The changes that we see occurring nationally in school curriculum developments are founded on pragmatism and take the view that education exists to provide good factory fodder for the workplace.
As this trend towards pragmatism grows we will see the attention that schools give to pastoral care, declining. For one thing there will not be sufficient time in the school day to do much more than assess and record the academic progress of students. I believe that we need to address the issues of what, and how, we teach so that we are not borne along with the pragmatic flow. But it is not enough to simply oppose the pragmatic flow.
It seems to me that our churches and our schools may be heading for dangerous waters. The danger will be that Christian Schooling will be defined and determined, not by adherence to Biblical Christian principles and a dependence upon the Spirit of God, but rather by simply ensuring that in our schools we maintain a discreet, definable difference from the prevailing philosophies of our public education systems. Our purpose may well be defined by our opposition to that which exists, rather than by the Word of God.
Our task is to address just one aspect of our Christian Schooling, that of pastoral care of our students. In our teaching and in our caring we need to work from basic Biblical principles which will then flow through our particular and individual personality. I have a particular style of teaching that is peculiarly me. I have a particular style of relating which is peculiarly me! It is the basic principles which need to be understood, not simply thinking what another person does. We are all unique individuals who will express the same principles in varying ways.
How we view our pastoral responsibility is determined in large measure by how we view God and how we view our young people. Our view is radically different from that held by the world, and that is what needs to be our starting point rather than comparing what we do with what others might do.
From a Biblical view each young person is a unique creation who is loved and forgiven. We need to constantly see that we are nothing more than a sinner relating to sinners, and God alone knows how to relate to sinners.
Our primary task, then, is to know God, to submit to Him as our Father and to represent His Fatherhood to our children.
Micah 6:8 reminds us;
‘He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
In all of our relationships we deal with people in the way that we believe God to be dealing with us. If we are judgemental – we are showing that we believe God acts in a judgemental way towards us. If we are unforgiving – we believe God is unforgiving. If we take sin lightly – we believe that sin is overlooked by God.
It is not that we are being God to our young people, but that we know of our security in God’s grace – that we are loved, forgiven, disciplined etc. From this basis of truth and security, we will be able to assure our children of their security.
Matthew 6 : 14-15
“For, if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
We forgive in the way that we believe we have been forgiven. If we do not relate on a basis of forgiveness then obviously we do not believe that we have been forgiven, therefore we continue to carry our sin. We cannot truly represent the nature of God to our children in any other way than we understand the relationship of God to us (see 1 John 3 16-20)
Given this understanding, it seems to me that the children in our schools could be forgiven for thinking that God has a major preoccupation with hair length, shiny shoes, correct uniform and homework tasks!
In Old Testament times, the wisdom and understanding of the Israelites would be seen by other nations, because of the closeness of their God (Deuteronomy 4: 7). A God who expressed covenant love to His people irrespective of their righteousness (Deuteronomy 9 4-6). The New Testament clearly identifies that the disciples of Jesus will be known distinctively by their love (John 13 :35 etc).
As educators we are the people primarily responsible for determining the correct basis of pastoral care and relationship – not by simply writing policies but by living in a relationally correct way and caring for one another in the correct servant manner.
Ephesians 5 tells us that the degree and nature of love in a family is determined by the husband, which in turn is determined by the husband’s understanding of the love of Jesus. Just as a husband is the head of his family and is to be as Jesus Christ to His wife and children, so we could say that a principal is the head of his or her school and thus in large measure determines the nature of the relationships within the school.
Everything that happens in our school is a direct result of who we are as a person, what we believe, and the goals, aims and purposes that we have or do not have.
Consider the nature of God in Psalm 89: 28-37; couple this with our understanding of the grace of God through Jesus (eg Romans 8 : 38-39) and we have a basic context in which to operate.
We need to continually develop a correct understanding of the way our Father relates with us. This comes from reading the Word of God, prayer and revelation by His Spirit. We could consider a few starting points in relation to Jesus Christ which would influence the pastoral care of our students :
|He did not condemn, He forgave||John 3: 16, 17|
|He helped others||Luke 7: 16|
|He grieved when tragedy struck||Matthew 14: 13|
|He showed compassion recognising their needs||Matthew 14: 14|
|He healed the sick||Matthew 14: 14|
|He showed humility||Matthew 5: 38, 39|
|He showed generosity||Matthew 5: 40-42|
|He prayed for others||Matthew 14: 23
Luke 22: 31, 32
|He rebuked when it was necessary||Luke 9: 55|
|He was a comforter and an encourager||John 14: 1-27|
|He accepted people as they were||Romans 5: 8-11|
|He listened patiently with sensitivity||John 4: 5-28
John 13: 36; 14: 14
Reflection and thoughts to be considered in our intentional Pastoral are
- Our own relationship with God is a crucial factor in determining relationships with students.
