How do we do Christian education in the days of the COVID-19? To Love is to risk.

These are very interesting, trying times!

We are currently facing unprecedented, worldwide disruptions to all that we know due to the unknowns of the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 comes on the back of massive change that has been occurring during the 21st century as technology continues to shift the ways that we work, live and interact with each other. In the western world parts of the church are in decline and our freedoms to operate a Christian School are often under attack. Mental health is an increasing issue and social media is creating a simultaneously more connected yet disconnected society. There are so many complexities that Christian Schools need to operate within and yet still be faithful to the gospel. How do we educate our students, love our neighbours and raise responsive disciples of Christ in these ever-changing days?

Lynne Swaner, Dan Bereens and Erik Ellefsen have recently edited a book of case studies of people who have such a deep love for Christian Schools, that they have been willing to take significant educational risks to make changes to their schools to meet the complex needs of families and children in the 21st century. The book is called ‘Mindshift: Catalysing Change in Christian Education’ and is definitely worth reading. The editors propose that if we deeply love something or someone, we will be willing to take deep risks to create change and ensure its survival.

Swaner, Bereens and Ellefsen suggest that by not innovating and changing we run a greater risk than that of staying the same. Each of the case studies presented in the book hold to three commonalities:

  1. A deep conviction the God is sovereign. In these trying times it is even more important to love God and to serve our neighbour, resting in the promises of God and the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
  2. That we are designed to walk together in community and not alone. I think this is particularly relevant in these days of intentional social isolation where community will become even more important in supporting one another emotionally and spiritually.
  3. That we have graciously been invited into the Kingdom for such a time as this. God has a bigger story that He brings us into, as we trust in Him. This understanding allows us to enjoy the journey as we submit deeply to Him.

It is these three commonalities that should frame our approach to creating and developing innovative Christian Schools in the 21st century.

So what does this have to do with MECS? We deeply love Christian education here at MECS and that deep love means that sometimes we will need to take deep risks to be innovative in order to help MECS meet the challenging needs of today. We need to continue to look for ways to engage with the needs of the 21st century learner so that we can help our students to speak into their generation.

Some of the leaders of MECS had the privilege of hearing Henry Contant, Canadian Leader of Christian education, speak last week. He challenged us to think about the school that we need to be in 2034, when this year’s 3 year old kinder students graduate. What will they need to know? What skills will they need to have? What decisions do we need to make now to help create a school that will be suitable in 14 year’s time? All of these decisions require deep love, deep risk and deep innovation. Very challenging indeed!

Looking at the immediate days, we have the looming probability that we will have to shut down for a period of time to help contain COVID-19. This presents a new set of challenges for us and an opportunity to love our students and Christian education deeply, and take risks in being innovative so our students can continue their learning and being part of community. We will most likely be running lessons online for secondary students and providing a very different learning experience compared to what students are used to. This will give students a chance to develop the skills needed to work synchronously with others not in the same location, improving communication, creativity and critical thinking skills. It will no doubt be a time of challenge for all.

Living in the 21st century definitely has its advantages and disadvantages, and the prospect of shutting down schools and going into social isolation is somewhat daunting. However, it is through times like this that we need to continue to press into the sovereignty of God, be a part of and care for our community, and remember that God has created us for such a time as this.