Or more importantly, is a Theology Course by default Christian Education?

 

Christian Education, real Christian Education is so much more than the content that is taught. It is easy for some to believe that Christian Education is something that happens in Theology courses but not in securities courses.  This is far from the truth.  I would go so far to argue that even the delivery of a Theology course in itself does not equate to Christian Education. Furthermore, any Christian Tertiary Provider who leans solely on the content of their curriculum to qualify as 'Christian Education', is kidding themselves, their students and their governance board.  Such an institute is not a Christian Education provider; they are merely a provider of Christian information.    

 

Christian Education is not something that is taught, nor is it something that is learnt. It is something that a student experiences.  It is something that transforms not just students, but communities.  It is the culmination of purpose, design, relationship and intentionality.  And it results in understanding calling, gaining comprehension and experiencing completeness.  

Christian Education does not simply deliver content, it equips lives. In its purity, Christian Education is not defined by what is taught, but by how and why content is taught, the experiences a student has, and the relationships they engage in.  Christian Education begins with the highest elevation of vision and the deepest conviction of purpose.  Christian Education is not a noun; it is a verb. It is not so much a curriculum, as it is a way of doing.    

 

It dictates the institution has a heaven-inspired vision for its students, it demands that lives who enter their programmes will be different when they leave, it demands that no matter what stage of life a student is in that they will be further equipped to 'go into the world and make disciples'.  It demands that as a result of being in the family of the Christian Tertiary Provider that the student will graduate loving God more, loving others more and have a greater appreciation of the uniqueness of who God as made them and why.  Whether they leave in a relationship with Christ or not is up to the Holy Spirit, but every effort should be made to make each student curious about their Creator.  While they may not truly know Christ, they should at the least know all about Him.

 

The most important and valuable aspects of Christian Education are not about the line of study a student enrols in. In Christian Education, learning about God in a Theological course pales in comparison to experiencing God's hand through the Christ-like example, care, grace and genuine love of a Securities Course lecturer.  Christian Education is not learning about God; it is about experiencing God.  Christian Education has no hierarchy of subjects that are more 'Christian Education' than others.  Christian Education is something that is experienced, that leads to transformation, not just the accusation of knowledge about the Creator.    

 

It is possible for broken people to enter theological courses and crumble more as they learn more about the perfection of the Creator and the rules of the old testament.  While another broken student could graduate from a mechanical engineering course because of the Christ they experienced through their lecturer or even the canteen server.    

 

Genuine Christian Education begins with a heaven-inspired reason for existing.  It is people who see education as their mission field.  It is the foundation upon which policies are developed, curriculum is formed, and people are engaged.  It is measurable and permeates all aspects of the service.  It is intentional, not haphazard.  It is the fragrance, not a law.  It is yearning and it can never be mandated.  It is at its best when every 'thought' of the institution is taken captive for Christ.  An organisational team driven by the cause to equip not just the head, but the hands and the heart of their students. It is unapologetically intentional in its resolve to transform each life which God handpicks for them to serve.

 

So, how?

 

For Christian Education to thrive, it must be nurtured through a clear vision and a shared purpose. A strong purpose. A purpose strong enough to overwrite the fallen nature of how all people innately interact, with both faculty and students. Something that staff realise they cannot do in their own strength. The resolve for transforming lives that is the drive that gets the whole team out of bed in the morning.    

 

Christian Education knows that God is sovereign. Not sometimes, but always. Christian Education believes that every student who God sends into their care, is there for discipleship, for growth, for a transforming experience. Every student is there because God made it so. Understanding that often the ones that we like the least, are the ones that God requires us to love the most. And like the Parable of the Talents, Christian Education makes the most of every 'talent' that God entrusts to them. Trusting that if growth is needed, that He will bring it in the right season. Christian Education is never fixated with quantity but understands that it is responsible for quality, to do all things as if unto God and not as if unto man.    

 

It does not measure success in what is taught but in what is learnt. It is less interested in the job a graduate has the year following study and more interested how the graduate has gone into the world with the to make disciples of all nations, regardless if it be in a Church or in a difficult community as a security guard.    

