|

Kindness and the Ministry of Leadership

Brendan Corr 

There is nothing like a good crisis to throw the spotlight on leadership. The feeds of my digital subscriptions have all included a number of articles on “leading in challenging times” or variations on the theme. It is so often in times of pressure and uncertainty when people are most looking for leadership to provide a sense of security as much as sensible strategy—to help them feel safe as much as understand the plan.

As the leader of a relatively small (720 students, on-campus and online) but growing Christian school on the fringe of Sydney’s metro area that has grown during COVID-19, I thought it timely to share a few of my current reflections around leadership. Leadership guru John Maxwell defines leadership as influence—nothing more; nothing less. I understand his point. Anytime someone is contributing to a group or a team so that they are affecting the outcome or the process or the relationships of the team they are bearing influence and are, in that specific instance, leading. Putting it another way, if you are not affecting some change in the environment around you, you cannot be said to be “leading” in any meaningful sense of the term.

This also allows for the reality of someone “leading negatively.” This is not the same as leading poorly. Leading poorly might involve ineffective leadership—the inferior development or exhibition of the skills and capacities required to lead, resulting in having little influence. Rather, leading negatively allows for well-developed leadership skills and capacities being applied to bear great influence, but in a direction or to produce a result that is contrary to that which is desired. I would not be surprised if all of us at some time in our lives, in some context have been eyewitness and had first-hand experience of both.

Kindness Christian School Leadership Ministry

Recently I heard another definition of leadership that has stayed with me, because it carries more of a perspective of good leadership. This presenter defined leadership as assuming responsibility for making sure the right things get done consistently. I like this definition. In referring to the “right things” it assumes a leader knowing deeply and discerningly the value system that can prioritize what needs to be done at any point in a group’s collective unfolding story, and can let go those things that aren’t right for that community or in that context. It’s not just about efficiency—getting the agreed-to things done (the things on the checklist)—it’s about discerning what is the thing that is most needful and getting that done. In noting that leadership assumes the responsibility for ensuring that those things get done consistently, it also implies more than just having a vision—it speaks to having a system of accountability that follows through and follows up.

As I have taken the forced opportunity presented by the current pandemic situation to consider my own leadership—my responses to the pressure, to the anxiety of others, to the pragmatic demands of managing resources and schedules—I have found myself reflecting on the leadership I am providing for my team and for my community. Are my colleagues and I focusing on completing the right tasks? Am I following through and following up in a way that honors both individual people and the shared purpose of our community?

Amidst these reflections I have found stimuli from a number of sources that are weaving together to help me better understand what I believe my leadership should look like, and what good leadership (hopefully my leadership!) might feel like for those being led. Among the things that have helped me reflect on my leadership has been a sermon by Tim Keller that a dear friend shared with me. Tim Keller was not specifically addressing leadership in his sermon—it was part of a series of studies he was giving to his congregation—but as happens when unpacking the Word of God, I could not help but apply the truths of his message to my own situation and my recent reflections on leadership. The essence of the sermon was on the grace of kindness. It made think, and rethink, what might “kind” leadership look like.

Giving of “You”

The first challenge Keller’s sermon on kindness provoked for me was regarding how personal it was. Rightly there is a great deal of leadership advice, written and spoken, that is focused around the essential need in leadership for authenticity and integrity; specifically about a leader’s true character and genuineness being prerequisite for effective influence and for growing people, relationships, and community.

In the book Leadership and Self Deception, the Arbinger Institute explains that people have an inbuilt capacity to discern the authenticity of others in a relationship. They note that no relationship is defined only by the behaviours of the parties involved but is also, in fact is primarily, defined by the “way of being” that each party exhibits in the exchange. The essence of the person—their attitude, their mindset, their heart—is the most determining factor in making the relationship either mutually effective and productive or otherwise. In Daring to Lead, Brené Brown talks about leading “without armour,” meaning leading with openness and genuineness from your inner life.

