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 :