 

Christian Education is not education with a side of Jesus, praying and then getting on with the lecture. A disjointed scripture followed by a monologue of the mundane, but necessary curriculum.  

 

The biggest barrier for people to fully understand Christian Education may well be the title itself. 'Christian Education' denotes one whole, with two parts. It denotes part education and part Christian. This leads to institutions seeking to do the education parts well and to look at ways to include the Christian part, albeit, hopefully meaningfully.    

 

The reality is that Christian Education is better thought of as discipleship. Successful Christian Education produces disciples. Well equipped disciples.  

 

Even students who God has hand-selected for your security course have the need to be discipled. God has a plan for them. A plan that makes them whole. A calling for each student to go into the world and for them to make disciples. A plan for them, even those in the world of security, to love not just God and others. And for them to know God chose them because they are unique, valuable, powerful and made in His image.

 

A university is not a Christian Education provider because it has a Theology course or two.    

 

Consider this. Is a university that delivers a Latin course automatically a university of Italy? Does this even make it an Italian University? Does that course automatically guarantee that the university will sell great pizza! The answer is no. It is still just another university that happens to provide a course about Latin. In the same way, a tertiary education provider that delivers a theology course does not automatically ensure its students will experience a Christian Education. It certainly does not determine the faculty will reflect Christ in their actions. Nor is the course itself a replication of authentic Christian Education, but it can be.

 

Christian Education is not about tweaking curriculum. It is not praying for students. It is not having a Bible verse in your prospectus. Christian Education is not the culmination of something Christian and something Education. It is bigger than the two parts. It is complex. It is intentional. It is fulfilling. It is transformational. It is powerful. It changes lives. It is beautiful. Christian Education changes everything.

 

Does Christian Education affect how a student is welcomed into a course at the beginning of the day? Does it affect how a struggling student is supported? Does it affect who the university employs? Does it raise the bar? Does it affect the centre's disciplinary procedures? Does it affect how success is measured? Does it affect the budget? Does it affect marketing? Does it affect the wider community? Does it affect staff appraisal?

 

Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

Christian Education is not simple, but it is satisfying. It is probably not what you were told education was all about, but it is fulfilling.

 

Christian Education is more the 'why' and the 'how', than it is the 'what'. It is why the university exists. It is why the facility wakes up each morning. It is why students pay you to educate them rather than the school down the road. And it is how. How you and your lecturers engage with your students. It is how you impact your wider community, even beyond your students, and it is how you define success. It is not what. What you teach, the content, the curriculum, the qualification you provide is the opportunity that brings people into your ministry but is almost inconsequential in the resolve to Christian Education. Your qualification is the bait, not the fish.  

 

Tertiary Christian Education embraces people preparing for a vocation and equips them for life as God designed.

 

A great picture of Christian Education is a team of Christ-centred believers doing all that they can to equip the students in whatever field of study they enrol in, in a way that causes each student to become equipped, Christlike and Christ-centred.

 

Christian Education does not have a hidden agenda, it has an intentional agenda.

To You.

Thank you for your commitment to educating my child, not just equipping her for her future career but helping her to set her eyes on things above. 

I pray that you will equip her well. If you are a science teacher, teach her science in the best way you can...with Christ’s help. Recognising that she is not just my daughter, but she is a daughter of the Most High King.

If you are a junior school teacher teach her the foundations of literacy and numeracy well, helping her to create a curiosity for God’s creation. And do it the best that you can, with Christ’s help. Recognising that she is not just my daughter, but a daughter of the Most High King.

But don’t just equip her head. Help her appreciate the promises that are set out in the Scriptures for her. Help her to understand that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with her. Help her to know that even when things are not going as she would hope in life that Jesus is still King.

When she leaves your school be certain that she knows her value, her identity, her purpose and that, ultimately if she trusts God and places her calling in His hands that she can do immeasurably more than she could ever dream or imagine. 

But please don’t preach at her. 

Don’t start science with an undirected dissertation of the scriptures. 

Rather help her discover God’s incredible creation and remind her that as Creator, God cares so much more for her than He does for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. 

As a Christian Educator help her to value and love prayer. 