In his sermon about being kind, Keller notes that kindness requires you to show up “as you,” fully and completely. Kindness, says Keller, is not the same as generosity or even charity. It is not about giving “stuff” like money, gifts, or objects. I know that as a leader I can also be tempted to give “stuff” to my team—time, attention, advice, strategy, a comprehensive handbook that maps the protocols of our group, a clear infographic that captures the new vision or direction. Stuff. Not that there is anything wrong with any of that. It’s just that none of it is enough. If my leadership is to be genuinely filled with the grace of kindness it will be “me” that I give. My leadership won’t be in the things that I do for my team or my community, it will be how I am with them, how I share myself with them. In John 15:15 Jesus tells the disciples that He does not consider them servants but friends, because everything that He learned from the Father, He told them.

Just a few verses prior Jesus makes another bold claim about friendship: greater love has no man than he lay down his life for a friend. Here then is the kindness of friendship—unconditional commitment and absolute transparency. Leadership that is kind will be personal. Underneath all that is done, it will exhibit both the qualities of unconditional commitment and absolute transparency in the way the leader is present with their team.

Being Practical

Keller also notes that the grace of kindness is entirely practical. Drawing from the principle of being kind to one another as explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, he notes that the apostle urges believers not to let any “corrupt” or unwholesome communication pass between them—only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs. The grace of kindness must be helpful. It isn’t trivial or worthless or pointless. It isn’t just self-expression by the one who gives it, or the natural expression of their kind-heartedness. It must be helpful to others, and helpful in a way that “builds them up.”

Kindness is not about only being positive or only doing what pleases people or saying what they want to hear. Kindness is about helping others grow, even if that means a hard conversation. It is kinder to have that tough talk and help your team members grow in their understanding and capacity than to keep comfortably quiet and they retain whatever quality or habit is limiting their life or their contribution.

This is not to say that kind-hearted leaders can’t spontaneously arrange for something nice for members of their team. That is often a wonderful thing to do. Have the spontaneous celebration, make a habit of community “shout-outs” for good work, give the unexpected extra preparation time. But again, these are not enough. It is more about noticing what people need to grow and meeting that need so they can grow. And knowing their real needs—the things that will really allow them to grow or that are really getting in the way—will require that you really know them as they are. This is a measure of how personal you have been in your leadership. Leadership filled with the grace of kindness will be intent on making a practical difference for the people around them—providing what things are needed and removing what things are obstacles for the personal growth of your team.

Growing Christlikeness

Finally, leadership with the grace of kindness will have prophetic awareness and intent. The passage in Ephesians 4 suggests that kind behavior anticipates the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit until the “day of redemption.” This is the vision that will occupy leadership that is truly kind: looking for the growing in grace and in gifting of the people you are called to be with—more than growing their capacity to contribute to the team; more than growing their skillset or competence or professional practice; more than empowering them to help achieve the community vision or mission. It involves an awareness of them growing more and more into the likeness of Christ and of maturing their faith.

I was taught by a very wise and godly leader who influenced my own life and leadership early on that to lead a growing Christian school I would need to help grow Christian teachers, and that to help grow Christian teachers I would need to grow them as Christians as well as teachers. Leadership that manifests the grace of kindness will hold a clear vision of the spiritual end point for all the members of the community, and will hold that as the measure of what is the right thing that needs to be done at any given moment.

Leading for Today

During these days of constant change thrust upon us by COVID-19, it is also important to lead oneself with kindness. I am not talking here about the secular notion of “self-care” but rather acknowledging that you are unable to disciple and help others unless you yourself are in a healthy state of mind. You can’t pull someone else out of a hole if you’re also in the hole. Take care to keep in step with the Spirit by maintaining the spiritual disciplines of reading God’s Word and prayer. These disciplines are particularly important given that physical gatherings, and the fellowship that goes with them, are extremely limited during the pandemic.

By relying on the Holy Spirit to lead me well, I can fulfill my desire to lead with the grace of kindness. I want to lead “kindly”: to lead with my authentic personhood being present in radical transparency and unconditional consistency; to lead by providing practical help to the specific needs of the people I walk with; and to lead with a prophetic vision for who they are becoming and what our local part of the Body of Christ is called to be.

