A Full Reward 800x800

Chapter 2: My Testimony

A Full Reward: Reformation Through Family-Run Christian Schools

Rev. Aaron Slack

Pastor, Author, Marketing Manager, Preschool Director

Chapter 2

My Testimony

The story of how I came to be involved with Grace Community Schools is not one I could have predicted. At different times in my youth, I wanted to become many different things when I grew up, but my current occupation was not one of them. Providentially for me and my future family, I was never in charge of my destiny. The blessings I envisioned for myself and the work I thought that I would be doing pale in comparison to the reality God had in store for me. Truly God can “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”! As it says in Proverbs, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. 16:9). Looking back now, I can see clearly just how much God directed my steps and those of my family to bring me where I needed to be. I had nothing to do with it, to God be all the glory!

Son of a Pastor from a Family of Pastors

My testimony begins with my family. My father, a godly man, took a stand for God’s law against the public schools both from the pulpit and in his personal life. I was a preacher’s kid. Additionally, my grandfather was also a pastor, and I have reverend uncles on both my mother and father’s sides of the family, not to mention cousins and aunts also involved in ministerial work. In retrospect I suppose it is not surprising that I became a minister as well. You can accurately say that I am a pastor from a family of pastors.

As a pastor’s family, we moved around fairly often. I was born in Ohio, and then we moved to Pennsylvania. I don’t remember those places; my first memories are from Battle Creek, Michigan (Cereal City!). Battle Creek was also the site of my first experience with the public school. My parents had a fairly prolonged exodus from the public schools; I attended public schools in Michigan through the second grade. My earliest memories of school are of my public school kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Hill. Mrs. Hill, I am told, was a pastor’s wife, who brought prayer and phonics into her classroom. This was unconventional, to say the least, and I benefited from it. It was not too long before I was reading.

At the time, my family was rooted firmly in an Arminian church, and I looked forward to the day I would have a “conversion experience” and feel the overwhelming need to “ask Jesus into my heart.” I cannot truthfully say that this event ever came. It was not until many years later that I found out that there was nothing wrong with this, and that for many people growing up in Christian homes, this is the norm. In fact, I had something greatly more desirable—a gradually growing ability to keep the Ten Commandments (sanctification). In my opinion, this is the best supernatural “experience” I could ever ask for (and the one we ask our students at Grace Community School to look for in their lives). I know the ability to keep the law does not come from within me, nor does it have any saving power, but it is evidence of a saved life.

When I was six, my family (which now included my two brothers) moved from Battle Creek, Michigan, to the small farming community of Bad Axe, Michigan. My father took up the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church there (we were no longer Arminian). I was enrolled in the local public school system, to the surprise of no one in the church congregation. I was quite interested in my school subjects, and my love for reading and learning continued to grow, especially in scientific subjects. It was around this time that my parents became seriously concerned with my government schooling. The schoolhouse was taking a toll.

The school library and the shelves of books in the back of my classroom became my favorite spots. I frequently brought home books from school, particularly science books. One of my most beloved subjects was dinosaurs and the incorrectly-named “Prehistoric Age” (this is still an interest of mine). My parents took an interest in the books I was bringing home and were uneasy with some of the content of the books. Choose any book about dinosaurs from a public school or county library, and you will see why. Everything is about the Big Bang, about evolution, about how this creature changed into this creature over “millions and millions of years,” and then all the dinosaurs turned into birds. It’s as if every children’s science book comes with a free Carl Sagan to drill the doctrine of evolution into your head.

My parents began to buy science books for me written from the creationist perspective, to counteract what I was being indoctrinated with at school and reading elsewhere. Their conversations with me and instruction in God’s truth made a deep impression on me. They warned me that there would be teachers in school who would not teach the truth, sometimes well-intentioned people who would tell me lies about what was right and wrong, and about where people, animals, and the universe came from. They told me that there would be people, even my friends, who would make fun of what I believed, of the truth. I listened intently. I could tell that they wished it were not so, that I would not have to deal with these people. By God’s grace, they were successful in keeping me on the straight and narrow path. But my parents did not feel it was right that a child should have his religious beliefs so assaulted by humanist evolutionists and moral relativists on a daily basis (and I hadn’t even begun sex ed!).