Don’t teach her that prayer is a religious activity that happens at certain times of the day with set prayers. Do more than just praying at the beginning of the day, lunchtime and the end of the day. Expose her to more than just students praying, ‘thank you for today, pray that nobody gets hurt, amen’. 

Rather, teach her to love prayer and see it as an ongoing conversation with her Creator and the lover of her soul...not just the mindless regurgitation of a cosmic wish list. Please model meaningful and authentic prayer to her, a conversation of respect between her and the sustainer of Life. 

And help her to love the Scriptures.

Don’t relegate Scripture memorisation to a thoughtless homework task. The memorising patterns of words from the Bible that will be assessed on Friday and replaced with another pattern of words on Monday. Something that is punishable but writing out over and over and over if she has pattern wrong on Friday.

Rather, make Scripture a fundamental part of her classroom. Let it be revisited and unpacked with such frequency that it would be almost impossible for her to not hide His Word in her heart. Please do not punish her when she gets it wrong, rather reflect how you could explore different approaches in the class to assure such a strong programme that it is harder for her to fail than it is to succeed.

And please, present the Scriptures to her in such a way that she knows that His Word is relevant to her life now and for her future. Through your passion for His Word help her to develop an insatiable curiosity for the Scripture.

Help her to love worship.

Don’t make her numb to worship by putting her in a room where all the students gather together and powerful words about her Creator and what He has done for her go in her eyes and out her mouth without touching anything on the way through.

Rather take time and have her consider the rich truths that the artist has brought to life through song. Promote the stickiness of those words so that they penetrate her mind and saturate her heart. 

Please don’t be offended but know that just because you are a Christian teacher, it does not mean that my daughter will experience Christian Education in your classroom. 

Rather the quality of the Christian Education that she experiences in your classroom will be proportional to the intentionality that you put into both the subtle and overt experiences she has of Christ, the Scriptures and in her curriculum and how you as the teacher model what it is to live sold out for Him.

I pray that your love for her as a Christian Educator will not be limited by how much you like her. She is different by design and I love her deeply. 

So thank you. Thank you for the way that you will join us in modelling how to be a Christian in this broken world. That you will not just tell her, but show her the Fruit of the Spirit in action and that through who you are, she will understand what it means to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with her Maker.

Praying God’s richest blessings for you,

Parents of ‘You Know Who’.

 

- Getting more Christian and less religion in our Christian Schools.

 

Christian education can be an incredibly transformative force. 

 

It can take a life in its infancy, a time when someone is establishing their understanding, expectation and perspective of the world and bring hope.  Hope in a world that is increasingly seeming hopeless.  It can help a young person understand that success is not about who dies with the most toys, rather it is about how many others one person can help, not just here on Earth, but for eternity.  It can help a young person understand that they are a not the centre of the universe, fulfilment comes when we learn to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and learn to love our neighbour as ourself.   At its essence, Christian Education is counter-cultural.  It tells of an alternative narrative to the world that other schools promote.  Christian Education compels a view of the world that the world has lost.  A view of the world that society no longer wants to see, albeit a world that society needs.

 

While there is much to celebrate about how Christian Schools’ develop Christian thinking in our students, we need also to be aware that Christian Schools can contribute to students developing bad Christian habits.  Habits that are less like Christian habits and practices that Jesus tells of and more like religious behaviours that the likes of the Pharisees would be proud of.  

 

It would be safe to assume that most Christian educators have visions of students learning that prayer is an ongoing conversation with their Creator.  Visions that our students will create not just a deep knowledge of but a lifelong passion for the Scriptures.  Visions that our students will ‘hide His Word in their heart so that they will not sin against Him’.  Visions that our students will love the unlovable, have ‘next level’ empathy and be outward looking, looking to not only, ‘love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and strength” but to authentically “love their neighbour as themselves”.  

 

Left unchecked, these visions that we have for our students in Christian Education can become religious events that they do because they have to, rather than because they desire to do.  Christian activities completed when others are looking.  Acts of obedience and not acts of passion or service.

 

Take a moment to consider the following aspects that will be visible in most Christian Schools.  In your school does what you ‘do’ really lead to the objectives that you have for including them in your school? 

