Burdened by headlines of racial unrest, Christian schools across the country are seeking answers and want to know more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) They desire to create a place for learning and growth in this arena for students, faculty, and parents. Others pressured by their communities to grapple with their school’s past want to learn how to work towards a more equitable future for all.
One action taken was to create this CACE blog series called “Diversity in the Christian School.” We asked leaders in Christian education to educate our community on DEI issues and programming. These leaders have shared valuable insights from different perspectives that can guide DEI initiatives in our schools. As I read through the wisdom of my friends and colleagues, I was encouraged and thankful for the DEI work currently taking place in Christian education. I was also left with a desire to provide some practical tips for anyone wishing to implement a DEI program at their own school.
When a school considers creating a DEI program, it is important to first determine the motivation. Is the intention to create a temporary measure in response to a fire? Reactionary, short-term responses typically focus on race and/or ethnicity. They inevitably zero in on a particular situation or incident that prompts introspection and action. A reactionary response, by nature, can’t begin to address all the issues of racial and cultural inequality impacting our society. Instead, the programming acts as a temporary bandage to a larger issue. The initial response may feel successful, but after a few months, reactionary DEI efforts steadily decline. However, reactionary motives do not have to lead to short-lived DEI initiatives.
DEI at Prestonwood Christian Academy began almost 20 years ago because it was a conviction and part of our overall focus on discipleship. I strongly believe that it has been and is the intentionality, mission, and passion of the administration, faculty, staff and parents and their commitment to discipleship that has led to growth and success at PCA.
Creating a DEI Team
If a school feels called to create DEI programs, what steps should they take? First, create a diverse team of parents, faculty/staff, and leadership to take an in-depth look at DEI for your school. The group must consist of people who love the LORD and the school—people who are willing to respectfully wrestle with tough topics from a Christ-centered perspective. What is the current reality of DEI at your school (including not only statistics but also lived realities)? Does your school need to focus only on race and ethnicity, or should issues pertaining to gender, ability, and economic status be part of the programming as well? Consider hiring a diversity consultant to guide you through this time of exploration and focus.
With your areas of focus determined, it is important to articulate a DEI vision and how this vision aligns with the mission of the school. Work to create buy-in and endorsement from key constituents in various corners of the community, possibly revising your vision as you receive feedback. It is imperative that the executive leadership of your school be the ones to present this plan in order to demonstrate unity and the expectation of integrating this vision throughout the system. This approach worked well in the PCA community. Communicate the vision broadly and through different forums so that everyone understand your desires and how DEI programming will affect your school.
Finding a Skilled Leader
From there, a strategic plan should be created. How are you going to transform your vision into a reality? What are your practical steps? One of the most important aspects of a successful strategic plan is appointing a dedicated leader to head up the program. This must be someone who is fully committed to the program’s vision and success. This leader will need eyes for all areas of the school and how they are impacted by DEI. It is also critical that this person is a skilled listener. Note that this responsibility cannot be piled on to a long list of others. Without committed time, training, and compensation, this leader cannot lead well.
Whatever your motive for exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, I hope that the blog series of the past few months has helped you understand the need for and value of DEI work in our Christian school communities. Christian schools can take the lead in training our students, who can go on to make a real difference in the world. Yes, legitimate DEI efforts mean diving deep and wrestling with ideas that are uncomfortable, but it is in the difficulties that we come to a deeper knowledge of God. We have the only answer for the world’s chaos. If a goal of Christian education is to encourage students to lead in the world like Jesus, biblically-sound diversity efforts must be a priority. In his welcoming of religious and ethnic minorities, the poor, women, and children, Jesus modeled the inclusivity we must all embrace.
This article is part of a series on diversity in the Christian school.
Jenny Brady brings a unique perspective to the diversity discussion. Jenny is currently serving as the Director of Diversity for Prestonwood Christian Academy, a position created to express her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion while combining her personal experience growing up in Honduras. She holds a MS in Sociology and a BA in Spanish. In the educational realm, Jenny has worked as a teacher and administrator, and is on the Leadership Team at PCA. She is the co-creator of the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance, co-creator of the podcast GRAACE360, and is a speaker, teacher, author and trainer on diversity, equity and inclusion for schools across the country.