Welcome to Voices 4 Christian Ed. Each week, one of four authors will offer his thoughts on topics of interest to Christian school leadership. Your voice is also welcome here; please comment on these posts so that together we can create conversation on the essential issues facing Christian schools.
A quiz for leaders: multiple choice. Which one of these comparisons best captures your view of all children? A child is
- An empty bucket that needs to be filled with the water of knowledge.
- A cocoon wrapped in layers of blankets from which will emerge a butterfly.
- A diamond in the rough, flawed by sin and polished by grace and God’s hand to shine.
- A sheep that needs fences and shepherds to live well.
- A bulb that will become a beautiful flower if not stifled by “correction.”
“Some of the above” may be an option. However, almost all Christian schools, primarily through their leaders, develop programs (curricula) that emphasize one of these models more than others. In my experience (reading, watching, listening), most schools tend toward one of the following three notions about children.
It seems everywhere I look or listen, whether it be scholarly articles, organizational self-help books, television interviews, or internet podcasts, I keep hearing some permutation of the phrase “culture eats strategy for lunch.” An entire block of my EdD coursework was on organizational culture, and my bookshelf is lined with books designed to help me discern it, measure it, change it, or run from it!
Organizational culture guru Edgar Schein said, “Either you manage the culture, or it manages you.” I am confident that every one of you who leads a school has a story of how your best laid plans of implementing the greatest change to your organization got steamrolled by your school culture.
You are likely familiar with the story of two bricklayers working on a large building. When each was asked what he was doing, one replied, “Just laying bricks.” The other said, “I am building a cathedral!” For leaders in Christian education, much of our work seems a lot like the first bricklayer’s. We may tend to focus on the means to the end, not the end itself.
It’s a matter of perspective, at least in part. Let me argue, however, that cathedral building is not simply a matter of how we perceive our work or its purpose. Often it is a matter of doing the proactive and intentional hard work of focusing on the end result, on our mission, on our reason for being.
I hope your start of the year has been good. Mine has been super busy. Why is it that, no matter how much I prepare for that busyness, I am always surprised by it? All that said, there is something that speaks deeply to vocational fulfillment when I fall into bed exhausted by a day well spent in what I believe is kingdom work, submitting it all to God and trusting him to bless it through me, and at times, in spite of me. I hope you feel passion and fulfillment in the leadership work you do for the King.
For the past year, I’ve been using this blog to share thoughts on the intersection of power and Christian school leadership. I’m hoping you’ve drawn something from those thoughts to reflect on and, in your own way, allowed it to shape your practice and beliefs. We’ve spent some time looking at factors at play in the arena of power (remember gender, charisma, theology?). I’d like to shift gears a little to deepen our understanding of how this plays out in our schools.
What a “capital campaign” that was! Nehemiah was under house arrest in a land far from Judah. We know he was a close servant to King Artaxerxes there. A small group of his fellow citizens from the homeland sent him a message that the wall of protection for the capital city was “broken down.” He felt the call to help repair it, to lead the capital campaign. There’s a lot to learn about leadership in how he went about it. What would you or I do today to emulate his leadership?
There are many discussions going on in Christian education circles about development of a biblical worldview and the integration of that worldview into our pedagogy. Recently, the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) became the distributor for Teaching for Transformation (TfT) in the US. CSI is excited to work in partnership with CACE in this effort to better serve our schools. CSI has no desire to duplicate an excellent program like TfT, but also recognizes TfT may not be the perfect fit for all of our schools. CSI is moving forward in the creation of resources to assist schools with the critical task of integrating a biblical worldview and is eager to hear your thoughts on how best to accomplish this task.
While a faithful philosophy of education is important, we also need to focus on a faithful pedagogy. The following article, written by my good friend Dr. Richard Edlin from Australia, gives some ideas on integrating pedagogy and philosophy and may be of use for professional development.
We need your input: CSI is here to help your entire school community to comprehensively learn and live out the biblical “big story” in self-conscious and authentic ways. But we need your help.
You can help by providing your input regarding developing a framework for biblical worldview integration that is:
- Self-conscious and proactive: intentionally planned curriculum embedded with Christian worldview.
- Comprehensive: consistent with and connected to your school’s entire curriculum.
- Authentic: flows directly from the essential objectives of each unit of instruction.
This summer I’ve spent a little time reading in and about the Beatitudes and reflecting on how they shape a more faithful view of enacting power. I was reading Darrel Johnson’s (2015) book on the beatitudes the weekend of the Charlottesville event when my Twitter feed exploded with updates. I went from reading and reflecting on what it means to be captive and captivated by the kingdom to watching clips of people being beaten and mowed down by a car. I was overcome, and I wept. I was overcome by the hatred, but I was also deeply moved by the clergy who gathered together to promote peace—followers of Jesus standing peacefully in solidarity and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
Since then, I have heard a lot of political rhetoric and blame that just adds to the sadness. So much of what was happening in Charlottesville is a grasp for power, a grasp for power that is more connected to personal fear and the oppression of others and has nothing to do with human flourishing. In a word, it is evil; it flies in the face of the life of Christ and must be named as such.
In my last blog, I posed the contrast in leadership styles—push or pull—offering reasons for pushing as a means of helping teachers to achieve the school’s mission. Pushing demands accountability; the leader who insists that teachers all post on the school’s website a paragraph about how they weave the Word into their teaching will need to push until all have posted. “Please do this soon” often gets a receptive smile and a mental shrug. “I expect you will have it posted by this date” is a push…for the teachers’ and the school’s good.
Pushing has its benefits. Pulling has more.
The former president of the US Dwight Eisenhower caught the contrast between pull and push by using the analogy of string: “Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.” At one conference, we leaders in attendance literally tried to push a string to a goal; we wound up crumbling up the string into a wad, giggling to cover up our frustration, but we gained the goal quickly when we pulled it.
My apologies for taking another week’s break from my series on organizational alignment. I’ve been on the road every week so far this month, and I haven’t had the time to develop what I would consider to be a helpful piece on alignment.
My travels this week took me to a conference in Pine Mountain, Georgia, at the Impact 360 Institute, an organization that provides gap year alternative programs of study for high school graduates. Part of the program featured Trip Lee, who is an author, hip-hop artist, and pastor. If you know me at all, you would know I’m not a huge fan of the hip-hop music genre, so I wasn’t sure what was in store for us that evening. What transpired was a challenging discussion on this current generation and how we are ministering to them.