- Written by Shaun Brooker
- Hits: 23
Like it or not, understand it or not, ignore it or not, worldview has a huge impact on 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.
Expectations and processes of behaviour management are also involved in answering this question. In establishing the ‘best way to get them there’, the teachers will have an expectation about the climate or classroom environment which will allow all students to learn.
The answer to the question, ‘What do each of my students needs to learn' is influenced by both the teacher’s understanding of curriculum for their students current academic level and secondly through meaningful and timely formative assessment. While curriculum and assessment influence the answer to the first question the first question is ultimately grounded in a worldview.
Our worldview determines the answers we give to life deepest questions. Where did man come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? These are all foundational questions to life and purpose. The better we can articulate our views of these questions the more consistent we will be in our lives and interactions with others. The better we can articulate our worldview, the better we can determine the answer to life other questions.
If we believe that we are all created equal and have a responsibility to serve our ‘neighbour’ we are likely to be open to sponsoring a child in Africa. On the other hand, if we believe we are here on earth to fulfil our own purposes, internalising a, ‘he with the most toys wins’ philosophy to life, we will be much less likely to spend our own money on someone who we have never met. Like it or not our philosophical grounding determines our decision making on a daily basis.
To explore this concept in the classroom it is good to explore some contrasting worldviews and their impact in the classroom. In order to do this it is good to consider the following seven questions;
- How did we get here?
- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- What (if anything) is truth?
- Who am I?
- Who are you?
- Where do we go?
1. How did we get here?
People have many different views about the origins of mankind. Our own belief of origins will have a vast impact on the way we treat both ourselves and others around us. At complete odds with views which ‘contrast’ whether we arrived here by either chance or design. One belief is that we are designed and created by a loving and living God. Each person individually designed and purposed. Each of us designed and purposed for not only such a place as this but also for such a time as this. A contrasting belief is that there was once a happening in deep space where there was a big bang and as a result of chance earth was placed just the right distance from the sun in order that life would flourish. Furthermore, as chance has it man evolved over time and by chance you and I are here on Earth, right now. One a belief of deliberate purpose and the other a belief in chance. It is understandable that people holding to contrasting views do not understand the core decisions each makes in life.
2. Who are we? (Mankind)
Who we believe we are will greatly determine the value we place on ourselves. Our identity is greatly determined by our answer to the first question, ‘How did we get here?” If our worldview was that we are here as a result of a chance event such as the ‘big bang’, it stands to reason that mankind has no purpose, no reason for existence other than to do the best we can with the time we have. Conversely, if we believe that we are here as a result of design and purpose it stands to reason that mankind has a purpose.
Fulfilment comes through an understanding of mankind’s purpose and design.
The book of Genesis states that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). To be made in the image of God speaks of design. Dick Staub (see link below) claims that is being made in the image of God there are six defining characteristics that underpin the design of mankind.
As we are designed in the image of God we are:
- Spiritual beings
- Able to communicate
- Morally Responsible
Arguably fulfilment is lost when we neglect any one of the above design features which God included in our creation.
Here is a good article which unpacks what it really means to be made in the image of God.
As humans, the need for morality is understandable if we are designed with moral responsibility. However, if we believe mankind evolved from a chance happening and a series of evolution, with no purpose or design what argument can be held for the need for morals. If we are a product of animals it would make sense that we mate with and murder whoever we like when we like, just as animals do. Understanding our origins enables us to differentiate our lives from the lives of animals.
On the topic of animals and evolution. If we do hold to a belief that we, intelligent beings, evolved from unintelligent beings, that is monkeys, we need to consider this belief in its fulness. Evolution by definition is not a one-off event. What, in this worldview is stopping dogs from evolving into intelligent lifeforms with a desire for leadership and power. What, in this worldview would stop ‘currently’ unintelligent animals from one day wanting to take over the world. Following this evolutionary belief completely would position the human race at risk of being overrun, not by extraterrestrial beings or alien invasion (another worldview), but we risk being overrun by our own pets.
3. Why are we here? (Purpose)
Dawkins, an Oxford evolutionary biologist claims that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” (cited Zubrin, 2007)
Think about something that you have recently done voluntarily. Something that you have not done because your job made you do it. Ask yourself, ‘why did I do it?’, then of that answer, ask yourself, why is that important to me? And a third time, why is that important to me? As you dig deeper and deeper into your motivations you begin to reveal your worldview.
Bellman observes that our ‘purpose is related to our incompleteness’ (Bellman, 1996).
