Over the years, I’ve written lots of blogs and articles on what makes Christian schooling, well, Christian. I’ve discussed that Christian schooling is not only about education involving teachers who are Christians, or teaching the Bible as an academic subject, or teaching character qualities associated with Christianity, or even having chapel. There are quite a few schools that do some or all of these things that are by no means Christian schools. And, as I’ve tried to distinguish, Christian schools are very different from private schools, in that they’re a very specific, very special form of independent school.
Christian schools, like Grace, are those in which God’s Word and His truth are the foundation of everything done in the school. Teachers are not only hired according to biblical principles, but they’re actually trained to re-think how they believe, plan, and carry out the education process for our kids, a multi-year process that transforms a teacher from an educator who happens to be a Christian to one who thinks Christianly about his or her work. This difference, played out in the lives of teachers, coaches, and administrators, impacts everything that happens in a Christian school, and ensures that the perspectives of the One who created math, science, literature, art, history, and all aspects of creation are considered and appreciated.
What I have not written on before is what Christian school is not. And, I think it’s as helpful to remember what Christian school isn’t as it is to consider what it is, because if we base our expectations on preconceived notions that turn out to be wrong, we set ourselves up for disappointment, when the truth is actually so much better, and so much of a clearer picture of life in community as God said it would be. So, here are some things Christian school isn’t.
Christian school isn’t a place where kids are sheltered from the world around them. Nor is it a community of children (and parents) who don’t struggle with sin. I know sometimes we wish we could send our children to a place where they’re surrounded only with peers and their parents who edify our kids at all times, instead of people who at times struggle with anger, fear, anxiety, depression, dysfunction, and all the other social issues of middle school, high school, the Internet, or the world around us. I know we also wish that our teachers and administrators never made mistakes, always got it right, and always said exactly the right thing to our kid exactly when he or she needed to hear it (I know I wish that about that head of school guy!).
Christian school isn’t a place where people attend school with others who are just like them. I know sometimes I wish we were all the same, because it’s so much easier to relate to and understand people who are exactly like me. I don’t have to explain, contextualize, or seek to understand people like that. I just say whatever I want to say, and everyone gets me. It’s a lot less work.
Finally, Christian school isn’t a place where all kids look and act like fully mature followers of Jesus Christ whether walking in a perfectly straight line at the elementary, hanging out by the lockers in middle school, sitting in the stands on Friday night, when they’re on a school trip during Go Week, or even when they walk across the stage at commencement exercises. I sometimes wish our kids were that way, and that I could always film a little video or take a prospective parent down the hallway, and show them a clean, perfect little school with clean-cut, perfect little children.
Instead of all those things, Christian school, our Christian school, is a place where kids come face to face with the world around them, but do so in a community supported by teachers and parents who love Jesus and kids, and who are really, deeply trying to know Him better and lead their children in knowing and loving Him more, in whatever way and at whatever level of spiritual maturity they currently find themselves in. Our Christian school is a place where kids wrestle with the challenges of the world, but all in the context of God’s Word, which is deeply planted in their hearts at a young age, just waiting for the Holy Spirit and their own maturity to bring it forth.
Our Christian school is a place where teachers and administrators view caring for, loving, and teaching kids as an act of worshipping their Lord, and because they believe God is worthy of their best, they come every day bringing their best, trying their best to love, asking God to give them wisdom, courage, insight, and energy. They fail, because they’re human, but they fall upon God’s grace, which He freely gives, standing in the gaps of their weakness and ensuring that while every child doesn’t always get exactly what he wants, he gets exactly what he needs.
There’s a lot of difference at our Christian school: different nations, races, academic levels, economic ability, political perspectives, and ways of viewing life. In short, our school is the body of Christ. In this rich, sometimes difficult, yet beautiful context, kids learn how to listen, how to strive to understand and be understood, to empathize, and to love. They learn not just how to get along and be successful in life, but how to love like Jesus loves, and that love isn’t measured in what I receive, but in what I give.
Most of the kids at our Christian school aren’t “clean”- they’re squirrels and rascals, sometimes strange or quirky, masking fear with mischievousness or meanness, feeling awkward and sometimes misunderstood. They make mistakes, and sometimes big ones. Kind of like the church; like the rest of us. Because the gospel isn’t that Christ chose us because we’re awesome, but that He chose us in all our awfulness and made us new, and we’re all redeemed yet messy works in progress, especially as kids.
It may take years for the kids of our school to reach down into the deep soil of their heart, unearth the great jewel of faith they’ve been given, and realize what they’ve had growing in there all along. But, in all the years I’ve been at our Christian school, whether it takes 13 years or 31, the Holy Spirit most often sets fire to all the kindling all of us have laid around them over the years, and it is all-consuming, and glorious, and beautiful to behold.
Our Christian school is not the New Jerusalem. Yet, nothing I’ve ever seen better prepares them for it when it comes.