Points to report which shows overspending, not low income, the main financial challenge for Canadians
Mark Kennedy wonders how it is that so many people in two of the wealthiest nations the world has ever known say they can’t afford Christian schooling for their children.
While he allows there are some low-income families who can barely afford the necessities of life let alone Christian school tuition, Kennedy, regional director for the Association of Christian Schools International Eastern Canada, says he believes a huge barrier to families opting for Christian education is overspending.
In his article on the subject, “Can You Spare a Dime? For a Double Mocha Frappuccino Latte?” Kennedy refers to a finance report recently released by the Vanier Institute of the Family which highlights the problem Canadian families have with overspending.
The Current State of Canadian Family Finance provides the following statistics:
• Since 1990, family debt has been rising seven times faster than household income — to the point that it is now equal to a record 131 per cent of household incomes
• More families than ever are living well beyond their means, despite low levels of unemployment, modest wage gains and an 18 per cent increase in real net worth since the year 2000
• Among Canadians earning a net mid-range income of about $60,000 annually, credit card debt has almost doubled from $12,000 in 1990 to over $22,500 today
• There has been a steep decline in the amount of money families are able to save annually from $7,000 in 1990 to about $1,000 today.
“It seems our income level is less of an issue than our level of spending,” Kennedy writes. “An increasing percentage of Canadian families are spending more than they earn annually and, for these families adding payments for Christian school tuition on top of everything else is an extremely unattractive prospect.”
He goes on to suggest that it is the “seduction of rampant materialism” in Canada and the U.S. that has triumphed over balanced and controlled family finances. Families have placed their priorities on the accumulation of stuff over providing a solid spiritual foundation for their children.
“The whole advertising industry is getting people to buy stuff they don’t need,” Kennedy tells OACS News. “(We’re developing) an irrational appetite, most of the time, for things we’ve been happily living without until now.”
He adds the effects of this materialism will ultimately prove devastating, not only for the Christian school movement, but society in general.
“When you put your hope in that kind of stuff and the bottom falls out, as it’s beginning to do, then people are going to be living in despair.”
The director compares the scenario in Canada and the U.S. to some of the poorest countries in the world where people largely opt for independent education, which is often Christian, over government-funded public schooling.
Kennedy himself has worked in Haiti where more than a million students, about 60 per cent of the total student population, attend the evangelical Christian schools.
“Those people are living without electricity or running water. They’re sacrificing what little they have to send their kids to a private Christian school when they could go to a public school for free,” he notes.
The point, he says, is that “money is not the issue” when it comes to choosing Christian education in North America.
Kennedy suggests Christian families need to seriously re-examine their values and priorities to ensure they don’t end up crippling their own children, as well as the Christian school movement, in Canada.
“Christian families don’t have to be captives of secular society’s values and priorities,” he says. “Jesus’ familiar words, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ are the key.”
In light of this principle, he recommends Christian families think through the following questions:
- What should our priorities be in spending our limited (and often dwindling) financial resources?
- Is it wiser to invest heavily in temporal things like cars and houses or in eternal things like the lives of our children?
- What can we afford to live without in order to provide a Christian education for our children?