About the Author

Brendan Corr

Brendan Corr is the principal of Australian Christian College – Marsden Park in Sydney, Australia. Originally a secondary science teacher, Brendan is a graduate of University Technology Sydney, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While deputy principal at Pacific Hills Christian College for 12 years, Brendan also led the New South Wales Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have four adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterward slightly more). He can be reached via email at brendancorr@acc.edu.au.

|

Newsletter 4 of 2021

(Kevin Ricquebourg)

IN THIS ISSUE
Christian Education Snippets
From the Chair……
Strategy Planning Day
Feedback : Online Christian Educators’ Conference
PSI Launch
Prayer Pointers
info@acsi.co.zw
+263 786 031 794
https://acsi.co.zw

Dear Colleagues,
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Matthew 14: 13-36. It deals with a 36 hour period during which Jesus puts his disciples through their paces, showing them what they could expect from life if they really decided to follow him. As you read this consider the emotional rollercoaster that the disciples are on:

  • John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin had just been brutally murdered by Herod.
  • Jesus had had no time to grieve but healed the sick from a huge crowd numbering approximately 10,000, including women and children.
  • As it was getting dark the disciples, exhausted by now, reminded Jesus that the crowd had not eaten and that they should be sent away!
  • They could hardly believe their ears when Jesus told them to feed the crowd! (On 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes)

Jesus sensing the discomfiture of his disciples told them to bring the food to him. NOTE CAREFULLY WHAT HAPPENS!

  • Jesus organized the crowd to sit down, gave thanks for the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and gave them (the 5 loaves and 2 fishes) back to the disciples to distribute to the people. Perhaps they broke the loaves in half and 10 disciples took the bread while 2 disciples took the fishes. The point is that Jesus gave back to them what they had given to Him! They could easily have said to themselves, “So what has changed?!” We gave Him the boy’s breakfast and He has given it back to us… Wait a minute – this stuff is multiplying in my hands! As I break off a piece, so another piece grows back! It is truly amazing what is going on here! Jesus waited until we obeyed him before He started to multiply the food.”
  • The disciples, probably euphoric because of what they were witnessing, handed out the food to the 10,000 hungry people! (Oh I nearly forgot to mention, afterwards they picked up 12 baskets of scraps!) Next time God asks you to do something and you feel inadequate, what are you going to do? Obey him! The results are His responsibility not yours!
  • Jesus then made the disciples get into a boat in order to row to the other side of the lake (11 km away!).

TAKE NOTE…

  • Some of them were experienced sailor some were not!
  • Jesus let them row together, in the dark, for nine hours, against the wind and waves, without Him being in the boat with them – a recipe for some serious character formation!
  • They thought they saw a ghost – some folk are frightened of the paranormal! It was Jesus coming to rescue them, walking on the water! Peter wanted to walk on the water too! “Come,” Jesus said. Peter started well – he jumped over the side of the boat and started walking towards Jesus. Then he did what we so frequently do – he noticed the waves and instead of keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus, he focused on the storm and this caused his faith to dissipate and he started to sink! The Creator of the Universe and Lord of all the storms calmed the storm and reached out His hand and saved him!
  • “Then those who were in the boat worshipped him saying, “Truly you are the son of God.”
  • May we be encouraged to offer Jesus whatever we have and allow Him to use it to meet the needs of those around us whom He asks us to ‘feed’ and may we remember when we are in the middle of the howling storm and huge waves threaten to overwhelm us, that He is the Lord of the storms and has absolute authority over them.

From the Chair…………..
“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds”. (Psalm 73:28)

The Psalmist starts off this Psalm with a confident word of knowing God’s goodness in his heart, but then he starts to look around and wonders where is the presence of God? This causes the psalmist to feel depressed, even oppressed (vs16) until he enters the sanctuary and sees the final destiny of those he had seen as people with seemingly less troubles. I think this is a feeling we can all relate to at times, where we feel overwhelmed or tired of seemingly endless struggles. But as the psalmist works through his feelings and enters the sanctuary of God, he is reminded of God’s presence, His blessings, and our future inheritance.