 

Scripture Memorisation: Over the years the most common approach to scripture memorisation I have witnessed has been one best described as ad hoc, almost accidental.  Teachers think through the theme of the term or semester and complete a google search for as many verses they need for the topic of work.  The scriptures are then given as homework to be tested on Friday.  Sadly that is all they become, verses are a homework task, they have no ‘life’ at all in the classroom.  A compliance activity.

 

The best Scripture Memorisation programmes that I have seen in action include a deliberate choice of scriptures that the school desires their young people to ‘hide in their heart’ for all that life will bring their way.  The verses are not only given as homework, but are a living part of the classroom for the week and are intentionally revisited over the year so that the verses become sticky.  The best scripture memorisation program deliberately gets to a place where the students are introduced to the new scripture for the week and they almost complain that they already know this one!  

 

The parroting of 40 random verses over the course of a year because they matched the topic that was being investigated is far from life-giving, is unlikely to lead to lifelong memorising of the scriptures and will never lead to His words being ‘hidden in their hearts’.  They will simply and painfully be remembered for Friday.

 

Biblical Literacy: In junior years, the scripture is so often learned as a lovely story with fun characters and exciting plots.  Yes, this is God’s Word, but the characters and plots are not as important as the principles that we learn through them.  In the morning a story from the bible and in the afternoon a story from some fun author.  

 

I have seen school’s who do more damage in their Bible programmes than good.  The objectives of the programme being learning tools of interpretation, the preferred delivery being preaching or an exegesis of the Scriptures.  And worst of all, a place where the students' questions are pushed aside to make sure the teacher gets through their preset curriculum.

 

The key objectives of a Bible programme must be the development of a life long curiosity of the Scriptures and the training that the Bible is authentic and relevant to our students' lives.  Yes, students need the tools to understand and unpack the Scriptures, but these tools are only relevant if the students want to engage with His Word after they leave school. 

 

Yes, the Holy Spirit has a huge part to play in the students ongoing engagement of the Scriptures. However, we need to be sure that we are not putting barriers in place that turn students off.

 

Prayer:  I don’t know of a teacher in a Christian School who does not want their students to learn that prayer is an integral part of everyday life.  Prayer is full of power, promise and potential.   It is a direct line that we have with our Creator and there is not a prayer too big or too small that is not important to Him.  

 

However, so many teachers are guilty of modelling prayer in the exact opposite way for our students.  Even though we might teach all the above about prayer, it is often used in a way that is quite the opposite.  We pray at the beginning of the day, before lunch and at the end of the day.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Students are persuaded that prayer is something that happens certain times of the day, usually following a specific pattern, rather than in the ways that we desire our students will establish prayer in their lives.  

 

Model the prayer life that we desire our students to develop.

 

Devotions:  Most Christian Schools that I know have some time in the day, usually the morning, that is set aside for devotions.  We want our students to know that they should set aside in their own life, a time of the day for reading the Scriptures and hearing from God.  

 

While we want our students to spend quality time with God through their devotional time, it is often approached through a clinically premeditated watered down reading prepared by someone who does not know your students, prepared sometimes decades earlier, in the form of a ‘devotional’ book called ‘best ever devotions for girls and boys’.  

 

Why cheapen this important time.  The time should be spent on understanding the Bible Verse which is now a living part of your classroom.  Unpack God’s thoughts on the challenges that your class currently has.  If honesty is an issue, focus on honesty; if hurting is an issue, zoom in on loving others; if all is well, focus on God’s providence.  

 

The point is that no one knows your class better than you.  Why let some devotional book from 1984 provide the framework for making the Scriptures relevant to your class, yes it takes a little more work for the teacher, but the return will be worth it.

 

Worship: This could be controversial, for some worship will have a place in Christian Schools, while others will argue it is something only for the Church.  And don’t forget what James writes about worship as an act of service.  Service is also something that has a place in Christian Education, however, this focus of worship is about the form of worship that happens in song.

 

I have come across many Christian Schools who include worship in their assembly of meeting times.  I have seen this done well, and I have seen this done poorly.  