Arguably the wisest king of all time, King Solomon considered everything under the sun and determined that it was and is meaningless, futile and in vain. Solomon discusses ten vanities—ten things that are “meaningless” when considered from the limited point of view of “under the sun.” Without God, human wisdom is meaningless (2:14–16); labour (2:18–23); amassing things (2:26); life itself (3:18–22); competition (4:4); selfish overwork (4:7–8); power and authority (4:16); greed (5:10); wealth and accolades (6:1–2); and perfunctory religion (8:10–14).
However, Solomon’s concluding statement in the book of Ecclesiastes brings clarity to this thought. It is not that everything is meaningless. His point is that everything without God is meaningless.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind”
Our purpose as determined by our living God is detailed in both some of the first actions of God, as found in Genesis and some of the last words of Christ as recorded in Matthew. In Genesis God creates man and gives him the responsibility to, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ (Gen 1:28). God continues his instruction to man. An instruction to care for and all that God had made. This instruction is known as the Creation Mandate. A second mandate was given to man by Christ at the conclusion of his time on Earth. In conclusion to everything Christ said and did here amongst us, He commands us to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
As a closing statement on this concern of, ‘Who is mankind?” I will turn to John Piper, the reformed theologian.
“So if God made us, unlike the animals, in his image, whatever it means in detail, this it means clearly: God is the reality and we are the image. Images are created to set forth the reality” (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-do-i-exist)
4. What (if anything) is truth? (Reality)
Reality is an interesting concept. The earlier statement made by John Piper that, ‘God is the reality and we are the image’ seems simple enough unless of course, you do not believe in a supreme being. Some people believe there is a God, this is their truth and reality while others do not, this is their truth and reality.
Our worldview determines what we believe truth and reality to be. Or maybe what we believe to be truth and reality determines our worldview.
What we believe is truth greatly influences our worldview. If we want to believe that there is no God then despite the evidence for God all of it will be discarded. Where belief in God is discarded, because I do not want to believe that God is, then by a method of elimination people conclude theories based on the principles of chance, coincidence and circumstance. A belief in chance, coincidence and circumstance will influence all of the questions which influence our worldview.
In an age that much of what we experience will be experienced through virtual reality, it is important that our students get a good grounding in real reality. Our young people are driving cars at great speeds through our city centres, slaying anything and anyone they like with reward and as the adult industry enters the virtual world, while in its infancy will be a mammoth in our near future it is increasingly important that our we all have a sound understanding of real reality.
Even within the Church our worldview differs when it comes to the view of reality and truth. Issues such as healing, the spiritual world and interpretation are important to discuss. Important to have a sound understanding of. In the New Testament Paul states that our battle is not against flesh and blood, rather it is against rulers, authorities, powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). When was the last time we considered the possibility that ‘misfortunes’ of our lives were a result of the powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil? This morning did I remind myself where my battles would come from and when was the last time I really made a genuine effort to prepare to defend or even battle with such forces and spirits? Our actions and reactions are reflected in what we really believe.
A contrasting worldview is that there is no reality, no truth and no absolutes. Things just happen and things are just done. We are a product of chance, coincidence and circumstance and chance, coincidence and circumstance continue to rule with an iron fist. There are no rules and no accountability. The Nike mantra to stop thinking about exercise and ‘Just Do It’ has become a mandate for life, ambitions and desires.
However, people who believe there are no absolutes, no truths have a more difficult time explaining ‘Why bad things happen to bad people’ than Christians have of explaining why bad things happen to good people. If there are no absolutes, no rules, how can ‘cause and effect’ exist? A reality of no rules and absolutes is a life of random unrelated, senseless circumstances and events. The consistency of cause and effect has no place in a world that is ruled by chance, coincidence and circumstance.
The reality about reality is that many people chose to deny a reality that demands accountability and God that they do not fully understand. One of the hardest aspects to understand completely is why would the Supreme Being, choose to sacrifice His own Son for a sinner like me. As a father I cannot understand this, I can not even begin to comprehend it. However, it causes me to appreciate that there is no greater love that this, that Christ chose to lay down his life for me.
5. Who am I? (Identity)
With competing worldviews, there are many different views of who I am. Understanding who I am is important as it in understanding who I am that enables me to unpack the value of who I am One worldview would state that I am so valuable that God himself sent his only son to die for me. That I am meticulously planned and all that I am, my existence, my place and my timing here on earth has a purpose and is deliberate.