Even as a seven-year-old student, it was clear to me that my family was different from the families of my fellow classmates. Besides differing in our beliefs on certain subjects like evolution, we just acted differently. Not that I was ever a perfect child, but I never dreamed of behaving towards adults the way I saw other neighborhood children acting. My family did not use the same words I heard other children (and their parents) saying. In fact, I did not even know the meanings for many words I heard. On the few occasions I was ever at a friend’s house for a meal, the family never said a prayer before eating. None of my friends, as far as I was aware, even had family Bible devotions. While I did not think of it in biblical terms, I was beginning to realize how much we as a family were “in the world, but not of the world.” We were a Christian family, and acted like it. So why did I have to go to school in a place that was clearly not Christian?


My parents were asking themselves that very question. They became more and more fed up with the pagan public school system my brother, now in kindergarten, and I were trapped in. They began to consider other options. Bad Axe being the small community that it was, there were only a couple of Christian schools in the area, neither of which jibed with our theology. Finally, after much prayer, and determined to help us achieve all that God had wanted for us, my parents made the decision to homeschool me and my two brothers. I am eternally thankful for the choice they made. We were finally free.

My mother and father did a lot of research and then ordered a curriculum. We began in earnest. We loved it, at least until the work got hard. It was tremendous fun for my brothers and I to be together, and not segregated into different buildings and classrooms. Among the many benefits of homeschooling (and the Grace Community System) is the strengthening of family bonds. The family is a unit—the most basic unit of society. God did not intend for families to be arbitrarily split apart as is done in our modern age. We had chapel together, we did our school work together, we ate together, and we did our chores together. And we still had plenty of time for our own individual extracurricular pursuits.

To a child starting homeschool after having been in a conventional school environment, perhaps the best thing is how many fewer hours it takes to get the day’s school work done. It is very much true that most of what is done in schools, especially public schools, is a waste of time. There is no valid reason elementary education should require six or seven hours of a child’s life every day for nine months out of the year, but this is an irrelevant point—traditional education is not the goal of state schools, as we shall see.

Homeschooling became another way our Christian family was different, even from the other families in our church (perhaps especially from other families in our church). My father also took to criticizing government schools from the pulpit. This did not sit well with many in the congregation, which included public school and other government employees, not to mention Democrats and other unsavory characters. I remember the tension at the church and in my parents’ conversations together at home.

A person or family moving in terms of God’s will is usually considered by the world to be “weird.” Unfortunately this phrase—”the world”—too often includes those in the institutional church. Our family was not only different, now it was weird. People would say things like: “What is wrong with Bad Axe public schools? This isn’t Detroit, for goodness’ sake! Our schools are good! Everyone in the church has their kids in public school. My second grade teacher even volunteered at Vacation Bible School! What is wrong with the Slack family? Does Mrs. Slack have a teaching degree?” (She did not.) And of course, “What about socialization?” We heard it all. We did not care.

It wasn’t always easy for us children or our parents (although I think the sacrifices were rather more on their part). But with God’s help, we persevered. There was some concern about truant officers and being seen outside during school hours, although our neighbors were generally amiable towards us, if not exactly understanding. After five years at Bad Axe, God let us know it was time to move on. We left Bad Axe with not only a lot of experience in homeschooling, but also another family member, my sister. Jupiter, Florida was our destination.

Florida and a Better Future

My father felt the Holy Spirit leading him to a new place. Our church in Bad Axe was not receptive to the doctrine he believed to be the truth, and so the Lord opened a new door. An ad in the Chalcedon Report led us to a church in Jupiter seeking a Christian Reconstructionist pastor. We moved in the summer of 1994.

When my father accepted the pulpit of Jupiter Presbyterian Church, I was tremendously excited. I had never visited Florida before, except vicariously—through travel brochures, post cards, and my parents’ stories of vacations taken when they were young. Exotic Florida was so far removed from Michigan it almost seemed like we were going to another country. I remember enthusiastically packing up belongings in big cardboard boxes and watching as they were loaded onto the moving truck (graciously paid for by our new church). Geography was my current passion, and this was straight out of my dreams.

I have never understood the popular depictions of kids moving, as seen on TV and in movies, where the family’s children rebel against their parents and try to do anything they can to stay with the current “friends” they have at school. My wife, who did her own share of moving growing up, agrees with me. I had friends to be sure, mostly children in our church (despite rumors to the contrary, we were not “unsocialized”), but I was not nearly as close to them as I was to my family. And my family was moving with me! Moving was simply a big adventure that I hoped would lead to a better future. How much better a future I had no way of knowing at the time.

