As many of you know, Dordt University takes its name from the historic Synod of Dort held in Dordrecht, the Netherlands in 1618-1619. Arising from that six-month assembly was the Canons of Dort, one of the major confessional statements of Reformed churches. The Canons of Dort were a response to controversial theological statements made by the followers of Jacob Arminius; the Canons emphasize the sovereignty of God through his electing grace. Whereas the Synod accomplished many things, one phrase that I have come to love, church-home-school, has been said to emerge from the Synod’s ordering of three kinds of catechizing: at home, at school, and at church.
This phrase came to life for me under the first principal I worked for, a man who became one of my personal mentors in Christian school leadership, Ray Leenstra. Ray was a giant–6’5” with a wingspan twice that length. No one ever beat him in badminton during my time at Redlands Christian. He could cover the entire court without moving his feet. However, he was also the gentlest man I knew. I can still remember him picking up Jill and me from the airport when we returned from a trip with our six-month-old son. He took Matthew in his giant hands and made him coo and laugh while we recovered our bags. He constantly put people over any process; he spent hours with families who were hurting, students in need of restoration, and faculty in need of encouragement. Ray also fostered the true partnership Redlands had with the church adjacent to the school’s property; the two institutions shared parking, facilities, and other resources.
When new families would come for a school tour, they would end their visit in Ray’s office. At that point, Ray would stand up and grab a three-legged stool from his bookcase. Each leg was labeled (with church, home, or school) and painted a different color. Ray would share the power of this partnership, its potential to form a 1 Peter 2:9 type of person: chosen, royal, holy, peculiar. I deeply appreciated witnessing these moments, experiencing Ray’s intentionality in these conversations and his passion as he shared with families the importance of children being actively involved in church, how spiritual life needs to be fostered at home, and the promise that Redlands Christian School made toward children’s spiritual formation. How firm a foundation is established when the “catechizing” of church-home-school is aligned.
I don’t hear that message from the pulpit as often as I used to, and I miss that emphasis. I still believe strongly in that concept of church-home-school, and the image of the three-legged stool in Ray’s office will stay with me forever. So, when I do hear a sermon on Christian education, like the one Pastor John Lee shared last month, I want to share it with everyone I know. Take some time to listen to Pastor Lee’s message on “why we shouldn’t choose Christian schools” and “why we should choose Christian schools.” You will be glad you did!
Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.