A friend from Church asked me recently, 'Why would I send my daughter to a Christian School when it is so much cheaper and closer to send her to the state school down the road - they are both schools after all?"
I told my friend of a man called Harry. Harry saved up for years to buy a brand new Chevrolet Impala Premier. At over $40,000 and with all the added post-purchase extras that Harry lavished upon it, this car was Harry's pride and joy. Every weekend Harry would meet with other Chevrolet owners and talk about their cars and encourage each other. They were so happy and grateful for their cars that they even sang songs about them and whenever they got the opportunity, they tried to tell Ford owners what they were missing out on, inviting them to their meetings and trying to convert them.
Harry was very protective of his new Impala and at first he would sacrifice nothing to be sure his Chevy only got the best of everything. However, with insurances and the rising cost of gas, it was quite expensive to own a new Chevrolet. But as every new car owner knows it is very important to keep the car properly serviced. This meant the car would be in fine form for a long time and with regular servicing the car was bound to be a classic Chevy one day.
Just down the road from Harry there was a Ford Servicing Center. It was very good at servicing Ford cars. The workshop was shiny and had all the newest electronic gadgets. Most of the people who worked there were very good at servicing Fords and there was even the odd worker who was secretly a Chevrolet lover and was there trying put a little bit of Chevrolet in the cars they serviced. Some Chevy lovers knew this and sent their beloved Impalas and other Chevy babies to this Ford Service Center with the hope that these secret Chevrolet lovers might service their car. However, the real reason some Chevrolet lovers sent their babies to the Ford Service Center was because it was nearby. And, most importantly, the government subsidized costs at the Ford Service Center, so it was much cheaper to have the Impala serviced there than at the official Chevrolet Service Center across town.
When it came time to start servicing his car, Harry considered the Chevrolet Service Center, but because of the location and the extra cost in sending it across town, Harry chose to send his car to the Ford Service Center instead. Harry knew the Ford Service Center would only use Ford parts on his car - in fact Chevrolet parts were very much forbidden at the Ford Service Center, but it was closer and cheaper. What was good was that occasionally, in the interests of multiculturalism, some people from the Chevrolet Club were allowed to visit the Ford Service Center and show videos of Chevrolets. They showed pictures and told some stories about Chevys from many years ago. They even sang some songs about Chevrolets. But they were only allowed to sing songs about tires, towbars and paint jobs, definitely no stories or songs about the intricacies of what made a Chevy a Chevy. They weren't even allowed to talk about the main Chevrolet symbol and what it really stood for.
In his heart of hearts, Harry knew that at the Ford Service Center there were some Chevy-haters, and there was a good chance that his baby would be roughed up a little. In fact, because his baby was a Chevrolet in a Ford's world, there was a very high chance of some damage, but Harry hoped that the damage would not last. After all he reminded himself, it was cheaper and closer to use the Ford Service Center.
After a few years, Harry found his baby was changing. Not all the time, but sometimes when his Impala got hot it made noises like a Ford. Actually sometimes it even drove a little like a Ford. But worst of all for Harry, sometimes it would not start on Sunday mornings when it was time to go to the Chevrolet Club meetings.
One such Sunday morning, instead of walking himself to the Club (his car wouldn't start again), he decided to get to the bottom of what was going on. He spent a lot of time digging around underneath the hood, trunk, and elsewhere. Everything looked fine on the surface, but when he looked deep in the car he found that unbeknown to him, some of the car's internal parts had been replaced. There were Ford parts all over the place! Some of them didn't look like they even fitted very well and had to have been beaten into place.
As Harry closed the bonnet, wondering what he could have done differently, he realised for the first time that the Chevrolet badge was starting to slip, just a little.
Why would you send your child to a Christian School when the school down the road is closer and cheaper? The answer seems relatively straight forward to me...
by Shaun Booker, Principal, Hamilton Christian School, Hamilton, New Zealand (slightly adapted and contextualised by Dr Richard Edlin from Edserv International)
Christian Schools are great at doing Joseph and the Technicolored Dreamcoat. They are well rehearsed at starting the day with prayer. Many Christian School students can recite more memory verses than students from ‘other’ schools. Christian Schools are very good at getting their staff together early in the morning to pray, sing and have devotions together. But as we know, Christian Education is so much more than this.
Christian Schools are fantastic at doing many activities which blur the lines between Church and School. Students at Christian Schools all over the world participate in the good Christian performances, memorise scripture, learn about scripture and participate in morning devotions. Students of Christian Schools often have prayer modelled to them. Sometimes they learn to pray religiously, first thing in the morning and just before lunch, and other times prayer is modelled as a natural part of a Christian walk. They sing worship songs and recite scripture. All of these are vitally important in Christian Schools. But they must never be what defines Christian Education.
Our students need to learn about the scriptures and they certainly need to have the Christian walk modelled to them. However, the value of Christian Education is not found in the big picture events that are detailed above. It is in the small subtle and deliberate living out of a Biblical Worldview that makes the life-transforming difference.