The move was lots of fun, driving from Michigan to Florida with family. As we drove through the Smoky Mountain area of Tennessee down into Georgia, the excitement grew. I will always remember the thrill of seeing a palm tree outdoors for the first time in my life when we stopped for the night at a motel not much north of the Florida line. The next day, we arrived. The folks at Jupiter welcomed us to their church and helped us move in to our new home.

We were able to rent a house across the street from the church, making commutes pretty easy. In Jupiter, our family was not seen as “weird.” Homeschooling was not unheard of in our church, and in fact our example led others to attempt it. We made friends. Our father was able to preach the law of God, and it was well-received—at least by part of the church. I was eleven when we first moved to Florida. Particularly compared to cold Michigan, it was fantastic. I took up a fairly intense interest in botany for a while because I was so impressed by the beautiful vegetation. We lived in Jupiter for only three years, but it holds a place in my mind as the last detour before I arrived at my final destination.

I had no inkling yet of what God had planned for me. Basking in the glow of Space Shuttle launches visible from our back yard, and falling asleep listening to the low rumble of rocket engine tests at the local Pratt and Whitney plant, I was set on becoming something in the aerospace field. I remember one time when the daughter of a visiting church family asked me to explain something I had mentioned about some scientific subject or another. I was all the time showing off my knowledge, and I did my best to explain it to her. She said to me, “You would make a good teacher.” I shrugged off the comment, not knowing it to be prophetic. I had no intention of pursuing anything like that. My mind was elsewhere. I had not discovered God’s will for my life yet—nor was I ready to accept it.

Moving to Naples and Grace Community

It was not God’s will that we remain in Jupiter for very long. Once again, an advertisement in the Chalcedon Report(this time for Grace Community School) pointed the way to our next stop on the road of life. But this next move was different from the ones before it: Instead of pastoring another church, both my parents would be working full-time as Christian school teachers. The ad said that apprentices were wanted in Naples, Florida, to learn how to own and operate Christian schools. At Dr. Ellsworth McIntyre’s invitation, we visited a couple of the Grace Community Schools and had lunch with his family. Everything went well.

When my father announced the decision to move to Naples, I was a bit apprehensive. Grace Community School seemed like it would be very different from what I had been accustomed to. I was fourteen, and still determined to attend conventional college and fulfill my dreams. Furthermore, from my parents’ perspective, this was a far cry from pastoring a church.

I had only visited the west coast of Florida a couple of times before on trips. Naples was beautiful. The faculty house provided for us was across the street from one of the Grace Community locations, and we had neighbors—the Harrison family. They too worked in the schools. Little did I know they would be my relatives in the future.

My family was now immersed in a community of people engaged in a very serious endeavor. This community was quite set apart from the so-called church “families” of our previous positions—all of which had the inevitable mixture of hypocrites, genuine friends, and casual acquaintances so typical in the institutional church. These people were driven, on a mission from God, and it showed. Personal issues and introverted “soul-searching” took backseat to the job God had called us to do. They were united by faith. I cannot say that I took to them overnight. God would have to work on me for a few years before I would be ready for that level of maturity.

It was a bit jarring moving from an ecclesiastic environment to a family business. The business world is one rooted mostly in reality, something which cannot be said for most churches. A profit and loss statement is rather clear cut. The church’s emphases today are remarkably Marxist, however unaware of this its members may be. Its priorities are characterized by a rejection of the material world in favor of the abstract and unimportant, something not supported by Scripture. When I heard adults at Grace Community discussing issues, they were things of practical importance to the real world. This was in sharp contrast to my previous experiences. I can distinctly remember church members at our old church during Wednesday night Bible study passionately arguing over whether Adam and Eve possessed navels, as if this was a doctrinal issue vital to the faith. This event has stuck in my mind as an exemplification of the modern church’s misdirection. The majority of church members today are trapped in a virtual and abstract world, arguing about Adam’s belly button.

High School of a Different Sort

My Grace Community high school experience turned out to be rather different than the average. Separate from the negative peer pressure of public and Christian schools (socialization is not always a good thing), I had an opportunity to focus on what is important, with less temptations and distractions. I had the opportunity, I say, but that does not mean I took advantage of it.

