Leading Your Students to Kingdom Living

By Milton V. Uecker, EdD

Part 3 of 8 part series (2005)

The leader, who is clear about mission-aligned outcomes, is able to provide the environment, programs, and instruction that are aligned with fulfilling the mission. Up to this point the work has been that of clarifying results and knowing how to gather evidence. The role now changes to instructional designer. What curriculum (to include everything the student experiences) will be needed to lead students to kingdom living?

Leading others into kingdom living begins with modeling a life that demonstrates kingdom living. Leaders must live according to transformational standards in every relationship within the school. Paul repeatedly called his students to imitation. “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17, NASB). “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9, NASB). This was the pattern in Paul’s own educational experience. The student was immersed in the life of his teacher (a chosen Rabbi) and, when “fully taught,” was like the teacher. This was likewise stated by Jesus when He said that “a pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40, NASB).

It could be argued that this is a mandate to the teachers (which it is), but teachers must likewise be led by one who exemplifies what their relationships and teaching are to be like. Students are looking for concrete examples of what remains abstract until such time that they experience the concept firsthand. I recently was questioned by an administrator who was inquiring as to the appropriateness of a headmaster having friendships with the faculty or of administrators having too much interaction with students. The idea seemed to be that authority requires distance. My own teachers, following a lunch with me at a convention, were surprised at the comments of another group who said that their administrator would never eat with them. Is this kingdom living? Jesus exemplified servant leadership without sacrificing authority. Jesus taught and corrected in the context of loving relationships. At the very heart of a life lived in God’s kingdom is other-directedness. Administration must have a presence in the midst of the school community. This does not imply a neglect of administrative duties. Administrative tasks must be done well, but creating and maintaining a transformational community is one of those tasks. Dallas Willard (1998, 283) reminds those with kingdom hearts that they are “learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything he died, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner that he did all that he did.”

As previously implied, transformation happens within the context of a loving community. Leaders must lead in creating this community. Paul, in his exhortations to live as he did, included the challenge to live according to the pattern they saw “in us.” This meant that there was not only personal modeling, but modeling through their daily lives together. Students, adolescents in particular, want to be shown the way to meaningful living. They are constantly examining how the faculty and staff live together to determine if kingdom living actually works. Do these people enjoy work? Do they get along? Do their attitudes and behavior exemplify life that has meaning and fulfillment? George Barna (2001, 138) asked teens what they would look for in a church (should they move to a new community). The most common response included a desire for a church where the attitude and demeanor of the people was positive, welcoming, and upbeat. Next in importance was “the community developed among the people.” Teens refer to this community as a place with genuine relationships and a focus on creating a community of people who are serious about their faith and who support each other.

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