It was a Tuesday afternoon in early September of 2021. I had only recently started working at Langley Christian School (LCS) when I was passing by middle school principal Berkley Glazer’s office. Berkley and school counselor Dave McVety were having a lively discussion about something important that just needed to be done. They invited me in, and it was immediately apparent that I found myself in one of those uncomfortable but important conversations where I was faced with a decision: Are you in, or are you in?
In a previous educational leadership role, I had helped design a curricular progression that ensured we were at least sufficiently “covering” topics around Christian identity, gender, sexuality, and healthy relationships as per our requirements with the Canadian Ministry of Education. In my new role, I had been following the narratives of other Christian school communities across North America that were struggling with such conversations. I had very little interest in engaging publicly in any discussion around controversial issues because they have often been the gravesites of Christian communities due to our inability to navigate the dynamics of power, conflict, and change (see Langberg 7).
In the conversation with Berkley and Dave, we talked about the need to train teachers for curricular conversations about sexuality and gender, so that they could facilitate learning among students that reflected Jesus’s compassion. I explained that in most cases, policy and curriculum development are put together before practice, and I cautioned them against this, as I did not want to get knee deep into an area that has been divisive in Christian educational spaces. However, Dave brought his years of practice as a school counselor, and Berkley brought his enthusiasm as an educational leader committed to care for all learners. Though my initial instinct had been to avoid taking a leadership role in the conversation, I paused to reconsider because I was starting my doctoral studies, and my desire to help Christian learning communities was an integral aspect of my learning. What was clear in that conversation was that it was important to us that we support our teachers in conversations around biblical perspectives of gender and sexuality in a way that reflected an educational approach and a high level of care for all learners.
Berkley, Dave, and I were having a great conversation, so I pulled out my phone and started recording our conversation. Later, we decided to share our thoughts with the staff—to be awkward, to fumble our way through our thinking, to model that this is a difficult conversation requiring reflection, and also to show how much we care about being a community of faith, teaching, and learning.
Berkley said that our larger community needed to hear this message, so we shared our first talk with the school community. We had no idea that what we were recording that day would be the first podcast episode of LCS Talks. We brought our short phone recording to our Media and Communications Manager at LCS, Dilan Bandara. Dilan found the content really compelling but was quite distraught at the distracting cacophony of school noises that impacted the audio experience. Even with his best efforts to fix the audio, our first episode reflected an unpolished but heartfelt desire to move from being a community of learners to a Christian learning community and invite our families into our learning journey.
The next Tuesday, Dilan, who was now our producer, set up his own podcast mics to record us as we reflected on our Friday professional learning time. Since then, he has continued to refine our sound quality for a better audio experience. Soon after, Berkley and I were meeting each Tuesday following our Friday professional learning sessions, recording episodes with our staff in order to share them with our families. We recognized that we needed to communicate our distinct approach to our partnering families who are seeking to grow in their relationship with Jesus. We believed our community effort required transparency, sharing our professional learning and practices and cultivating stories of impact that enrich the learning experience.
Recognizing the need to think about questions related to faith, identity, gender, sexuality, and education, this journey was not one of scripted perfection, but rather a willingness to be a compassionate and learning-focused community. This task shaped how we think about our families as members of our Christian learning community. Our efforts were catalyzed by learning for our community, but also with our community.
Toward a Christian Learning Community
In Lynn Swaner and Andy Wolfe’s 2021 book Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools, the authors propose that the three-legged stool model—a partnership of school, church, and home—perhaps no longer reflects the current reality of the mission of Christian schools. Instead, they argue, we need a table where the community can be invited into relationship, learning, and formation together (107).
The main obstacles to this new model are the fear of sharing learning, and the uncomfortable nature of speaking publicly on divisive topics around faith, identity, gender, sexuality, technology, intercultural understanding, racism and diversity, and social-emotional development in a community of diverse perspectives. At a time when Christian schools are asking how we do this in a way that does not compromise beliefs and values, LCS has found hope in vulnerability, sharing, and inviting our community to learn. This is an abridged version of this article. To read more, subscribe to the print or digital edition of Christian Educators Journal.
Imes, Carmen J. Being God’s Image: Why Creation Still Matters. IVP Academic, 2023.
Langberg, D. Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. Brazos, 2020.
Lawson, Kevin E. “Proposal for ‘Right-Handed’ Christian Education.” Journal of Christian Education & Information Technology, 2006, pp. 81–110.
Lingenfelter, Judith E., and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter. Teaching Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Learning and Teaching. Baker Academic, 2003.
Swaner, Lynn E., and Andy Wolfe. Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools. Eerdmans, 2021.
Kevin A. Mirchandani is the K–12 Director of Instruction at Langley Christian School and Adjunct Professor of Education and Leadership at Trinity Western University, British Columbia. He is also a third year PhD student in Educational Studies at Biola University.