 

When worship is done well, it is powerful. There is something incredibly powerful about being in a room full of young people truly worshipping our Saviour.  However, done poorly, it is worrisome.  You can see in it the way they slouch, their dead eyes, in the way that the words go in their eyes and out their mouths without touching anything on the way through.   

 

In every Christian School there are young Christians and usually even non-Christians who are on a journey.  When the powerful words that are in most Christian songs are sung (think meditated on) without having some form of reverence it sends a message about the importance of their message to everyone around them.  Dare I say it if there is a real complacency in a school about the way students engage in worship, the first place to change is likely the attitude of the teachers who are possibly marking their rolls or working down the back.  

 

Pharisaic Thinking and Grace:  This is a tough one, obviously we cannot promote lawlessness in our Christian Schools, however, how do we maintain a balance of law and grace.  What would it take for a graduate of your Christian School to comment, ‘I was shown what grace was at my school’.   

 

I am not suggesting that we don’t know how to teach about grace, of course we do, but by now you surely understand, the emphasis of this piece of writing is not about what we tell our students, rather, what we do. What students learn about the principles if scripture through our actions, not our words.  

 

Relationships: Teacher to student relationships in Christian Schools have no choice other than to be different to the school down the road.  

Grounded in our call for transforming young people, at the heart of Christian Education is a Christ centred Educator whose greatest desire that each of their students will be equipped for their future.  Teachers who will do all they can for their student to also become Christian Centred.  The process is built on a strong relationship and must be able to be defined by one word, love.  

 

Though it is a high calling, there is no room in Christian Education for teachers who do not have a genuine love for each student that they have any responsibility for.

 

Behaviour Management:  This is where one of the differences between the school down the road and the Christ centred Christian School must differentiate.  Christian Schools should be places of discipleship, not punishment.  Yes, there is a need for consequences, but at the heart of the discipline, the process should be an absolute commitment to each student’s growth. 

 

Consequences should always be fair and at the heart of the discipline, the process is a balance of acting justly and loving mercy which with God’s help will lead to the student walking humbly with our God.

 

There are many aspects of our Christian Schools which are indented for pure good.  However, left unchecked can actually turn our students away from Christ.  Below are some questions that could be considered at your school.  However, the overriding questions are simple.

 

Is the way your students experience the ‘Christian things’ you do conducive to the reason you do them?

 

Don’t misunderstand me.  This is not a post suggesting that we remove the fore-mentioned activities from Christian Schools.  Quite the opposite. We need these to better feature these in our schools.  However, we need to be sure that the way we use them are not contradictory to the objectives that we have for them.  Ultimately we pray that as students graduate from our schools they will know without a doubt that each of the above are important aspects to our walk.  And, that they did not just learn about their importance through our teaching, rather that they experienced it through our modelling.   

 

Not an easy calling, but a hugely satisfying one.

 

 

 

Scripture Memorisation

Does your current Scripture Memorisation approach lead to students mastering the most important scriptures you would want your students to have hidden in their heart?

Biblical literacy

Does your current Biblical Literacy programme lead to a life long curiosity of God’s Work, or is it just another course?

Devotions

Do your devotions lead model searching the scriptures in a way that is responsive to the issues your students are facing today...rather than just ‘going through’ a devotional book that someone foreign to your students wrote twenty years ago?

Worship

If you desire your students to sing ‘Christian songs’ at school, are the words of the songs that they sing passing through their eyes and out their mouths without touching anything on the way through? (if so you are better to sing Yellow Submarine)

Pharisaic Thinking

Are students taught that their Christian walk is a process of growth?  If someone was caught in adultery would your response mirror Jesus’ or the Pharisees?  Is the Christian life about praying in quiet or putting on a big show?

Relationships

Do the teacher to student relationships better reflect the Pharisaic relationship with their people (judgement) or Christ’s relationship for the Church (growth)?

Prayer

Does prayer in your school look more like a religious activity done at specific times of the day, or model in some way Paul’s desire that we pray without ceasing?

Behaviour Management

Does your behaviour management cause the most broken in your community closer to Christ or create a barrier for them to cross....is the focus growth or judgement?