We hope that you were able to join our recent on-line Educators’ Conference and from it were refreshed and encouraged in your calling and excited to continue a lifetime of learning for God’s glory. Our prayer has been that it helped you enter the presence of God and be reminded of the eternal impact of your relationships and teaching. We pray that like the Psalmist you can declare all of God’s deeds as you are drawn closer to Him. As we begin to look ahead to 2022, we are excited at the new opportunities and praying for God’s favor and growth in our membership and areas of influence. We long to be more accessible to anyone interested across Zimbabwe, whether in government or private education. We are also looking at how to be an increasingly clear voice in education, declaring God’s standards from a Biblical worldview. We believe this to be key to true holistic education and transformational for our country. In line with ACSI global, we will be focusing on the 3 pillars of advancement, access, and advocacy. A key part of our advancement is that we long to strengthen partnerships with churches and other interested Christian organizations or individuals. We are also looking at new trainings and continuing to promote PSI, the Paths to School Improvement programme. For access, we continue to work on our data base, strengthen our social media platforms and presence, and also seek ways to subsidise membership fees for struggling schools. Our role in advocacy for now is building relationships and seeking to be a voice for integrating a Biblical worldview in education both to encourage individual teachers as well as institutions.

At our recent strategy planning day, we, as the board were challenged to have God’s vision for education across Zimbabwe and that was very scary/daunting and overwhelming, but also exciting and demanding of faith and only achievable by God’s grace, strength and favor. And so we are continuing to step out in faith, trembling at the knees, weak in our own abilities, but our hearts are excited for all that God is doing and is going to do in and through ACSI Zimbabwe, and in each individual’s life as they seek to glorify God. Thank you for partnering with us in this vision. May we together be faithful in telling of all God’s deeds.

Partnering in faith, trusting our Big God, for His Glory.

Sarah Cross (Chair)

CURRENT MEMBER SCHOOLS
Celebration International School
Eaglesvale Junior School
Eaglesvale Senior School
Gateway High School
Gateway Primary School
Karanda Mission Primary School
Lendy Park School
Maranatha Group of Schools
Midlands Christian School
Midlands Christian College
Millennial Academy
Mutarazi Junior School
Rainbow Pre-School
Southern Lights Trust
Success Tutorial College

STRATEGY PLANNING DAY

On Friday 24th September the ACSI Zimbabwe Advisory Board met together in Harare at the Christian Counselling Centre to strategize for
growth in 2022/23. The day’s proceedings began with a zoom link with the Director of ACSI South Africa, Mr Sean Moore, who encouraged the
members with a devotion on the deep-rooted joy that it is possible for believers to have regardless of their circumstances. Team Consulting facilitated the day’s discussion at no cost. After a time of quiet and waiting on the Lord, members re- grouped and formulated a broad implementation plan which will now be worked on by the four sub- committees: Marketing / Training / Partnerships and Finance for discussion at the next Board Meeting on 9th November. Thanks to Florac Catering for providing teas and a delicious lunch.

ACSI ZIMBABWE ADVISORY BOARD 2021

Back Row (Left to Right) : Eric Zinyengere, Kevin Ricquebourg, Lenard Mudiwa, Gus Hulley, Unity Sakhe
Front Row (Left to Right) : Sarah Cross (Chair), George Faneti, Tunga Mashungu, Tavonga Goto, Melanie Martin, Caroline Chirume, Temba Mkhosana, Charmian Deysel

FEEDBACK ON-LINE CONFERENCE
“A LIFETIME OF LEARNINGTO LIVE FOR GOD’S GLORY”

Over four weeks, between 13th August and 3rd September, the 2021 online Christian Educators’ Conference was released via a moodle platform. Under the theme of “A Lifetime of Learning to Live for God’s Glory” (“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples -John 15:8″) four weekly sessions of a plenary and four workshops were made available.

