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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

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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.

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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.

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How to Effectively Lead a Multi-Generational Staff

Tania Lennon of the Hay Group, an international corporate leadership development consulting company, published an excellent study on the multigenerational workforce. Her team studied over 2,500 executives around the world spanning five generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. Members from each group were asked about what they valued in the workplace. As it turns out, there were quite a few differences in answers between the generations:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1928-1944): “Value authority and a top-down management approach; hard working; ‘be heroic.’”
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1945-1964): “Expect some degree of deference to their opinions; workaholics; ‘be anything you want to be’; ‘eternal youth—retirement as freedom.’”
  • Generation X (born between 1965-1979): “Comfortable with authority; want to be listened to; will work as hard as needed; ‘don’t count on it’; ‘take care of yourself’; importance of work life balance.”
  • Generation Y (born between 1980-1994): “Respect must be earned. ‘You are special’; ‘achieve now’; technologically savvy; goal and achievement oriented.”
  • Generation Z (born from 1995 and on): “Many traits still to emerge. Digital natives, fast decision makers, highly connected.”

So what does this corporate study have to do with educational institutions? A lot. In John Ortberg’s 2009 Christianity Today article, he retells the 2 Chronicles 10 story of Rehoboam taking over his father’s flock and says, “…it is striking that even in the Bible, one of the ways that human community becomes disrupted is the generational divide. If the generational divide was a gap then, it is a canyon now.”

The generational canyon Ortberg refers to in 2009 is now the Grand Canyon of staffing issues in 2020. Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, leaving Generation X in the valley of the canyon as the smallest generation in the workforce, according to Pew Research.

In a Vanderbloemen Academy lesson on this subject, William Vanderbloemen discusses what he calls the “double-humped camel” problem in our current workforce, often causing friction on leadership teams. He describes this reality: there are more Baby Boomers and Millennials in the workforce than Gen X, which is why developing multigenerational leadership skills is becoming increasingly vital to leaders. Those who can hone their multigenerational leadership skills will be best equipped to serve their teams by fostering personal leadership growth, clearly identifying a vision that everyone can follow, and executing a mission in a way that has everyone on board.

In our work with Christian organizations around the world, we continually hear two primary challenges that leaders face when it comes to staffing: one, help us find high-capacity staff members from the different generations we need represented in our organization; and two, help us foster unity on our team across generations and develop them as leaders who can serve together.

The familiar tone we hear from Baby Boomer leaders sounds like this, “I’m so frustrated with the Millennials on our team. They’re lazy and unmotivated.” And what do we typically hear from Millennial leaders? “I’m so frustrated with the Baby Boomers on our team. They’re resistant to change and out of touch with how the world is changing.”

Reviewing the aforementioned Hay Group report, however, we see that our different generations might be more similar than we realize, particularly when it comes to expectations in the workplace. The report found that five themes emerge as being most important to people on staff in an organization, regardless of their age:

  1. Focus on customers and external stakeholders
  2. Focus on execution
  3. Teamwork
  4. Decision-making
  5. Planning and organizing

Lennon writes, “These priorities reflect the challenges of managing in today’s matrixed and network organizations. A deft blend of drive, working with others, and external focus is seen to be key to leadership success.” So the challenge for us as Christian leaders is this: let’s reflect on our own adaptability and on ourselves as leaders before we blame one generation or another for the silos we see in our organizations and on our teams.

Looking for a starting point? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I lead my individual team members with a one-size-fits-all mentality, or do I differentiate based on the individual?  

Lennon says, “Leaders don’t need to develop generation-specific skills. They should be able to adapt leadership styles to suit the individual.” We love this point because it invites the leader into self-reflection and the consideration of their own responsibility in developing their team members, regardless of the team member’s age. This question applies to both leaders who are leading people older than themselves, as well as younger than themselves. Both pose unique challenges. The reality is that leadership development is not formulaic. Dynamic leadership development should be customized to the individual team member you are leading in each moment.

2. Do I foster opportunities for cross-team and intergenerational collaboration? 

Collaboration is key to creating a contagious staff culture. Silos and cliques cause distrust and tension among teams. Be intentional about creating opportunities for your team to work together, especially if you have teams that have more of one generation represented than another.

Compared to many other types of organizations, your school is uniquely primed for this type of environment. Multiple generations interacting is woven into your very fabric. Do not take this for granted though. Be intentional with how you design interactions. It is one thing to have a multigenerationalschool—but being deliberate with an inter-generational school will create opportunities for everyone to learn and flourish together. Psalm 71:18 speaks of “declaring God’s power to the next generation, God’s mighty acts to all who are to come.” As you consider the development of leaders in your school, there is a responsibility for experienced leaders to invest in your newer leaders—and a richness of rewards when the wisdom of elders is headed.

We also recommend planning multigenerational events outside of work. Plan a staff dinner or game night where your team can get to know each other. You’ll see the productivity on your team skyrocket when they genuinely like each other.

3. Do I have a plan for the future?

Workforce demographics are changing. The number of full-time working Baby Boomers is decreasing, and will sharply decline over the course of the next decade. Your school probably has a significant population of faculty and staff who are beginning to consider retirement. Are you prepared for this?

We recently worked with an institution in this very situation. Writing a new strategic plan coincided with the institution’s accreditation renewal process. They decided to use these two processes to have very deliberate conversations about what tenured faculty might look like in 10 years. They asked questions like: “What is our plan for replacing high-capacity, qualified faculty members in key roles?” “How do we ensure that we will not lose critical institutional memory when certain key figures retire?” and “What will the benefits and drawbacks be if we lean more toward adjunct faculty rather than full-time replacements?” Not all of these questions had immediate answers, but there is great wisdom in performing this exercise.

You may be able to use a similar approach if you are in the midst of strategic planning or in a cycle of institutional review. Or just set aside agenda time to start asking some key questions. Either way, you need to start the conversation.

Moving Ahead

These are just three questions to get you started in reflecting on your self-awareness as a multigenerational leader. Your school likely has a healthy representation across three different generations—it is one of the things that makes academic institutions unique and dynamic. Your intentionality as a multigenerational leader will only continue to increase in importance as you develop your teams.

NOTE: This article was originally posted in February 2020 and republished in June 2021 to keep this important topic top of mind.