As we begin together, I was thinking about those who are new to our school family. When you married into your husband’s or wife’s family, you learned their traditions, their ways of doing things, what made their family distinct. When you’ve been a part of a school community for a long time, it’s easy to forget what it was like to be a new family member. So, I decided to start by writing about our core values. What makes Grace, well, Grace? And, if you’ve been here a while, it’s kind of fun to celebrate what God’s done in our family. So, here we go:
The first of the Grace core values is redemptive community.
We serve a God who exists in eternal relationship. The Triune God exists, and has always existed, in community-as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As image-bearers of God, we are also made for community. We thrive in it; we can only function to the truest extent of who we are when we live together, work together, and do life together. God’s promises are to us, collectively. He accomplishes His purposes through all of us.
Education is an inherently relational process. It is a form of discipleship, and like all discipleship, the closer and more trusting the relationship, the more effective the educational process. At Grace, we believe that teachers must love and care for their students. When students sense that caring and concern, they respond to it and genuine learning can take place. Teachers work best, and the whole school thrives, in an environment where there are strong relationships among the adults in the school. Harvard professor Roland Barth underscores the power of strong adult relationships within the schoolhouse:
The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else. If the relationships between administrators, parents, and teachers are trusting, generous, helpful, and cooperative, then the relationships between teachers and students, between students and students, and between teachers and parents are likely to be trusting, generous, helpful and cooperative. If, on the other hand, relationships between administrators, parents, and teachers are fearful, competitive, suspicious, and corrosive, then these qualities will disseminate throughout the school community.
One of the distorting effects of living in a fallen, sinful world is that we sometimes have a fractured view of community, falling prey to some of the dysfunctions that Barth mentions. We become “lone wolves”, withdrawing from community altogether and doing our own thing, not getting involved in the life of the community, walled off from the rest of it. We may err on the other extreme, becoming codependent on community, looking to the praise and approval of others, whether students, our colleagues, or each other to reflect value to us, to give us a sense of sufficiency and worth. Conflicts arise, small skirmishes that fester into major battles. Daily discontent can lead to fussiness and squawking that undermines harmony and unity.
Tim Keller has said that the irony of Christian community is that God takes people who are natural enemies of each other and commands them to live together in unity. Doing so bears witness to the fact that He is a god of reconciliation and peace, a God of unity. And, so, we are called to community rooted in shalom– that really complex Hebraic concept that captures a spirit, a heart that is living in peace, justice, mercy, harmony, unity, rightness with God, and rightness with man.
Redemptive community, community that is God-glorifying and Spirit-breathed, is the catalyst, the medium through which great Christian education happens. Through which great living happens. But, it does not JUST happen. It must be fought for, prayed over, contended for, struggled with, celebrated in, reconciled with, unified together, forgiven for, repented over—it is a LOT of hard work; however, it is good, life-giving work.
Redemptive community is a core value, because you just cannot teach Jesus without it. If you are not in it (generally, or in any given moment) you may be teaching something, but it’s not Jesus. That’s all there is to it.
 Barth, R. (2006). Improving Relationships Within the Schoolhouse. Educational Leadership, 63(6), 8-13.