Yet another would state that I am the centre of the universe. This is often directly in contrast to the overriding view that we, mankind is a result of a chance activity and environmental conditioning. Another view is that I have value if I am the star player on a football team, or if I am the right size if I have the right looks or the right toys.
That we exist for a limited time and then are forgotten. This concept of the meaningless nature of existence is highlighted by Shakespeare’s MacBeth:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Shakespeare, McBeth, Act 5, Scene 5)
A worldview based on biblical principles outlines so much more meaning.
“O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me. You know my downsitting and my uprising; You understand my thought afar off. You sift and search out my path and my lying down, and You are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered], but, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have beset me and shut me in–behind and before, and You have laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:1-5, AMP)
6. Who are you? (Societal Responsibility)
Just as opposing as the worldviews are in previous questions the concept of who other people are is completely contrasting. One worldview demands that you are my neighbour, someone to be cared for, loved and helped to succeed, while another worldview would position you as competition. Someone in need could be viewed as someone who I need to help or someone who I need to avoid. Others are someone I should aspire to rule over or others are someone I should serve.
Our understanding of who I am, what is mankind and why are we here will determine my views of who you are to me.
7. Where do we go? (What happens after death?)
Finally, we need to consider the question of what happens after we die. My understanding of death will have an impact on the decisions I make in life. A biblical worldview determines that we will either go to heaven or hell when we die. Another worldview determines that based on our good works in life we will be reincarnated to a better or lower position in the next life. A further view determines that if I commit certain atrocious acts, such as suicide bombers I will spend eternity with 100s of virgins in heaven. Lastly, one of many other views of death states that nothing happens. Death is death.
If we truly believe that our actions or decisions here on earth determine our eternity we will do things is a different way to people who believe death is the end.
Worldview is a word that is bandied about in Christian education. Many people talk about its value in how it ‘sets us apart’ from the rest of the education sector. However, it is rarely completely unpacked in Christian Schools.
Our worldview is always being shaped. It is continually being confirmed or challenged, reinforced or reshaped. By adulthood our worldview is well established, our experiences and learnings have settled our worldview and it takes a significant event to shake that worldview. However, our students are still making sense of the world around them. Their worldview is still in the formative stage of development. Their encounters, teachings and observations of the world around them will continue to influence the development of their worldview. Media, teachers, parents and their peers will be the greatest influencers of that worldview. It is critically important that as Christian educators we at Elim Christian College reinforce the Biblical Worldview to each of our students. We need to continually remind them that we are purposefully designed by a loving and living God. That we are all incredibly valuable and have a purpose here on earth and of course that the decisions they make here in life will have consequences beyond the grave.
Christian Schools need to be able to clearly articulate their worldview, teachers need to have confidence in that worldview and we need to be deliberate in reinforcing a biblical worldview to our students. We can have confidence that the likes of media will be relentless in reinforcing a secular worldview to our students, we need to be even more intentional in our approach to this.
Lastly, as educators, we need to be certain of this worldview and the implications that this has in my own life. Is it some unfortunate coincident that I have this really difficult student in my class? Does the difficult child need to know he has a purpose? Do I need to really be deliberate in reinforcing what truth is to my students? Do I need to be intentional in my planning for lessons? How should I discipline my students? Do I teach to get a paycheck and good holidays or is it a calling? The answers to each of these questions will be determined by our worldview.
- Written by Shaun Brooker
- Hits: 36
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 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 that is different from that of those around them.
A life built on the firm foundation as detailed in the Sermon on the Mount is;
- Pure in Heart (Matt 5:8)
- Salt and Light in this world (Matt 5:13-16)
- Has command over their thought life (Matt 5:27-32)
- true to their word (Matt 5:33-37)
- does not lose control in retaliation (Matt 5:38-42)
- Loves their enemy (Matt 5:43-48)
- Gives to the needy (Matt 6:1-4)
- Prays with meaning (Matt 6:5-15)
- Fasts (Matt 6:16-18)
- Does not build up riches here on Earth (Matt 6:19-24)
- Is not anxious because they know who is God (Matt 6:25-34)
- Does not judge others (Matt 7:1-6)
- trusts that God will provide (Matt 7:7-11)
- Treats others as they seek to be treated (Matt 7:12)
- Knows that life in not always easy (Matt 7:13-14)
- recognise that people’s actions are a sign of internal health (Matt 7:15-20)
- there is only one way to heaven (Matt 7:21-23)
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 to 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 that 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.