- It is essential that we view each student from a Biblical viewpoint, as image bearers of God.
Matthew 18:5, “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
- We need to respect diversity in students and appreciate that their differences help to make the Body of Christ.
- We need to view the teaching function Biblically.
“The Christian School exists to glorify the Lord, to bear witness to His Kingship and to extol His name above all others.”
“Our behaviour and responsibility expectations must be Biblical and God honouring. They must also be designed for the good of the students whom we serve, not for our comfort or ease of administration. They should encourage opportunities for all students to develop their capabilities and personalities to be used for the good for the whole body.”
Ephesians 6: 1-4
‘Justice without love leads to a stern security; “love” without justice leads to a weak warmth; justice and love lead to an authentic atmosphere.”
Dr Bill Anderson
- We need to know where true security is to be found and aid the transfer of the child’s dependency upon the teacher to dependency upon God. A disciplining function. We are heading for brotherhood (1 Timothy 5: 1-2) Room for development of decision making and responsibility. Encouragement of “Christ Esteem” rather than “Self Esteem.”
- We need to ensure an atmosphere of reconciliation and forgiveness.
2 Corinthians 5: 18-19
1 Thessalonians 5: 11 – Encourage and build
“Relationship” ultimately replaces “Laws” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
- We need to develop a community of respect – based on the knowledge and acceptance of God’s authority
Our school environment should be characterised by respect for the dignity of each person, by justice and forgiveness and by the acceptance of differences, so that the unique value of each person before God is a living reality.
All people (staff, students, parents etc) need encouragement to respect themselves as individuals who bear the image of God; to respect others as loved by God; to respect our community which is the body of Christ; to respect God’s creation which we have been given to have dominion over, to enjoy and in which to see God. Staff should insist on respect from their students. Ephesians 6:2 etc. Respect is also gained by showing love, fairness, integrity, diligence etc …”
- We need to deal with attitudes rather than behaviours.
Other possibilities to think about
If we agree that the quality of staff / student relationships will largely be determined by the adult (ie you!), we need to consider a few things about ourselves!
Are we secure in the love of God?
Are we approachable? Do we reveal an interest who people are; not merely how they conform or how they achieve?
Are we transparent? Do we reveal our own attitudes, interests and convictions?
Are we learning to look past problem behaviours and problem people to problem relationships?
Do we appreciate the value of empathy; are we prepared to give time to others?
Do we constantly look to the reconciliation of difficulties; are we always conveying hope?
Are we actively seeking a family spirit within our classes?
Do we welcome participation by our students and respect their integrity?
Some things that we do at Emmanuel Christian Community School (Not exhaustive … but sometimes exhausting!).
- The Principal/Teachers need(s) to be a “wanderer”! Take time to interact with students. Write lots of letters / cards etc
- The degree and quality of pastoral care for staff directly effects the degree of pastoral care to students
- ALL staff are involved with students.
- Regular Bible teaching about the nature of God, the nature of man etc
- Regular worship together. Class, Year levels, School Sections, Whole School
- Regularly praying together as a class, between students, staff and students. Class “Prayer Diaries”.
- Regularly studying God’s Word together.
- Celebrating together! Birthdays, Family events, Farewells, sometimes communion! Always the focus is on what the Father has done for us.
- In-School Work Experience – an encouragement to serve one another and appreciate tasks that are done by others.
- Resolving conflict. If we are hurt, then it HAS to be resolved. Unresolved hurt always festers unless the parties involved deal with it Biblically (See Matthew 18: 15-17). There has to be unity of relationship.
- Continual encouragement, comforting and urging even when it is difficult to encourage, comfort and urge or to be encouraged, comforted and urged. On what basis did Paul do it with the Thessalonians? See 1 Thess 2: 11-12.
- Show initiative in helping a struggling student.
- Recognise that pastoral care is not only for the student ‘in trouble’. We are empowering young people for service – they need to be cared for so that they will know how to care for others.
