by Milton V. Uecker, EdD
Part 4 of 8 part series (2005)
The academic community is centered on staff who are carefully chosen for the task. All teachers must be trained not only to teach their disciplines well, but they must understand the process of spiritual development. Faculty and staff must exhibit a hunger for personal growth and demonstrate kingdom priorities. Deuteronomy 6:6 provides the prerequisite to the command in verse 7 to “teach them diligently.” First teachers must take the commands and put them on their hearts (6:7). The influence of the Word on the heart will transform teachers and their behavior and once transformed, the teachers are ready to teach. This can be illustrated through the image of mothers who, in third world countries like Haiti, carry tremendous burdens on their heads. Once the load is in place, the mothers can carry it almost effortlessly across rugged terrain without even holding it in place. It is not uncommon to see little children walking behind their mothers and balancing a small cup on their head. From early on they begin to imitate their mother’s (or dad’s) behavior. In both cases the person learns to walk under the influence of the burden, such that, even without the object on their heads, they walk with perfect posture.
Monte Swan (2002, 103), in Romancing Your Child’s Heart, addresses the need to romance or create a thirst for godly living in children. Through behavioristic techniques the child acquires a thirst for something not actually desired. But through romance the thirst is created by desire. Romancing is a process of “wooing, drawing or attracting for the purpose of winning the heart.” As children live in community and experience God’s love, the nature of these interactions opens the heart to God and His purposes. It is love within community that demonstrates the reality of a loving God. Willard (1998, 329) refers to this as the “acid test.” If our school fails to “set a lovable God – a radiant, happy, friendly, accessible, and totally competent being – before ordinary people [including students], we have gone wrong.”
Too often a school is characterized by cold interactions, harsh words, fierce competition, and excessive stress. Can children be romanced by a loving God in this context? Within a school context we might consider putting community to the “gym test.” Few schools enjoy the luxury of having more than one guy. As spring comes, the need for the gym is often shared by coaches, the band and choral director, and the drama teacher. Perhaps within a kingdom-living community the gym might be empty as each teacher defers to the other. As unrealistic as this seems, is it not reasonable to imagine this in a community where each thinks of the others, and their needs, as more important than his or her own? What deeply lasting impressions are given, however, when each teacher demands his or her time and even exhibits jealousy toward others through negative comments? Consider your school community in terms of how faculty and staff interact with each other. Is the atmosphere one that will “romance” children into kingdom living?
Regardless of the intended outcomes, parents are critical to the success of the program. The mission of the school must be clearly understood and embraced by parents. Parents must be taught the philosophical foundations of Christian school education. Too often the school is chosen for its academic excellence, good discipline, and safety, and because of this, parents often devalue time spent toward spiritual formation. Parents themselves must be allowing their hearts to be transformed and then model transformational outcomes before their children.