- Written by Shaun Brooker
- Hits: 35
The remarkable correlation between articulation and growth in Christian Schools.
It might seem too simple to be true. So obvious that it is ludicrous, and many people probably won’t want to read to the end as they will determine that this is an issue for other Christian School leaders and not their own - and if your school is flourishing both in quantity and quality then you probably have this sorted so only read on if you what the nice feeling of someone patting you on the back.
And…before I get started, please understand this is a post that will hopefully help some people articulate a better picture of the amazing things that are happening in their school. Sometimes it is not what we do that is the issue, it is how we ‘sell’ it that is. Please read this post with that in the back of your mind.
In Christian Education, there is a close correlation between the ability of the Christian School leader to articulate a compelling vision for their school and their ability to grow. For the school to grow, not just in numbers, but in maturity. So with Christian Schools in many places around the world struggling to fill their rolls with many people struggling to ‘afford’ Christian Education it is important that we are careful to let people know the real value of Christian Education.
The tragedy is that too many Christian School leaders simply do not articulate the true value of Christian Education.
We live in a time where there are fewer people wanting to ‘invest’ money into their children getting a Christian Education. Not because it will not be good for them, rather because of the big difference Christian Education makes is not well articulated for them. Is their investment worth it just so that a school will pray or read the Scriptures. Many people do not have the money for that and will instead opt to pray more and read the Scriptures to ‘save’ their money and send their children to the school down the road.
So is there a way to increase the 'value proposition’ for parents? The answer is somewhat found in Simon Sinek’s explanation of the difference between trying to sell ‘how’ versus ‘why’. School leaders who can clearly articulate the bigger vision of ‘why’ Christian Education, rather than defaulting to ‘how’ we do Christian Education, can be the simple difference between a school that is struggling and a school that is flourishing.
Understandably many parents are thinking deeply about where they spend their money and the concept, or in some cases luxury, of sending their children to a Christian School is something that comes down to a perceived return on investment. And depending on the message that we send out about Christian Education it will either be a luxury that cannot be afforded or something that is priceless and will be invested in at the expense of all else, sometimes.
THE TALE OF TWO PARENTS, TWO GUIDES AND ONE SCHOOL
Consider this. Some parents are looking to send their child to a Christian School so they make their way to the school. While being introduced to the school they are told that the school has a strong academic program, prides itself on praying for its students daily. The sports teams all pray before they play. In this school, the Scriptures are read daily and each student has a chance to do devotions to their peers. Students are required to memorise scripture for homework and they only sing Christian songs at assembly.
The parents are impressed by all the Christian things that are done and leave the school considering their options…but it really is going to be a push financially. The parents leave the school worried about the cost to enrol their daughter.
On the other side of town, another set of Christian parents are considering the schooling options for their children to drive to the same Christian School as the first couple. However, a different person shows them around the school.
During their visit to the new guide shares the school's vision to transform the lives of young people. To equip young people to fulfil the Great Commission. She explains that the school does their best to educate its students not only academically, but that they will know that completeness comes through learning to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and loving their neighbours as themselves.
Making mention that recently they have found as a school that they are needing to focus more on the ‘as yourself’ aspect because many of their young teenagers do not understand that they have value and purpose. That Scripture, worship and prayer were important tools in helping them achieve all that they desire their graduates to become.
Lastly that unlike the ‘local’ school this school was teaching that there is absolute truth, that the Scriptures are authentic and relevant, that students are designed to love and belong/contribute to society, that fulfilment does not come from having the most money, but through serving God and others in whatever field that God calls them into.
While having to travel across town to attend this school would be a hassle, the second set of parents leave the school worried about the cost of NOT enrolling their children in a Christian School.
Articulation really is one of the biggest threats to Christian Education at the moment. And I have seen it explained this way by many people, from parents to new teachers looking for a job in a Christian School, to grandparents wanting to invest in their grandchildren’s future and to school leaders who have been in Christian Education for decades.
I have asked the question ‘why Christian Education?’ In many Christian Education forums and the difference is usually black and white. One set of answers has a low-value proposition and the other high. One group of people discuss the things we do in Christian Education. The others explain why we do Christian Education. Transforming lives, equipping for the Great Commission, holistic educational content for the head, hands and heart, teaching students to Love the Lord with their heart, soul and mind and to love their neighbour as themselves, teaching through context that helps students understand that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God who desires a relationship with them.
