About this time of the year when in this part of the country (western Michigan) the autumn skies are beginning to turn to the dark, heavy clouds of winter, it seems like a certain level of discouragement can set in as the joy of our active, outdoor lifestyle in the bright summer sun has faded from our memory. The bright and hopeful educational beginnings of August and September have perhaps run head-on into difficulties demonstrated by fellow Christians in getting along in community together. Egos may drive a wedge between individuals and consequently organizations, and keep us from accomplishing the kingdom because we sometimes prize our own goals more highly and lose sight of obedience. How can we hope to be bringing transformation and renewal to our world when sin is prevalent each day in our own lives, in our motives, in our hearts? How can we nurture faith in youth when our own relationships and actions are broken?
How can we put aside what holds us back and press on to a higher calling (paraphrasing Paul)? What should our focus be? First we need to remember to rest in the Lord and take delight in Him. David reminds us in Psalm 20 that we are about making garlands for God’s victory parade, not polishing the chariot or grooming the horses. (The Message) Our egos and our institutions sometimes are the chariots and horses – while we have important goals we must first remember to maintain our focus on the victory of the Lamb and the celebration of his coming kingdom. Lift up your heads! We are created for joy! As John Piper points out, when we look at the phrase, “What is the chief end of man?”, the author uses the word end and not ends – therefore in the answer we are made to both glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We live in the certainty of the coming of His Kingdom, in spite of our failings! He has given us work to do that He has laid out for us in advance (Ephesians 2:10) and through His Spirit “equips us to do that which is pleasing in His sight.” Let’s get in the game He has given us to play and play with purpose and passion – leaving it all on the field – expending our lives as an offering of joy to our Lord! May that joy propel you into a deep season of gratitude and delight!
While our Thanksgiving times in October (Canada) and November (United States) have grown out of an agrarian schedule, this time of year remains a great time for reflection and thanks as we get ready to celebrate the coming of the Christ child into our world. What are the ways this week that we can express our joy and gratitude in very specific ways? How can we combat discouragement and malaise? Let’s take opportunity in this coming week to encourage a student, a teacher, or administrator as an act of our gratitude to our God and as an expression of our joy in Him.
Most of us, in approaching our calling/work, would agree that we subscribe to a “work hard, pray hard” philosophy. My question is however, “Are we ‘working smart’?” Are we keeping the end in mind as we work with children and youth? Are we coordinating our efforts and keeping in mind the spiritual developmental levels of our children and youth? Have we clarified what we stand for in Christian education and what we exist to produce?
After reflecting on twenty-five years of work with various organizations, George Barna makes the case in his book, “Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions,” that the most effective ministries to youth have a clear philosophy and an “18 year plan” for working with those in their care. Before I lose some of you who wish to say that spiritual growth of children is “simply the work of the Spirit”, I want to share the distinction Barna makes between transformation and change. He acknowledges that “transformation is Spirit driven, while change is program driven. Transformation is facilitated but unpredictable, and change is caused and inevitable under the right conditions and stimuli. The most effective churches recognize that the goal is to facilitate transformation, yet understand that they cannot engineer it…only God brings about lasting transformation in a person’s life.”
Christian schools and church education began with the idea that we could have a significant impact on the life of a child. In the past several years, some schools have put together documents that reflect what their vision for their graduates looks like. Examples include: the high schools connected with the Society for Christian Schools in British Columbia (SCSBC), Rehoboth Christian School in Gallup, New Mexico, and Holland Christian Schools all have put together these type of statements. These documents are available for viewing in the Member Community Center for member schools – click on this link or go to MCC discussion forum. If you are not a member of Christian Schools International and would like to access the Center, please contact CSI for more information.
As indicated by the CSI logo on this blog, this blog is being written and edited by me for Christian Schools International. The mission of Christian Schools International is to advance and support Christian education throughout the world. One way is through this blog which is open to all interested in nurturing faith, whatever their role – administrator, pastor, parent, interested person, etc.
Another way that CSI will be providing support, discussion, materials, etc. for Christian education is through our newly opened Member Community Center. This Center is open to all member schools and accessible by password. If you are a member of CSI, but didn’t get an email invitation and password, please contact Lydia at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not a member of CSI but would like to access the Member discussion board and resources, this is possible for a modest annual fee. Please contact Lydia as listed above.