I soon found myself with “too much time on my hands,” as the song says. Or rather, I was not putting to godly use all the time which I had been given. Even in the upper grades, the homeschooler finds that you don’t need to spend the entire day on school work. I passed the days away reading science fiction novels and astronomy books. Even though I would wager this was a better use of time than what the average high schooler does, I was not “redeeming the time,” as Ephesians 5:16 urges us to do. It was not long before God decided to change this.

Grace Community Schools presented me with an opportunity I could not refuse. I was offered a part-time job, after my school work was done each day, doing mostly cleaning work around the Golden Gate school. I was fifteen, and the thought of extra spending money sounded good to me. Although I did not see it as anything like this at the time, I now consider this as the time my education really began.

There is nothing quite so character-building for a young person as working a job. The earlier it is started, the better. For those who will wind up working in the real world, the current educational system’s bend toward abstract academic topics is counterproductive. If you plan on wandering outside of Abstract Land at some point, experience doing actual work, no matter how menial, is vital. Besides picking up skills and building character traits like diligence and responsibility, there is another extremely good reason for children to work a job: getting practical experience with money.

The concept of the “allowance” is not one I like. It conjures up images of something not earned, money that just appears each week or month without work, just because it is owed to the child. Children get enough of that at Christmas and birthdays. The “wage” is a far better tool for the Christian parent. My wife and I give our children chores around the house and at school for which they receive a set amount of money each week. Sometimes they do extra work, for which they receive more. Other times they do not do all that is required of them, and do not earn their full amount. You might be surprised at how rarely that needs to be done, once the child has experienced it once or twice. It is a great tool to instill godly character in children, and it mirrors the real adult world nicely.

Deferred gratification is a wonderful thing. My children are learning (as I did) just how long it takes, and how much work is required, to be able to get the things they want. I was able to save up and buy my own computer, as well as a number of other large purchases, all with my own wages. I learned patience and the value of money. Things like practical economics are extremely difficult to teach inside of the classroom. Why waste the high school years when such valuable lessons need to be taught?

In addition to making it possible to work a job, the Grace Community system I used also builds independence as the student is much more responsible for his or her own academic progress. I didn’t have a teacher standing over my shoulder every minute of every day, and let’s face it: by the time you are a teenager, you shouldn’t need this. The person who has enough self discipline to work through a textbook, write a book report, or carry out a cleaning task alone will be much more valuable in the work force than one who requires constant supervision and micromanaging. Self government is invaluable, particularly if you want be a business owner someday. But it is also what I was denied that made my education superior to competing systems.

As if the curriculum and doctrine of traditional public (and far too many Christian) schools was not sufficiently depraved, there are any number of extracurricular activities which add to their worthlessness. The last thing a godly family should do is to put their children among reprobate peers and expect good things to happen. I am distressed when I see homeschool families and churches attempting to mimic the trappings of these schools. It’s as if they feel guilty somehow for denying their children the refuse fed to the world’s children. Proms, youth retreats, senior trips, teen mission trips to Canada (or wherever they go these days), and other unnecessary (and dangerously under-supervised) activities are typical examples of things now done in the church’s name (or by homeschool organizations). Somehow it’s supposed to be OK if it’s with church kids. The thought is that teens are missing out on something if they don’t have these things. That’s true, actually: they are missing out, but that’s good. Children belong with their family; “socialization” with others should be limited, particularly if these are church kids convinced they are going to heaven no matter what sins they commit just because they prayed the Sinner’s Prayer. It seems today any excuse to be apart from family is heralded as a good thing. Soccer, anyone?

In contrast to learning from peers or godless teachers, my primary source of education was my family. This is as it should be. The most basic social unit ordained by God is the family. We have no biblically-approved precedent for the Christian family to turn over the education of its members to another sphere of authority. The more that can be done within this unit—the more self-sufficient the family can be—the better. Strong families do not lead to a fragmented community, as critics charge. A strong God-fearing family is community, true community. As we shall see, Grace Community Schools, with its far-reaching ministry, is far from a hermitage—that is not the goal. But before we can reach out to others, we need a strong family first. Family is the greatest school. Learning a trade, getting the skills to make money, building the character to work productively and please and worship God—what other school can compare with this?

