Years ago I attended a meeting with fellow leaders of private Christian schools where one participant remarked that Christian schools ought to be recognized as the schools that provide the very best education available today. This educator’s comment sparked lively debate over what should be a Christian school’s top priority. Is it to raise children of strong faith, or to prepare students’ intellects for effective life, work, and cultural engagement? The fact that this question was debated signifies that many Christian schools emphasize faith development over intellectual development.At Bradford Christian Academy, we believe the two are inextricably interrelated, and they deserve equal attention and resources both within our school community and in the national conversation about Christian education.
The importance of placing equal value on faith formation and academic preparation has never been more urgent. Our current cultural environment values and celebrates individual experience as the final arbiter of truth. In his book, Souls in Transition, Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame (www.nd.edu) tells us that today’s emerging adults are “doubtful that an identifiable, objective, shared reality might exist across and around all people that can serve as a reliable reference point for rational deliberation and argument.” Educational excellence must certainly include teaching our children that we inhabit a universe that expresses the infinite, glorious truth of a personally knowable, loving God. And, as we provide and pursue excellence in every academic, artistic, and athletic discipline, we seek to honor God, understand ourselves, and engage meaningfully in our world.
As we pursue our BCA-specific mission, I recognize that the future of Bradford Christian Academy depends on the future of Christian education as a whole. We cannot operate in isolation. Thankfully, more and more, Christian schools around the country no longer debate where to place priority: they are pursing educational excellence combined with commitment to faith training. The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), a professional association for Christian schools, is working hard to assist its member schools realize this goal. Toward this end, last winter in Colorado Springs, ACSI’s Foundation convened a strategic conversation among Christian K-12 educators, college educators, researchers, and thought leaders. I was honored to represent Bradford Christian Academy. Over two days participants discussed and debated crucial issues as we sought to articulate priorities for the future of Christian education. According to ACSI Foundation Director, Jan Stump, “This conversation has already informed ACSI’s strategic initiatives, launched research, strengthened higher education relationships, and birthed partnerships. It also provides direction to the Foundation’s strategic plan, and a case for support to fulfill its transformational mission.” You can read a full article about this meeting from Christian School Education Magazine Vol. 19, No. 1 here.
I’m inspired by the initiatives that came out of ACSI Foundation’s strategic conversation just as I am inspired by the learning I see taking place at Bradford Christian every day. I am privileged to know parents who want their children to experience a robust educational program and to be influenced by talented teachers who value their children’s minds and hearts. I highly esteem our teachers who intentionally, painstakingly integrate faith and learning in their classrooms. And, I revel in watching students, day by day, year by year, grow into spiritually, intellectually mature, wise people. They show us that our efforts are worthwhile as they go forth from Bradford Christian to college, and then to the wide world beyond embodying both the faith and intellectual values they learned as members of our school community.