From time to time in blog posts there will be links that connect the reader directly with a particular document in the Member Community Center. These documents will help to provide the context and depth that is not possible in a shorter blog post. Ongoing discussion around the document/concept can then happen on the MCC discussion board on the main administrator page.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
A love for youth and a heart for their struggles is strongly evident in one of the best books I have read this year about nurturing faith, Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth, by Walt Mueller. He does a great job of bringing us inside of youth culture and then stepping back to consider the best ways we can minister to them. I highly recommend that all those who are working with high school and middle school students read this book. He also has an excellent website with load of information and resources – www.cpyu.org – it is part of his organization: The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. If you desire to minister to our current day “Athenians” you will want to read Mueller’s suggestions for effectiveness in being a “Mars Hill” minister to youth in today’s culture!
Getting kids more involved in leading worship has been a positive and recent development in Christian schools. Beyond the obvious delight of worshipping our God, this involvement serves to develop student understanding of our distinctiveness through a sense of Christian community. In a phone call follow-up to an email, I had a wonderful conversation recently with Suzanne Van Engen, principal at Covenant Christian in Mishawaka, Indiana. She related what a powerful difference it made at her school to have students involved in worship and to have someone gifted in this area to guide them. She states in her email: “I find it interesting that we find money for sports, cheerleading and the like, and worship is done by whomever we can pull in or it is put on the teachers. It is one of the most important things we do as a Christian community and yet we don’t find monies to have someone lead us. We think anyone can do it. But, we don’t think anyone can teach art or second grade or middle school math!”
Worship is a key distinctive of the total educational experience at Christian schools and as Suzanne illustrates beautifully below, should be different from church in that it is in a setting specifically designed for students – a place where they can learn and practice leadership: “For our Open House at the beginning of the year I tried to think of a way to make this different from attending any old Open House at any school. What do we do at a Christian school that demonstrates who we are? We worship together. So we had open house for 45 minutes and then we all assembled in the church next door and had a fifteen-minute time of worship. Our young students led us. We had a fifth grader on the overhead. In moving the transparency down it fell off the overhead. Later on when I did a little talk about what we are about, I told parents that we wanted to train our churches’ future leaders. What better place then at school for the transparency to fall. This is where we make mistakes and learn. When they lead in church they will already have had practice. You get where we went from there.”
What has been your school’s experience? Is worship a way that students and parents understand your distinctiveness as a school? What are your needs in this area?
Ron Sider presents evidence in his disturbing book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the
Rest of the World?, that evangelicals without a Biblical worldview are not living any differently (or in some cases demonstrating worse behavior) than the average non-evangelical. However, all is not gloom and despair! In the last part of his book he presents a strong argument that evangelicals with a Biblical worldview demonstrate different behavior – deeply committed Christians demonstrate more Godly behavior and spend significantly more time living out their faith. (For sake of clarity, he uses Barna’s definition of a Biblical worldview: the Bible is the moral standard, absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible, God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.) Knowing the Word and living it out (discipleship) is something home, church, and school desire for students – worldview development is a key task of the Christian school – it is the place where faith and learning intersect directly – again and again in planned ways over a course of years.
I am aware that some of you have engaged your staff in vigorous dialogues around Biblical worldview in recent years and have developed particular belief statements. Would you be willing to share your work? If you are willing to share your process and products, I will be delighted to share them in the CSI Member Community Center – opening soon!
While worldview is a word that has been historically tossed around a lot in our circles, there seems to be evidence from Barna and others that, among evangelicals, there is not a wide or correct understanding of what the word means. Since the task of nurturing a Biblical worldview in students is a critical task of the Christian school, it is important to consider what we really mean by it. In his excellent, award-winning book, Worldview: The History of a Concept, David Naugle remarks that the concept of worldview is a relatively recent construct that has risen to popularity over the last 150 years. He defines Christian worldview as an “attempt to provide a comprehensive explanation of reality that is rooted in the Word of God…the higher system which synthesizes and reunites all truth into a living whole with Christ supreme.” In essence, it’s the meaning of Colossians 1:16, 17: “For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.” Christ is the true unity of faith and reason – all truth is God’s truth. We all choose a worldview…a lens through which we interpret the world. Seeing through that glass “darkly” increases our humility – the more we know the larger and more awesome God becomes and the more we know that we can’t know it all. Faith is needed before knowing can occur…knowing leads us back to faith.
Our postmodern society rejects the concept of worldview, but, as Naugle points out, in advancing its own form of naturalism, it seems to be advancing its own version of a worldview! What will we accept as truth and as a basis for knowing? This is the question with which each person living today must wrestle. On a personal level, I love the quote of Augustine in Naugle’s book: “With His help, I shall love Him the more ardently the more I advance in learning.” There is no conflict between faith and reason – the more I learn, the more I praise and love the awesome Creator! As Reformed Christians and educators, we see the power of Biblical worldview to open up our student’s mind from a strictly personalized version of faith to the big picture of Christ’s redeeming power for cultural transformation.