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.
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.
One of the schools leading the effort to make biblical worldview integration a flourishing practice among students and faculty is San Jose (California) Christian School. SJCS Throughlines “help students develop a clear picture of what it means to be an authentic Christian learner in all aspects of their lives. Arranged under three separate headings, they are qualities we desire students to develop, and….provide meaning and intentionality to the entire curriculum” (SJCS curriculum document).
Have you ever been in a room where someone asks a question and the presenter answers with vocabulary and information that seemed designed to make the questioner look stupid? I can. I have also witnessed a presenter being asked a question that was less a question and more a clear opportunity to demonstrate superior knowledge over the presenter. I can even remember doing something similar myself when I was feeling threatened.
Knowledge and intelligence (please note that I am certainly NOT talking about wisdom here) can be wielded to gain power. This can happen on so many levels. There are people who have inside information and release it in a way that gives them status or power. There are those who have expertise on a topic who can be tempted to use their knowledge to gain power and authority. And there are times when knowledge is used to intimidate others into letting one have one’s way.
In both Genesis and Galatians (and many others biblical texts), our calling as humans is emphasized as one of being a blessing to the nations: of reflecting back to creation the image of God and joining with him in redeeming this world to its original state of “very goodness.” This is the common vocational calling of all believers. Let me reiterate, there is no higher calling for the Christian school than to raise up students to be effective in our common vocational calling.
It’s summer. Last year’s books are put away and the halls are quiet. What better time to reflect on the past school year and contemplate the future by doing a quick check-up on our readiness to fulfill our calling?
Over the course of this year we have been looking at the idea of power and leadership, and we’ve done so through the lens of critical theory. That means we have tried to expose behaviors, practices, and norms—be they implicit or explicit—that limit us from fully flourishing as followers of Jesus. We have addressed gender, theology, culture, and status, and have yet to engage charisma and intelligence. I invite you to stay with me on this journey, as the most exciting part is yet to come: the post-exposure part where we explore what we do moving forward to ensure our enacting of power is more aligned with the Kingdom.
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.
If in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), then is it true that Christ can be revealed through those same treasures of wisdom and knowledge?
Of course! Do we not as Christian educators deal daily with those same treasures, whether in kindergarten or AP calculus? So how are we doing when it comes to revealing Christ within these treasures? It is obviously true that teachers will reveal Christ to those we teach only if we ourselves are looking for him.
But how? Here I am suggesting two ways among many.