By Milton V. Uecker, EdD
Part 1 of 8 part series (2005)
The role of an educational leader within Christian schools is complex in that the responsibilities can include tasks across all aspects of the school’s program-personnel, business, facilities, curriculum, public relations, finance, and development. But ultimately all activity converges on the need to assure student learning. The leader is responsible for providing an educational program that enables students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are in alignment with the school’s purpose. Philosophically a Christian school education centers on the training of both the head and the heart, and as implied by the Leadership Academy’s conference theme, preparation for “kingdom living.”
The person who the student is becoming is a primary focus of a Christian education. Richard Riesen (2002, 103) asks the question, “Can Christian schooling be too academic?” His argument is that it cannot, while at the same time stating that it is possible that schools might not be enough of something else. I would argue that schools can place so much focus on the academic that what one knows takes precedent over what one becomes. This caution does not imply the sacrificing of the academic, but rather a balance in focus, assuring that the student is both academically and spiritually made ready to live a life that glorifies God. Schools are actively engaged in transmitting the values, attitudes, and beliefs that give both the motivation and the direction for how learning will be applied. It is this affective part of the curriculum that will direct students to either worldly or kingdom living.
Christian schools must provide academic programs that fully prepare students with the knowledge and thinking skills that enable them to be leaders in the marketplace of ideas. But school administration must be concerned with the nature of this leadership. The student can, and often does, leave the Christian school with personal gain and happiness – their kingdom – as having priority over devotion to God and service to others. Educational leaders who desire to lead students assess the nature of their current outcomes and then know how to design curriculum to facilitate success.
The apostle Paul was a “kingdom” educator with a mission, a vision, and identified outcomes for his learners. His mission, to “present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28, NASB); his vision, that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that [they would] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10, NASB); and his intended outcomes were stated throughout his letters. Colossians 3:12-13 (NASB) provides an example: “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Paul’s love for his Savior and his passionate desire to lead others to a transformed life became the focus of his life.