Accreditation: How to Build a Cathedral

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.

Redemption of All Things

Part of a solidly Reformed view of our world, of what we proclaim as the Big Story of the Bible, is the redemption of all things. Redemption is not limited to fixing what is broken; it includes the restoring of things to the way God intended them to be. And it certainly is not limited to “things”: it encompasses all relationships, processes, and activities, including education.

As a leader in Christian education, can you claim that you have been using your influence to proactively and intentionally focus on restoring education (within your circle of influence at your school) to the way God intended it to be? This means not simply addressing problems and fixing what is broken; it means engaging your school in a comprehensive self-examination process toward the end of continuously restoring (improving) your school.

In his letter to the people at Colossae, Paul refers to Christ as the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). This being true, how can any school not equipped with that perspective be categorized as excellent, or on the path toward complete restoration? Yes, a necessary (but not sufficient) component of an excellent school is that it embraces Colossians 2:3. But any such school must also embrace Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord….It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Restoring Education

You may sense how this is all related to accreditation and cathedral building. Yes, I am making a vigorous case for using the CSI accreditation process to honor our calling as Reformed Christian educators to be restorers of education to the way God intended it to be. The process will ask you to think deeply about the soul of our work: your mission and its philosophical foundations. It will challenge you to be clear about the heart of our work: teaching the next generation. And it will ask probing questions about how that “heart and soul” work is organized, financed, staffed, and housed.

I encourage schools to approach the accreditation process by embracing it as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. I believe that the accreditation process enables a school to better meets its stated mission and purpose and to better live by its core values. In other words, accreditation is a means for a school to more completely become the place God is calling it to be.

Accreditation is more of a continuous and self-imposed school improvement process than a final stamp of approval. While accreditation sometimes feels like just “laying bricks,” its purpose is to build a cathedral, one that honors God above all! Sheryl Jo, CSI director of school improvement, says, “Just when we think we have finished the cathedral, we may decide to put on an addition or remodel the prayer room a bit, striving for excellence in our journey to glorify God to the fullest.”

Find out more a www.csionline.org/accreditation or contact Sheryl Jo.

– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist, bdenboer@csionline.org

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