The Choice

Time passed. As my high school years neared an end, I steadfastly clung to my plans for a career in the aerospace industry. I had stars in my eyes, and it didn’t seem like anything could stand in my way. Like Balaam on the road to Moab, I was blindly following a dream. Fortunately for me (and likely NASA), God stood in my path.

It happened rather suddenly. Over a period of a week or two, after I had taken the SAT and was nearing the point where I would need to begin applying to colleges (I was leaning towards the University of Alabama at Huntsville), I began to feel grave doubts about where I was headed. I am not a person who gets “gut feelings,” has premonitions, or hears voices. Be that as it may, God had different plans for me, and He did what was necessary to change my course. It is one of the very few times in my life that I can say I felt anything like direct supernatural guidance. I wrestled with conflicting emotions and thoughts for a few days, and then a feeling of peace came over me—I knew what I had to do.

Again I am reminded that “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. 16:9). I informed my parents and superiors that I was interested in doing more than a part-time job for Grace Community Schools. I was licensed to preach by our church, and my adventure began. It’s a continuing mission, one I am still on. I chose the road with a greater reward, as well as less foot traffic, and never looked back.

A Vocation... and a Mate

I now had a calling, a purpose in life. While teaching was not without its struggles, I found out fairly quickly that I actually possessed some talent in the department of keeping children’s attention—especially at Bible Time. The satisfaction I get from teaching Bible to hundreds of children each and every day has only grown over the years I have been doing it. To present the Gospel and God’s law twice each day to a willing congregation, unhindered by rebellious church members, a church-controlled school board, or power-hungry elders is something most pastors can only dream about. It is a daily reality with Grace Community Schools. As rewarding as this is temporally, I believe the eternal rewards are incalculable.

I learned many valuable lessons teaching at the Golden Gate Grace Community School. Looking back now I think the kids taught me some important lessons, too—things like the importance of consistent discipline, lesson planning, getting along with people, and being an authority figure. Earning children’s and employees’ respect is not something done overnight. I made a lot of “new teacher” mistakes, but God continued to lead me. Even yet, I did not know the blessings God had planned for me.

Things got more interesting for me when I was transferred to the Grace Community School at Naples Park. In addition to gaining a lot more experience in management and teaching, I began to enjoy my work more and more. And there was something else—this was where God willed that I find my companion in life, Amy. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). We were married in 2002. I believe being able to work with one’s spouse is a wonderful blessing, too often ill-regarded in our society. The biblical family model includes both parents working together to further God’s kingdom, whatever the couple’s calling may be. It’s hard to grow distant from one’s mate emotionally when you are never far apart geographically. The fact that we are a husband and wife team is frequently noted by our patrons. Often some comment is made such as, “I could never do that.” I look upon these people with sadness. If a couple can’t get along well enough to work together, what hope does such a marriage have? These attitudes are part of what make the husband-wife operator model so important. For many of the children we teach, Rev. Aaron and Mrs. Amy will be the only positive adult relationship they see growing up. It’s not uncommon for a child to feel more comfortable in our school than they do at home due to the stability Grace Community School presents. A stable, godly marriage is a big part of that stability, all too often missing from children’s homes.

I learned a tremendous amount and grew in maturity during our time in Naples Park. After successfully managing that location for several years, and bringing enrollment up to record levels, Amy and I were given the reigns of the Fort Myers school. It opened in 2004. Since 2009, we have also overseen the North Fort Myers Grace Community. Hundreds of students are under our daily influence. The freedom of the Grace Community system allowed me to obtain a masters degree (which more than satisfies state regulations for childcare center directors) from Patriot Bible University via correspondence course, instead of wasting years of my time and thousands and thousands of dollars for the same piece of paper at a more traditional college. My responsibilities (and commensurate blessings) have continued to grow.

Being on a mission from God is even better when the family’s children are involved, too. Our first child, Caleb, was born in January of 2004. We now have five—Nathaniel, Lydia, Serenity, and Ava followed. My wife and I are privileged each day to be able to work with them, both educating them and training them in our vocation of operating Christian schools. We are able to teach them just as we would like, without interference. My children will never know firsthand the tyranny of government schooling. We have a beautiful home in suburban Fort Myers about ten minutes from work. Each year that passes gets better and better—the blessings have truly overtaken us.

Most people and families are not so blessed. The public school still dominates the land.