporated as the National Educators' fellowship. Branch fellowship began meeting in Japan, England, and Canada. The membership mailing list jumped from zero to four hundred in five months.
"We're about fifty years late," said a professor. "We have enough important projects to keep us busy for years to come. We have souls to win, a testimony to live, Christian teachers to recruit, literature to publish and distribute, legislation to promote, school policy to make and curricula to plan."
Carefully the educators set down their objectives: Christian fellowship and inspiration, the organization of prayer groups, learning more effective ways of working with and counseling students, deepening the spiritual life of every educator in the organization, learning more effective ways of witnessing to fellow educators, learning how to take positive stands on public and national problems, and the recruitment of outstanding evangelical Christian teachers to the profession.
Although the National Educators Fellowship is geared to a ministry among the public schools, it is not opposed to Christian day schools. Says Narramore, "Of course, we are very happy for such schools; however our organization is intended primarily for public school teachers. The overwhelming majority of children attend public schools, and if we as Christians are going to reach their minds and hearts, we must go where they are-to the public schools."
...Christian teachers need not be preachers. They should not enter the classroom with an attitude of defying state laws. If educators are well trained, have desirable personalities, and if they have the right relationship with Christ, God will give divine guidance and He will provide opportunities for witnessing.
...The Fellowship is meeting one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. The United States is historically a Christian nation. And yet, Christians have almost forgotten the agency that trains millions of young men and women and boys and girls. NO professional group is more influential than educators. They mold the minds of America.
...The United States is furnishing leadership to most of the world, and that leadership is trained almost entirely in the public schools. We have turned the schools over to non-Christian and the materialistic crowd, and we are reaping the harvest. We have stood by, adjusting our mission sights to distant places, while the very foundation on which we were standing has been deteriorating."
...The NEF's twelfth objective states: "Exerting positive leadership in the development of Christian character and personality as a deterrent to juvenile delinquency and crime." May God grant wisdom and large enrollment to this band of dedicated men and women who are refueling their torches by the assembling of themselves together.