The programme included:

  • 4 local devotional speakers
  • 4 worship sessions led by two member schools and two churches
  • 2 interviews
  • 5 plenary speakers (3 local, one from Australia, one from South Africa)
  • 3 feedback sessions (1 local, 1 regional, 1 international)
  • 16 workshop speakers (11 local, 4 South African, 1 American)

This was the first time we have used a moodle platform and we recognise that many of the 600 delegates who registered had challenges with network and bandwidth. All the recordings are downloadable and can be saved to a device to be viewed at your convenience. The conference material is still available and can be accessed for an indefinite period by registering at https://online.acsi.co.zw/acsi/login/?lang=en once you have registered you will receive an email from System Administrator advising your username and password. Please note this email does not come through immediately as users have to be uploaded from the registration form first. We would still encourage you to take advantage of this excellent, informative material addressing many different aspects of teaching from a Biblical worldview. If you require assistance or would like the conference presentations copied on a (supplied) flashstick, please do not hesitate to contact the office – info@acsi.co.zw or call +263 786 031 794

The ACSI Paths to School Improvement (PSI) is a strategy to accomplish resourcing as many schools as possible through a school improvement process
For more information: email info@acsi.co.zw or
Tel: +263 786 031 794

  • Involves a two-year commitment to training, undertaken during school holidays by Heads, and then actioned throughout the term. There is a cost involved. The process of improvement continues as a lifelong commitment by the school.
  • The advantage of this programme is that you walk the continual process in partnership/relationship with other schools, building a community committed to\ improving Christian Education through Zimbabwe and Africa.

PSI LAUNCH: 22ND OCTOBER 2021

On Friday 22nd October, ACSI Zimbabwe hosted a launch which was attended by six schools who are considering commencing training with Cohort 3 in April 2022. If you would like to know more about this programme, please do contact us as above.


Above: Kevin Ricquebourg opening in devotion


Above: School Leader – Tonderai Mandaza


Above: Candidate Trainee Maggie Gotora


Above: Sarah Cross (ACSI Zim Chair)


Above: Candidate Trainee – Caroline Chirume


Above: Candidate Trainee Hannah Marks

MEMBERSHIP DETAILS

If you would like to enquire about membership of ACSI Zimbabwe please contact the office for details : info@acsi.co.zw or acsizimbabwe@gmail.com or call +263 786 031 794 https://acsi.co.zw

Membership Categories are as follows:
1) INDIVIDUAL: ($10 per term)
2) SCHOOL: (0.50c per pupil per term)
3) ASSOCIATE: $50 per term (for churches / business organisations)

PRAYER POINTERS

  • Re-commencement of PSI (Paths to School Improvement) training in April 2022;
  • Schools who are currently part of PSI as they implement what they are learning;
  • Implementation of PSI App (Local Host Partner);
  • ACSI Zimbabwe Advisory Board as they strategise for growth in 2022 – 23;
  • Sean Moore as Director of ACSI Southern Africa and his leadership and mentoring role of schools in SA during these challenging times;
  • ACSI Zimbabwe Members Schools: – those who are facing financial and other challenges;
  • State schooling system;
  • Protection for our communities, schools and families from Covid 19.

If you have something to share, specific prayer requests or response to any article, please contact us : info@acsi.co.zw acsizimbabwe@gmail.com If you would like to receive latest news from ACSI Southern Africa please notify by email to info@acsi.co.zw
acsizimbabwe@gmail.com https://acsi.co.zw.

|

Christian Education Snippets

 

 BLIND BARTIMAEUS RECEIVES HIS SIGHT 

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. 

This is a lovely story and there are many things we can learn from it! 

Jesus has just spent some time in Jericho and is on His way to Jerusalem where He will suffer and die. He is followed by a large crowd many of whom are attracted by the miracles which He performs from time to time. This of course begs the question, “Where do I stand in my relation to Christ?” Am I attracted to Him for what I can get from Him or because He answers my deepest questions, such as, “Who am I, where am I going and do I matter in the grand scheme of things?” There’s nothing wrong in being inquisitive provided that is not an end in itself. In other words do we end up manufacturing itches which need to be scratched! Remember, the fence is not neutral and fence-sitters will not be saved on Judgement Day! 

Bartimaeus definitely did not fall into the latter category! In fact his was the only voice that could be heard shouting out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” It is very clear from this that Bartimaeus meant to do business with Jesus that day. Not only did he call Him by his Messianic title, but he showed a total disregard for those sections of the crowd that were telling him to be quiet! In fact it spurred him on to shout even louder!

