Seven MindShift Principles for Christian Education

Dr. Lynn SwanerThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

Mindshift

Are you one of the nearly 11,000 Christian educators who have picked up a copy of MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education since its release last fall? If so, we hope you’ve been inspired by the 17 authors’ insights on how Christian schools can provide a more deeply and authentically Christian education, reach our neighbors with Christ’s story of love and hope, and catalyze the growth of the Church and the Kingdom into the future.

The book was not the end of the MindShift, however! After its release, a subset of the book authors worked collaboratively to develop seven “Mindshift principles.” These are meant to be conversation starters for educators. We list them in this blog post, and encourage you to read them through with colleagues and discuss which ones resonate in your own experience or context, and why.

Principle #1: Aligning Vision and Action.

This requires knowing who we are as educators and who God has called our schools to be—and then acting on that vision daily, from hiring to curriculum to leadership style to student life and community engagement. Alignment of vision and action happens through honest reflection, humble self-evaluation, a spirit of openness, and commitment to continual revision (a “whatever-it-takes” mentality). The opposite of aligning vision and action is institutionalization—doing things the same way just because they’ve always been done that way.

Principle #2: Journey-Mindedness.

We are continually in process. We recognize change takes time and enjoy the journey. We commit to taking the journey together, in Christ-like community, whether in our local school or in connecting with educators across the world. The opposite of journey-mindedness is seeking that “one right solution,” instead of collaborating with others to develop adaptive strategies for change.

Principle #3: The Student as Image-Bearer.

As educators, our most important task is helping our students discover who God has made them to be and how they can participate to the fullest in God’s story. (Ephesians 2:10). Because of this, we seek to educate the whole student and engage students fully in learning. This is reflected in our schools’ physical spaces, our curriculum, our schedules, and our teaching. Even though it has eternal reward, treating students like image-bearers is hard and never-ending work. For this reason, the opposite of an Ephesians 2:10 education is designing schools around what’s easiest for adults.

Principle #4:  Beautiful Work.

In line with Ephesians 2:10, the goal of education is for students to learn to create beautiful work. Beautiful work takes time, and is revised and refined through a process of critique, honest feedback, and revision. We celebrate not just the final product, but the process to get there. Work is most beautiful when it has a real life application, thereby enabling students to engage with God’s redemptive work in the world. The opposite of beautiful work is an exclusive, driving focus on the “normative markers” of success in education, like cumulative grades and standardized test scores.

Principle #5: Love of Neighbor.

Schools and educators who engage in MindShift continually ask of themselves and their students, “What does love require?” The answer always requires a rejection of isolation and striving for proximity—and teaching ourselves and our students to do the same. The mission of Christian education goes beyond political, geographic, and socioeconomic boundaries. Our ultimate goal is for our students to be the fragrance of Christ to others (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Principle #6:  Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice.

Revelation 7:9 makes it clear that heaven will be populated by all people groups—and thus so should our Christian schools. We also take seriously the biblical mandates to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), to live humbly and harmoniously with those who differ from us (Romans 12:16), and to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). The implications of these scriptures for how we educate students and create communities are profound—and if we are to grasp and actuate them, we need to learn from and with each other. For both educators and students, this requires honest dialogue, time and space, humble hearts and minds, and a commitment to trust-building.

Principle #7:  Hope Over Fear.

In a time of rapid disruption and destabilization, we push back against fear that inevitably accompanies change. We embrace the hope and joy in the face of challenge that comes from living a Gospel-centered, Spirit-led life of service. The opposite of choosing hope over fear is retrenchment and self-preservation (often evidenced by doubling-down on failing strategies). Instead, like the faithful servants in Matthew 25, we delight to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel—knowing that it all belongs to Him, and great is His reward.

Recommended Resources

[Editor’s Note: This post is co-published by the ACSI blog and the CACE blog, in an effort to bring innovative and relevant thinking in Christian education to our respective readerships.]

Authors

  • Dr. Lynn Swaner, Converge 2022 Chairperson, is the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at ACSI, where she leads initiatives and develops strategies to address compelling questions and challenges facing Christian education. Dr. Swaner serves as a Cardus Senior Fellow and co-author or editor of multiple books on Christian education, including Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools (forthcoming 2021 from Eerdmans) and MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education. She can be reached via email at lynn_swaner@acsi.org and followed on Twitter @LynnSwaner1.
  • Dan Beerens is an educational consultant, author, international speaker, and educational leader. Before starting Dan Beerens Consulting in May 2010, he served as Vice President of Learning Services and Director of Instructional Improvement at Christian Schools International. Prior to that, he was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Holland Christian Schools. Dan has also worked as teacher and principal in urban and suburban public and Christian schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. He serves as a Senior Fellow at CACE (Center for the Advancement of Christian Education), represents Curriculum Trak sales and professional development and serves as co-chair of the annual Christian Deeper Learning conference. He blogs regularly for CACE and is the author of Evaluating Teachers for Professional Growth: Creating a Culture of Motivation and Learning (Corwin Press) and co-editor of the recent book MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education (ACSI).

  • Erik Ellefsen has served in education for 21 years as a teacher, coach, consultant, Grievance Chairman for the American Federation of Teachers, Dean of Academics at Boston Trinity Academy, and as Principal at Chicago Christian High School. He currently serves as an Academic and College Counselor at Valley Christian High School (San Jose, CA), a Senior Fellow for CACE, a Senior Fellow for Cardus, podcaster for Digical Education, and as Vice President of CCEI. Erik regularly organizes Christian school leadership seminars and speaks on issues pertaining to academic program, student leadership, and organizational development. He can be reached via email at eellefsen@vcs.net.

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