But there is more to this issue…
HOW ABOUT PARENTS AS ADVERTISING AGENTS
Our parents are hands down the most effective marketing strategy that we have for spreading the hope that Christian Education can bring to the next generation. If we struggle to develop and use a vocabulary that articulates the real value of Christian Education, then we cannot expect our parents to do it on their own.
The same scenario happens regularly in our Churches and other community spaces. A parent is considering sending their child to a Christian School and often before they approach the school they will as a parent of a student at your school. The parent's response about either the things you do or the vision you have for your students will determine the ‘new’ parents likelihood of taking their enquiry further.
QUESTION: How do you ‘train’ your parents to talk about the vision that you have for your students as the real value of what Christian Education is?
ANSWER: You continually reinforce its message through your newsletters, community meetings, interviews, Facebook entries and in ‘carpark conversations’.
SCHOOL GROWTH IS ABOUT MORE THAN NUMBERS
When a Christian School moves its focus from the way they do things to why they do things, God can do great things. Not only can He increase quantity, but He can also improve quality. However, some Christain Schools value ‘what’ they do too much to consider returning their focus to ‘why’ they do them. Therefore questioning whether those things achieve their intended purpose are not questions that are even asked. Take scripture memorisation as an example. The first set of parents met someone who valued that the school had a homework programme that made students memorise Scripture. No doubt the school had a robust programme and the way it worked would be well instituted. However, the second guide was excited that the school wanted students to see the Scriptures as authentic and relevant. The first guide would value the system, while the second would happily review and adjust the system if they found a way to better achieve the ultimate purpose for Scripture memorisation.
QUESTION: Are there systems within your school that are more important than the purpose that they serve?
ANSWER: Yes, if you have systems that are not able to be freely questioned by those implementing them…No, if your school is driving by purpose rather than system driven. (Don’t just go removing the system! A bad system can still help achieve a purpose, it just may not be the best way anymore.)
So, where to start
Start with your mission, vision, purpose statements. How are they going? What common vocabulary do you, your staff and your community have that articulate the value that this vision has for the graduates of your school? Is there anything missing in your purpose? THEN…when you are really brave, take a look at how your vision is manifest in each classroom, talked about by your staff and experienced by your students.
At the end of the day, talking about the hope you have for your students will only go so far if your school is not intentional about making that a reality…of course, with God’s help, all things are possible.
Is the difference between your school growing and not growing (quantity and quality) a result of the vocabulary that you are using?
Value the power of what a quality Christian Education can do, not the things we do in Christian Education.
All the best for the conversations.
- Written by Shaun Brooker
- Hits: 37
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 that it was nearby. And, most importantly, the government-subsidised 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...
- Written by Shaun Brooker
- Hits: 52
Just an observation. An observation from 15+ years in Christian Education, leadership in many Christian Schools, chairmanship of an education 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.
The five types are:
- Christian and committed no matter what
- Christian looking for the Christian School to 'sort-out' or nurture one child from the family
- Non-Christian looking for values
- Christian and looking for quality education
- Non-Christian looking for high-quality education
Obviously, within each of these ‘types’ of families, there are tolerances but in general, I believe every Christian School population will be made of each of these groups of students.
The reach a Christian school has into each family type has a sense of order to it. Christian schools first reach Type i and ii students, and as the school strengthens its reputation to a school that provides high-quality education, it attracts families from Type iii, iv and once the reputation is very strong, Type v families. Because of this sense of order shift from one Type to the next, I consider them stages. Each stage represents a different reach and influence that the Christian school has into their community.
A school that serves a community through providing education to stage i, ii, iii and iv families has a greater reach and influence than a school that only caters for a school that serves stage i and ii families. Whether this is a good or bad thing is purely up to the vision of the school.
Families from different stages should never be treated of higher or lesser values. They are all of value to your school. The intent of this reflection is not to differentiate value, rather it is to empower you to make good decisions in how you understand community perception and how to target growth opportunities for your school.
Stage 1 Families. Christians who are Committed to Christian Education and Happy to Compromise the Quality of Education.
I use the term compromise very loosely. These families place a much higher priority on the philosophy of the school than they do on the schools academic successes.
If a Christian School has any students (obviously they will have some students) they will have students from this stage. As the description suggests, families in this stage place a very high commitment to the Christian side of education.
When a Christian School is planted into a community these will inevitably be the pioneers of the school’s community. They are not looking for a proven record of achievement, they are looking at what is taught, not so much how it is taught.
There is less emphasis placed on the quality of education but parents are happy to compromise this quality for the inclusion of a strong Christian worldview in their child's educational context. Unfortunately for struggling Christian schools, this stage is a very small (and I believe decreasing) subset of the general population.