Bartimaeus was a beggar and had learnt to be grateful for anything which he received from life. Suffering has a way of reducing life to its lowest common denominator which simply put is NEED! Need for pain-relief, friends, medication, the love of family, basically the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The danger of living at this level for too long is that we start to believe that there is nothing more to life. We are like that ignorant child described by CS Lewis, “…who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.“ 

There was an immediate cost/sacrifice in coming to Jesus. Bartimaeus threw his cloak away. We are not told the reason for this but in some way it proved a hindrance to Bartimaeus and he had to get rid of it. We may have some things that are holding us back from a single-minded devotion to Christ. We need to do away with them! 

Having reached the place where Jesus was standing the first words spoken by Christ to blind Bartimaeus seem almost unbelievable! 

“What do you want me to do for you?” 

Not many people in Scripture are presented with a blank cheque like this man was. I wonder how you would have answered? Bartimaeus replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 

The apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells them that in his prayers he keeps asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that they may, “know him (Jesus) better.” (Brackets mine) In His High Priestly Prayer in John 17 Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” I believe that beneath his desire for physical healing of his sight Bartimaeus wanted to see with the eyes of his heart! He wanted to see Jesus for whom He really was – The great I AM! And in typical fashion Jesus gave him both! He could see with both his eyes and his heart! 

Jesus still comes to us and asks us, “What can I do for you?” How will you answer Him today? 

Kevin Ricquebourg 

ACSI CO-ORDINATOR

|

Becoming More Christian in Christian Schools

Shaun Brooker | June 28, 2021

Christian education can be an incredibly transformative force. It can take a life in its infancy—as the life is establishing its understanding, expectation, and perspective of the world—and bring 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 not the center of the universe; rather, fulfillment comes when we learn to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Spiritual Practice Christian Schools

While there is much to celebrate about how Christian schools develop Christian thinking in our students, we also need to be aware that Christian schools can contribute to students’ developing bad Christian habits—or practices and mindsets that are less like the ones Jesus taught, and more like the religious behaviors the Pharisees would be proud of.

For example, many Christian educators likely have a shared vision for spiritual formation when it comes to prayer (as an ongoing conversation with their Creator), learning Scripture (as students’ “hiding His Word” in their hearts so they might not sin against God), and loving one’s neighbor (having “next level” empathy and being outward looking, to not only “love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and strength” but to also authentically “love their neighbor as themselves”). But without intentionality, these visions that we have for our students in Christian education can become religious activities—things that students do because they “have to” do them, versus because they truly desire to do them.

Examining Our Schools—and Ourselves

We are encouraged in Scripture to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Take a moment to consider the following spiritual formation practices that will be visible in most Christian schools. In your school, does what you “do” really lead to the objectives that you intend?

Scripture Memorization: Does Scripture memorization look more like students hiding God’s Word in their hearts, or is it just another homework assignment—where students memorize 40 random verses throughout the year, are tested on the verses each Friday, and the verses have no “life” at all in the classroom? If the latter, then Scripture memorization becomes a compliance activity. Instead, verses should not just be given as homework, but also serve as a living part of the classroom for the week—and intentionally revisited over the year so that the verses become “sticky.”

Biblical Literacy: The key objectives of a Bible program should be the development of a lifelong love of the scriptures and conviction that the Bible is authentic and relevant to our students’ lives. But if Bible classes center on learning tools of interpretation, with 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 a preset curriculum—we will end up turning students off to God’s Word. 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.

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. But how is prayer modeled in our schools? Do we just pray at the beginning of the day, before lunch, and at the end of the day? If so, students are persuaded that prayer is something that happens certain times of the day, usually following a specific pattern, rather than a direct line of communication that Scripture tells us to utilize constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need to model the prayer life that we want students to develop.

Worship Through Song: Most Christian schools include worship through song in their assembly of meeting times. There is something incredibly powerful about being in a room full of young people truly worshipping our Savior. However, done poorly, it is worrisome. You can see in it the way students slouch or the way the song lyrics 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. Again, modeling by teachers, leaders, and staff is key to helping them on that journey. When the powerful words that are in most Christian songs are sung (think meditated on) with reverence, it sends a message about the importance of that message to everyone.

