Teaching is a challenging job. Myriad difficulties and surprises confront teachers on any given day. Christian educators also bear the ever-present responsibility of discipleship. What do Christian teachers need in order to succeed in the face of their daunting mission? Jesus calls those who are burdened to come to him, wear his yoke, and learn from him (Matt. 11:28–30). Therefore the Christian school should offer, in conjunction with pedagogical and technical training, a modicum of not-so-professional development that includes corporate pursuit of the Lord. Teachers need to be supported as they grow and directed as they serve. They need the Word, and they need worship.
At their core, Christian schools are invested in discipling students. The Association of Christian Schools International aims to support schools as they “prepare students academically and inspire them to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ” (“Missions and Vision”). Likewise, Christian Schools International aims to support schools “in their task of teaching students to know God and his world, and to glorify him through obedient service” (“About CSI”). These discipleship aims stand in contrast with the mission of the Education Department of the United States, which is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” (“Mission”).
Teacher as Disciple-Maker
When the Christian school embraces its mission of discipleship, it must also take into account the implications for the role of the teacher. The aim of professional development is guided by how the school defines success in the classroom. An employment contract might say “math teacher,” but the foundational employment directive of that teacher is discipleship. The math teacher is understood to be someone who uses the vehicle of academics for spiritual development. Therefore, teachers are primarily disciple-makers, and their task is essentially pastoral. George Knight explains:
The major difference between the roles of pastors and teachers in our day has to do with the current division of labor. In twenty-first-century society, the Christian teacher may be seen as one who pastors in a “school” context, while the pastor is one who teaches in the “larger religious community.” It should and must consciously be realized that their function is essentially the same, even though by today’s definitions they are in charge of different divisions of the Lord’s vineyard. (211)
This reality has vast implications for professional development. How do we develop academic disciple-makers?
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Kelly Hayes teaches classes in Bible, worldview, and worship at The King’s Academy in Florence, SC. He also serves as biblical integration team leader and chapel coordinator. Kelly has served as pastor and teacher in environments and groups that have spanned age, size, and region. He has been educated at Liberty University and Southern Seminary. You can read more of his writing at LeadLikeThis.com.