Author Archives: Joel Westa

In the Swamp

If you know me at all, you know I have a passion for being outdoors, and I especially enjoy hunting. One morning recently I got up extra early to sneak into a new stand on the farm where I hunt. This particular stand hadn’t been used at all this year, and the property owner was going to walk me to it, as I had no idea where it was. Under cover of darkness we snuck quietly through the swamp, crossing shallow creeks and winding through trees and windfalls.
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Manifesting Faithful Presence

The holiday season is upon us, and soon we will be besieged with school events, commitments, family reunions, and the world’s take on Christmas. For me, this season starts with my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving and progresses to the most stressful holiday for me, Christmas. It became stressful when I lost sight of God’s view of Christmas and focused on the world’s view of Christmas. It seems I get focused on trying to find the perfect gift instead of focusing on the most perfect gift ever given. So this year, we’re going minimalist and focusing on important things instead of gifts, concentrating on enjoying each other’s presence instead of each other’s presents.
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Guest Blog: What Lessons Can a Christian School Learn from J.C. Penney?

The comparison of a retailer and an educational institution may seem a bit strange. However, they have a lot in common, and there are some clear corollaries that can be instructive when considering the challenges and changes facing both sectors.
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Culture Is Key

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.
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Guest Blog: Committed to a Faithful Pedagogy

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.
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Standards for Discipleship

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.
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Summiting Mount Antero

I’m going to take a blog session off from my series on alignment to share some thoughts from my recent week of serving as a mentor for West Point cadets in the collegiate peaks of Colorado though an organization called Officers’ Christian Fellowship. The purpose of OCF and specifically the Rocky Mountain High Program in which I participated is to provide young cadets beginning their military careers with seasoned advice from an experienced (old) and retired (washed-up) senior officer (me) on how to operate and live as Christians in today’s military.

As I wracked my brain thinking and praying about the topics I’d wished I had known in my early military years, it came down to a couple key thoughts, around which I structured all of my lessons.
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Your Vision for the Future

My last post talked about developing strategic alignment within your organization. The first step in accomplishing this is to develop a clear, agreed-upon vision and strategy. The essential task of any leader is to discuss and determine with your boards and with your staff what the “main thing” is for your school.

I often find that there is some confusion between mission and vision. For the purpose of this series of articles, vision is aspirational. It should be a short statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization’s or program’s work.
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The Important Work of Strategic Alignment

When giving an assessment of an organization for its upcoming strategic planning efforts, I was asked what advice I would give the leader as the organization moved forward. After thinking a bit about the organization, I was at a loss for anything specific.

I really didn’t know the inner workings of the organization, having only watched them from afar and having dealt with some of their constituents. It is a solid, well-led organization that is meeting the needs of its customer base. What I did recommend was the process of a thorough examination of their personnel structure and organizational structure.
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Kale Is My Friend

I’m on my ninth day of a juice fast. I won’t tell you how long I’m planning to go, because I’m afraid I won’t make it. I’m doing this to lose weight, to detox my body, to try something difficult, and to change my poor eating habits. As I sip my lunch bottle of apple, orange, and kale, I’m still waiting for that claim of energy and vigor to kick in. Nine days without coffee. Nine days without chewing. I miss chewing.

Before you think I’ve lost my mind and am just rambling, I have learned a few things about myself and the world we live in, and I’d like to share them with you.
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