Relationships: Teacher and student relationships in Christian schools absolutely must be different than at the school down the road. Grounded in our call for transforming young people, at the heart of Christian education is a Christ-centered educator who desires that students will be equipped for their future. The educational and discipleship process is built on strong relationship and must 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 in their care.

Discipleship (and Discipline): Flowing out of the importance of discipling relationships between teachers and students, Christian schools should be places of discipleship, not punishment. Yes, there is a need for consequences, but at the heart of the discipline process should be an absolute commitment to each student’s growth. At the heart of the discipline 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. This is difficult, as obviously we cannot promote lawlessness in our Christian schools; however, each school and educator must maintain a balance of law and grace. Consider “backward design” related to this issue; ask yourself, what would it take for a graduate of your Christian school to comment, “I was shown what grace was at my school”? As educators, we certainly know how to teach about grace—but in keeping with the emphasis of this essay, what’s important is not just what we tell our students, but rather what we do.

Asking the Central Question

There are many aspects of our Christian schools which are intended for good. However, if unexamined, and if done without intentionality, these aspects can actually have the opposite effect—they can turn our students away from Christ. The overriding question to prevent this is straightforward: Is the way your students experience the “Christian things” you do aligned with the purpose for which you do them? And in answering this question, we need to consider what students learn about the principles of Scripture through our actions, not just our words.

Ultimately, we pray that as students graduate from our schools, they will know without a doubt that each of the above spiritual practices are important to the Christian walk. And, that they did not just learn about their importance through our teaching, but rather that they experienced it through intentional opportunities for spiritual formation and through modeling by their teachers. It’s not an easy calling, but it is a hugely satisfying one.

|

ACSI Announces New Board Chair

Jul 26, 2021, 09:25 AM by Caitlyn Berman

Colorado Springs, Colo. – The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) is pleased to announce Dr. Jay Ferguson as the new board chair. Ferguson will assume the position July 26, 2021, and will serve a two-year term.

In his role, Ferguson will ensure the organization is effective in implementing its new strategic plan, using the Three Strategic Pillars of Advancing, Access and Advocacy to guide all decisions.

Ferguson is head of school at Grace Community School in Tyler, Texas, where he has served for nearly 20 years—six of those years spent serving on the ACSI Board. He shared that his favorite aspects of serving on the board include the opportunity to be a change agent for the organization and the opportunity to build relationships with other Christian school leaders.

“As a current head of school, I know the importance of an organization coming alongside and helping Christian schools and their leaders develop and flourish,” Ferguson said. “ACSI is critically important to the growth of Christian education around the world.”

Former ACSI Board Chair Robert “Bo” Gutzwiller has served for two years. He believes Ferguson possesses the ideal skillset and experience for the position.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as ACSI Board Chair and have no doubt that Dr. Ferguson will bring a high level of discernment and expertise to the role,” he said. “I’m thrilled to see ACSI continue in a very strategic direction.”

Ferguson recognizes the magnitude of the Christian education movement internationally.

“As one of the largest global Christian school organizations, ACSI has the potential to impact millions of children and thousands of schools for God’s Kingdom,” he said. “I look forward to working with the leadership team to ensure a viable and healthy ACSI— one that thrives in achieving its mission.”

ACSI President Dr. Larry Taylor expressed his gratitude to Gutzwiller for his years of dedicated service.

“God is doing an amazing work,” he shared. “I have been honored to serve alongside Bo Gutzwiller for two years and am grateful for his commitment to Christian education. I believe he is passing this baton of leadership to the very capable hands of Dr. Jay Ferguson.”

Ferguson has served at Grace Community School in a variety of capacities including development director and head of school. He holds a doctorate of Philosophy in Leadership Studies from Dallas Baptist University, and practiced as a lawyer before his time at Grace.

Passionate about Christian education, Ferguson looks forward to assuming his new responsibilities.

“What I love most about ACSI is not just what it’s doing domestically but what it’s doing internationally,” he expressed. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve this outstanding organization, and I’m excited about the direction it’s heading.”

To learn more about ACSI, please visit the website at ACSI.org or connect with the ACSI Care Team by calling (800)367-0798 or at careteam@acsi.org.

To learn more about Dr. Jay Ferguson, visit Grace Community School’s website.