Written by Mr. Triemstra, on July 2, 2021
Why Christian Education – Part 4
So far we have noted that Christian education involves extending Christian practices in an academic setting. Prayer, praise and practices of hospitality are enacted in the Christian school. Teaching the Christian story in a devotional and academic setting in a way that invites the students to enter that story is also a critical part of Christian schooling. Last month we noted that a Christian perspective and a pedagogy that is consistent with a Christian worldview are critical aspects of a Christian school. These are all essential elements in Christian education, but they are still not enough.
Christian education fails if it is insular, if it is only self-focused or focused on “our” community. Like the Church, the Christian school (and I see the Christian school an extension of the Church in an informal way) is for mission. Now, by necessity a school is focused on children. What is done in a school is done for, with and to students. In this sense schooling is “child-centred.” But the higher purpose of the Christian school is ultimately to de-centre the children from a self-focus to a focus on our loving God and on his redemptive work. Christian parents and teachers rightly concern themselves with developing the varied gifts of the child to their maximum potential. However, we don’t do this so that the child can grow up to be a mover and shaker, to command a corner office, to make as much money as possible. No, we develop these gifts because God has a plan for these children to be his disciples, to follow in the way of Jesus.
Our children need to learn that the way of Jesus is the way of love. They need to orient their lives so that they love what God loves: “For God so loved the world [cosmos] that he gave his one and only son….” Later in the same passage we are told that Jesus was sent not to condemn the world but to save it. We need our children to Love the Father as Jesus loved the Father. We need our children to love God’s image-bearers as Jesus loves people and commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves; in fact he calls us to love our enemies just as he demonstrated his love for his torturers on the cross. We need our children to love the physical creation the way God loves the sparrows and the lilies of the fields. We need our children to love God’s law the way Jesus did – “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” We need our children to pray with all of their hearts and live out the following: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Our children need to “desire”, “imagine” and actively “await” the coming Kingdom of God.1
1. This last sentence owes its existence to James K. A. Smith and his Cultural Liturgies trilogy Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom and Awaiting the King.