- Expect to be cared for by our students. Make our needs known – there is only one Shepherd, we are all sheep!
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as I face you are doing” – 1 Thessalonians 5: 11
‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
Emmanuel Christian Community School has a strong Pastoral Program. We believe it is our strength. This is what we aim for and everything else we do falls under this umbrella. We strive for academic excellence and want to be the best in educational practice but above all we seek to place Christ first. To that extent, the school is in the process of actively implementing the following:
- Training our teachers to teach from a Christian Biblical World view.
- Training our Teachers to be qualified facilitators, through New Hope International, to train teachers to be ‘Christian Teachers’ in our own community and overseas.
- Two of our facilitator teachers are involved with the training of West Timor teachers to become ‘Christian Teachers’
- There is an students/teachers exchange program with a West Timor Christian School.
- Our students are actively involved in missionary work to financially and prayerfully supporting Christian organisations and Christian schools in Africa such as the ministry of ‘Eagles Wings.’ This is an organization founded by an ex Emmanuel student.
- Our High School students will commence in 2017 (fourth term) a program to equip them to share the Gospel.
Boost is a series of 6 intensives one per term, pitched at 15+ aged youth, that develops those who have received the Gospel (via a camp or other series) along a Pathway towards being missionaries in secular-humanist Australia. Boost addresses the fact that we live in a now-pagan Australia and need to be sure of our foundations, and how to use our foundations to interact influentially with the broader secular-humanist culture, and the different individuals and groups within it. Participants will set firm foundations, receive core practices to do personally and in supportive accountability with their church/groups. They will understand their contexts, and be trained as cross-worldview missionaries.
- The Girrawheen Baptist Church has 6 pastors available, together with the Chin and Karen fellowship’s pastors, to support the ministry of the school through pastoral care.
- A strong prayer support group meeting on a regular basis.
- A prayerful school board where 1/3 of its board meetings is dedicated to prayer and Bible reading.
I Corinthians 13 for Teachers
If I am an entertaining and articulate teacher, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I have all wisdom in dealing with student and parent issues that arise, and have not love, I am nothing.
If I give my free time grading, creating exciting lesson plans, and designing stellar bulletin boards; and have not love, I am nothing.
- Love is patient
It does not get annoyed with the drumming pencil or the millionth time a student asks, “what page are we on?”
- Love is kind
It speaks to students with kindness, even in times of discipline. It looks for little ways throughout the day to show students care.
- Love does not envy or boast
It does not “show off” bulletin boards, lesson ideas, etc. to show up other teachers.
- Love is not arrogant
It listens respectfully to the opinions of others and is willing to admit that it is wrong. It is even willing to ask forgiveness from students or other faculty when necessary.
- Love is not rude
It finds ways to discipline students without belittling or embarrassing them.
- Love does not insist on its own way
It does not get out of sorts when its lesson does not go according to plan or when scheduling does not work out in its favor. It does not consider its way the only way to do things.
- Love is not irritable or resentful
It gives students a clean slate daily and doesn’t hold grudges. It doesn’t take student behavior personally. Its mood is not dictated by outside circumstances.
- Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth
It looks for the positives in the students instead of focusing in on their weaknesses. It doesn’t feel smug or justified when the student “gets what’s coming to him”. It is heartbroken when a student makes wrong choices, not because those choices affect the day, but because those choices are displeasing to God.
- Love bears all things
It sets aside its constant to-do list to really listen to what’s on students’ hearts and minds. It finds time to listen to the looong stories, pray for a pet guinea pig, and counsel the friendship drama at recess. These problems that seem so trivial to most are very real and heavy burdens on our students’ hearts.
- Love believes all things
It believes the best about the students.
- Love hopes all things
Even after a rough day, it is still hopeful knowing that it was a day in which God was working His grace and perfect plan.
- Love endures all things
It keeps going day in and day out. It doesn’t give up on any child because God never gives up on us.
- Love never ends
If you are like me, I see so many areas that I failed in loving my students today. Can I tell you a secret? There is no way that you or I can daily show that kind of love to our students without God’s grace! We need God to work in our hearts and give us that spirit of love.
II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
When I realize that I am not loving my students as I ought to be, I need to look back to the love of God for me. He has loved me despite my sinfulness, and He has offered me grace to love my students in the same unconditional way. It’s all grace!