Goal of Christian Education

Christian schools often look little different from their secular school counterparts. In this post, I propose an education model built around the great commandments to love God and our neighbors.

What should a Christian school look like? What model should we seek to copy or learn from? Likely, schools look to other schools who share their same goals. My concern is that most of us already have such a strong preconception of what a school “is,” that we don’t reflect on our models. With the standardization and secularization of public education, few stand up and cry out, “This hardly reflects what an education should be!”

Christian homeschool families are some of the most advanced educational
re-thinkers. They are willing to ignore the standardized models and reflect upon “what should be.” And what should be?? Surely there are differences of opinion, but the key ideas relate to God’s concerns for each child and each parent’s responsibility to see these concerns carried out. In short, God desires each child to love Him with all his/her heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

If this provides us with key parameters, what implications do these desires have for a school’s “looks?” I see a philosophic model that can be expressed as
“revelation and instruction within community.” First, the curriculum and every other facet of the school should consciously reveal God. Since God is directly or indirectly the source of each curricular area, each subject of study provides a unique lens that focuses on particular qualities of the creator. Learning math (and every other subject ) is incomplete if children do not gratefully come to view God as the wondrous “giver of mathematics,” without which our scientific, technological, and economic worlds would be nonexistent. We wisely don’t want our schools to make children “sick of hearing about God,” so this revelational instruction should come from teachers’ hearts rather than merely administrative edicts.

Secondly, a Christian school’s
instruction should holistically prepare children to “love their neighbors.” How much does God want them to love? To the degree they love themselves. Perhaps not intentionally, but too often, schools treat individual children as “temporary units within their predesigned programs.” Their individual needs and qualities become lost amid standard practices, ideas of “fairness,” peer competition, and the human limitations of the teacher. If children will have difficulty loving others more than they love themselves, then schools must shape themselves after the Father’s heart. Discipline procedure, fairness doctrines, teaching practices, curricular goals, curricular offerings, etc. should all be shaped to help each child to rightly grow to love themselves as uniquely created and gifted by God.

Building on this foundation, instruction to equip children to love others requires that a school actively target the formation of Christ-like character, teach a curriculum strong in the humanities to reveal the nature and individuality of past and present neighbors, and teach children to reason from foundational (Biblical) principles and truths. Combining these ideas within English class (and each other curricular area), instruction should wrestle with ideas as to how the subject area can be used as a gift of God to “love your neighbor.” For example, is not written language a key gift by which knowledge, wisdom, and compassion are preserved and transmitted to others for their good? If so, then perfecting the skills of language help us love others by communicating that which is needful and valuable. All areas of instruction can be contextualized to engage the subject matter with the goal of loving others.

Finally, the revelation and instruction described above are meaningless if the school does not have an internal sense of
community or if the child feels like an alien within it. Research shows that the moral and personal influence of a school comes not from what is taught “academically,” but by what is lived out by the community. Students become “owners” of the qualities of those they respect and care about. Thus, schools should care about interpersonal relationships and be a part of the church/family community. To the degree Christian schools distance themselves from the relationships, concerns, resources and needs of the local Body of Christ, they diminish their influence and outcomes towards the model of the secular school.

So, what does a Christian school look like? It is an extension of Christian families; a specialized service of the Body of Christ organized to equip and nurture children to “‘
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27
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