(Thanks to Dr. Bruce Hekman, Adjunct Professor of Education at Calvin College for contributing this post.)
At a workshop I attended a couple of years ago a speaker asked, “What was Jesus’ main message?” Lots of answers come to mind: the good news that Jesus has come to provide forgiveness for our sin, enabling a renewed relationship with God. While that’s true, that actually isn’t the most common message in the gospels. Jesus most often spoke of the new kingdom he was bringing into existence. “The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) “…strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) “Jesus went through Galilee…preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness.” (Matt. 4:23) In the first three gospels there are at least 114 references to the “kingdom of God,” including the Lord’s Prayer, in which we corporately pray that “…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6: 9, 10).
This kingdom prayer is a call to redemptive leadership, to making things down here the way they are up there. Donovan Graham says, “Redemption through Christ restores our relationship with God and empowers us to once again fulfill our calling in creation as he intended. The distortions of the fall still plague us, but we are no longer bound or ruled by them. We are called to live according to the truth, and living redemptively means living by that truth.” (Teaching Redemptively, p. xiv.”)
Redemptive leadership holds up a biblically-based vision of what schools ought to be. That vision is most visible in the relationships among all members of a school community. School leaders play a major role in establishing the culture of a school, that set of often unarticulated “rules” about the way things are done. The culture of a school, its context, is a deeply influential dimension of the content of schooling for all those who participate in it. When asked what we remember most vividly about our own school experience, we most often call to mind a relationship—usually positive, but not always—that has influenced us long after we’ve forgotten what we were studying. School culture is our corporate witness of the new life we have in Jesus as a faith community.
Redemptive leadership is intentional about creating a school culture that is a community of grace.