“The primary goal of Christian education is the formation of a peculiar people—a people who desire the Kingdom of God.” James K.A. Smith
As I reflect on almost 40 years in Christian education, I am extremely grateful for the conversations/practices that our Christian schools are continuing to have. The never-ending struggle on how to connect our Christian faith with learning, as well as how to honour our students as image-bearers and agents of reconciliation, is alive and well. In his book, “Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation”, Jamie Smith talks about the primary goal of Christian education being the formation of a peculiar people, a people who desire the Kingdom of God. Smith challenges educators to create opportunities for learning and discipleship that deepen patterns and behaviours for justice, love and mercy. His famous analogy that students are not “brains on a stick” helps all of us to move beyond just the passing on of knowledge to our students to thinking deeply about our pedagogy, how to engage students in their learning, and connect their learning to works of service.
By using the word, “peculiar”, to describe ourselves as well as our students, we begin to question how we may be peculiar or different. Will our neighbours know us for our love and caring? Do we fight for justice and mercy? Are we attuned to the plight of the vulnerable? Are we hospitable and welcoming to the “stranger at our gates”, the refugee, the immigrant? Are we using our power and privilege for the common good? Can we look for ways to be inclusive and be people of shalom? It begins with us. As educators, we have a holy calling on our lives to work, play and learn with our students. We need to be a peculiar people, educators who desire the Kingdom of God and are willing to continually examine ourselves as both educators and Christians.
We know we will never arrive but we always strive for God’s Kingdom here on earth. And when we see our Christian schools in a never-ending search for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, we know that we have communities that too can be called peculiar. Much courage and perseverance to every stakeholder in Christian education today!