To bring clarity to this point let's consider the parable of the Two Builders. What does it really mean to build your house on the rock? Jesus spoke of the wise builder who did just this in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt 7:24-27). Jesus gave us a picture of two builders at the end of his Sermon on the Mount; one was wise, and the other foolish.
Jesus taught many things in his time in ministry and the sermon on the mount was full of practical advice for living a life worthy of the God we serve. This sermon did not include advice on singing worship songs, memorising scripture nor was it about performances and religious activities. Christ's teaching on the Sermon on the Mount was about living a life of surrender.
As educators in Christian Schools, our responsibility is very much to give our students the best opportunity to build their life on the foundation of rock as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount. A life which in many ways is counter-cultural. built on a worldview which is different to that of those around them.
A life built on the firm foundation as detailed in the Sermon on the Mount is;
Christian Schools must not be only about the verses display in the foyer, about the songs sung at an assembly, about the staff devotions nor just about the use of biblical stories in literacy lessons. Christian Education that really makes a difference empowers our students to build their lives on a foundation of rock. Helping our students understanding that they are purposefully and wonderfully designed for this time and this place. That they would have confidence in what God has done for them and who God is. Christian education finds its purpose when it is incessant in establishing this understanding in its students.
Let us not forget our line of business, Christian Education is about education. As Christian Educators we must be outstanding in the field of education. After all, we do this not for man, rather for our Father in Heaven (Col 3:23). However, in order to be truly involved in Christian Education, we need to equip our students to be strong Christians who are confident in who they are and that if they truly commit putting Christ first in their life that He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). The purpose of Christian Education is not to educate students for Biblical times, rather it is to equip God's youth as critical thinking confident and connected young people who can be in the future world they will enter into without being of the World. Unfortunately, I have seen far too many Christian School's whose pedagogy and curriculum stifles thinking and does not give God's youth the competencies and skills they need to interact in the world they are commissioned to 'go and make disciples'.
Memorising scripture, singing songs of praise, learning the stories of the Old and New Testament, reciting Old Testament accounts such as the Joseph play are all very important aspects of Christian Education and indeed should be a part of every Christian School. However, they should not be the sum total of what makes a Christian School different from the school down the road.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matt 7:24)
It has been seen many times. What truly gives Christian Education its value is the integration of a Biblical Worldview into the day to day happenings which each student in a Christian School experiences.
The big question for those of us in Christian Education is this: ‘In what way is our school different to the school down the road?’ (assuming it is not another Christian School)
Listen closely to the answers. Are the answers common for everyone? My prayer is that the answers are not limited to good Christian activities such as Scripture Memorisation, learning Bible Stories, Singing Songs and Praying a few prayers. You exist for so much more. How is your school actively empowering your students to build their lives on a solid foundation? The answer will be found in what you do daily, not just in the scheduled activities.
Like it or not, understand it or not, ignore it or not, worldview has a huge impact in our classrooms. It is more influential than curriculum, than the ability of the teacher, than the tools that are used within the school and more influential than the environment of the school. It is more influential than all the above as it is our worldview that determines our approach and adoption of each of the above factors.
In education we have two big questions which need to be at the forefront of our thinking.
1. What do my students need to learn? Now?
2. What is the best way to get each of them there?
The answers to each of these questions have several influences. The answer to the second question is primarily influenced by the teachers understanding of their individual students. The better the teacher knows each student’s learning preference, attention span, passion, cognitive ability, interests and curriculum strengths the better the teacher will be able to engage each student in the learning process. The teacher knowing what engages their student is key to answering the second question.
Just an observation. An observation from 15+ years in Christian Education, leadership in many Christian Schools, chairmanship of a trust for several Christian schools and both initial teacher training and postgraduate study through Christian Tertiary Colleges. My observation is that there are five 'types' of families who send their children to Christian schools.
Identifying the current make up of your school’s community within these five types is not an ego thing nor is it a ‘some are better than others’ sort of thing. It is important to know the make up of your school community in order to best meet the needs of your current community. Secondly, if your school does NOT attract any of these types of families it will be because of the perception your school holds in the wider community. Acknowledging that the perception may or may not be based on reality. Knowing which types do not attend will enable you to try and target the perceptions and move the school forward.
Parenting can be difficult at the best of times. More and more schools are requiring all their students to bring a device. Seems like a cop-out on the surface. If technology was so important to learning why wouldn’t schools provide it, like they used to? And, how can we as parent manage the devices in a way that our families are not put under even more pressure than they currently are by the influence of media and technology? These are good questions so let’s explore them.
Times are changing and as we all know so is technology. Technology is simplifying and making our daily tasks more efficient in many ways. It makes sense that technology could add value to the learning process. Schools are seeing that technology can increase engagement, bring new learning opportunities and increase achievement. I say ‘can’ deliberately as it is not a given, but that is another story. From the perspective of a school leader who has seen technology being used to add much value to the classroom, it is important to recognise that asking parents to provide devices for their children can add pressure in different ways to our family. Firstly, obviously there is the financial perspective and secondly is the complexity of managing devices and the internet at home…as if parenting was not complex enough.