Any Christian school that only caters for this subset of the community will struggle from year to year to survive.
Stage 2. Christian looking for the Christian School to 'sort-out' or nurture one child from the family
There are several different reasons, all genuine, that students fit into this stage. Often they come from a larger family but only one child from the family attends the Christian school. The rest go to the 'local' school. Such families send their child to the Christian school because they do not want this child at the 'local' school for emotional/behavioural reasons (ie the child is getting bullied at the local school...either the instigator or victim) or developmental reasons. Such a student may also have a diagnosis such as autism or ADHD. Unfortunately, catering for this stage of student places a high demand on the Christian school. Parents usually have a heightened expectation of what the Christian school can provide for their child.
I have seen instances where a school has enrolled a large number of this stage of student at the expense of the stage i students, and certainly at the expense of being able to move into stage iii or iv families.
Families from stage i will usually, by definition tolerate a lower standard of education but will rarely tolerate their child becoming victims of excessive bullying from students who are from stage ii.
While many Christian schools openly welcome this stage of student it should always be done in a measured manner rather than looking for the increase it will bring to the overall roll number.
Stage 3. Non-Christian looking for values
Stage iii and iv students are attracted at about the same time. Stage iii students come from families which are not currently actively part of a church community.
Families in this stage were possibly once in the church and are looking for their children to be taught Christian values and possibly Christian 'lessons'. They could also overlap with students from stage ii, those looking for something that Christian schools offer for one of their children who is not 'fitting in' at the local school. However, families from this stage will not compromise a much lowered level of educational outcomes.
Stage 4. Christians and looking for quality education
If any of the stages are critical, this is it. Importantly, if the Christian School attracts this group of people it is a sure sign that the local community has a positive perception of the school's performance in education and its delivery from a biblical worldview. Stage iv students will not be present if either of these two staples (quality educational outcomes and biblical worldview) are vacant.
Also of importance, in attracting this stage of student the school taps into the largest group of students that are available for enrolment. Accessing this group of the community has been the tipping point for growth and sustainability for many Christian Schools.
I can not emphasise enough the importance of the word perception. Accessing Stage iv families is all about the community's perception of the school. The reality of the school's performance is essentially meaningless to the community. If a community’s perception of a school has been negative, keep in mind that perception is often formed through experienced reality, the school needs to be deliberate in addressing the perception.
Stage 5. Non-Christian looking for high-quality education.
If the community establishes a very strong perception of the school's educational outcomes it will become the school of choice for many families beyond the Christian community. There are many families who, just as stage i families placed less value on the educational outcomes of the school in order to get Christian Education, will do the opposite. They will look for the best opportunity for their children to succeed and will happily place less importance on the school’s philosophical basis.
Depending on the school’s vision and purpose this stage may or may not be important. If the school has a strong evangelistic vision then attracting stage v families is critical to fulfilling that vision. However, if the schools calling is more about discipleship then it will likely be of less importance. Neither is right nor wrong, so long as the school's vision is not compromised. A school that is looking to disciple but is filled with non-Christian families will find its operations and vision to be confused. Likewise, a school that exists to evangelise but only enrols Christian students will also struggle to have a vision that is matched in operations on a daily basis.
The Big deal about the stages
Reflecting on the stages is important. Just a last couple of thoughts.
- The stages are not necessarily linear.
My experience has shown that these stages are very linear, but there are always exceptions to the rule.
- Understanding the stage your school is in helps you understand how to promote your school.
Understanding what stages are NOT represented in your school is just as important as knowing which ARE.
We all know the stories of major Christian educational institutions which have ‘lost their first love’. At best they could be called christian Education, rather than Christian Education. In practise if your school identifies that families are leaving the school because it is not meeting their expectation of what Christian Education is then there is a need to stop and reflect.
Lastly, my observation is that most Christian schools are in the emerging stages of stage iv. From this, it would appear that the perception of Christian Education being successful in the delivery of quality educational outcomes is low within the community as a whole. It could be just a perception, however, what could you do in reality to change a community's perception of the quality of education that your school delivers? Furthermore, pushing that worldview of your school will not produce growth. If you are on the brink of moving into stage iv you need to focus on the perception of quality. Families who are just looking for Christian Education are already at your school.
If, as a Christian School you are wanting to strengthen your reach and influence into the wider community which you serve it is important to understand the Five Stages and how you are serving each of them.