Christian Education: It is about the Children

This article is adapted from a devotional presented at the annual general meeting of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools in November, 2009 by Leo Van Arragon, the Coordinator of Secondary Programs at OACS. Previously he worked in Ontario Christian schools in the elementary and secondary panels both as teacher and as principal.  He is a graduate student at the University of Ottawa in the Religious Studies Department. 

I want to share with you some thoughts based on the mischievous question, “So what are you doing here, on a Saturday morning when there are leaves to be raked and homes prepared for winter, when, after a busy week, you are putting in yet another day for the Christian schools?” I am not sure how many of you had similar thoughts when, last night, you anticipated an early start on a day when you really should be at home making pancake breakfasts for your loved ones, lingering over coffee and the Saturday-morning newspaper to consider the foibles of the world from the safety of your kitchens. Or maybe you are not like me and maybe you leap into the gladsome day eagerly awaiting the joys of spending the day at an Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools meeting while the rest of the world slumbers on in blissful ignorance of what it is missing, giving you a kingdom-of-God inspired reason not to wash the floors at home or paint the room that has become a point of contention between you and your significant other. But after all of that, the question remains, “What is this business of Christian education all about?”

To help us address this question I would like to turn your attention to three familiar stories that come to us from that wonderful source of inspiration we call the Bible, written for people like us, finding our way through mixed motives to a better understanding of this work of God to which we are called.

The first story comes to us from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus, in the middle of some serious theological discussions, responds to a group of women and children who come to him for attention and a blessing (Mark 10:13).

Women and children have a recurring presence in the Gospels, of course, and Jesus clearly sees something of their vulnerability and quite often tells us or shows us that they are at the heart of the kingdom of God. The encounters between Jesus and children are always placed where they jolt us back to the question, what is this about? We are involved in what we believe is God’s work: the complex work of building a kingdom, even spending our Saturday mornings on this task. Then, strategically, Jesus reminds us in this story to keep it simple. This is about children, he reminds us. I have been thinking about this as we consider ways forward with our schools and with the whole movement of Christian education. It is a temptation for us to think of our schools in terms of culture change, of our making an impact in the culture wars, of our political positioning, and other big-picture questions. But I continue to be astonished by children, especially now that I am a grandfather. So imagine your biological and your covenant children and grandchildren today as we consider the complexities of operating our schools: matters of governance, finance, school evaluation procedures, and pedagogy. If our responses to these complexities are not expressions of the arms of Jesus around our children so that they can learn—so that they can find God’s plan and purpose for their lives in ways that are life-giving and not burdensome—we may be missing the point.

But of course, there are the finance and governance and administrative issues, and there are strategic decisions to be made, aren’t there? Are they not the point of many of our discussions in our staff rooms and board rooms?
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