Part 1: Introduction
My wife Katie and I recently returned from a trip to Australia where we spoke at the Associated Christian Schools Leadership Summit near Brisbane. As we prepared to address the leaders of hundreds of schools throughout the nation, we wanted our words to be relevant for Christian school leaders on that side of the world. We hoped to make our message compelling for educators seeking excellence within the framework of a biblical worldview. Our research revealed that the issues impacting Christian and independent schools in Australia were and are nearly identical to those experienced in the United States.
In some ways this commonality made our task easier as the trends I have been tracking over the past several years truly mirror those Down Under. Many of the trends causing us to examine what we do, why we do it, and how we do it revolve around the rapid changes in the world due to political upheaval, economic uncertainty, and technological breakthroughs. More and more, our Christian schools are institutions that differ greatly from the world’s institutions around us. Our faith differentiates us in ways not previously evident in the United States (and also in Australia), creating an obvious distinction—our Christian foundation.
Growth in private schools
The first trend recognized was the rapid growth of Christian and independent schools since the pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19, private schools across both nations have (statistically speaking, but not in every case) seen significant growth in enrollment. More families are seeking our schools for numerous reasons—quality of education, the chance to be in school face-to-face and not online, a reprieve from some of the social positions they see as antithetical to their faith, and in some cases, as an escape from the world around them.
I do not wish for our schools to be an escape from the world or from people of other faiths and ideologies to which we have been called to engage and bless. However, the reality is that political, social, and educational upheaval has created a desire for families to leave schools and systems that were once beloved but are now causing concern, and in some cases, consternation.
Anecdotally, at the school I was privileged to lead for the past five years, more and more families had departed public schools considered to be some of the best in the state. Families sought Christian education for the reasons described above. They desired a refuge from social positions they disagreed with, and in many cases, a more excellent education than their children were receiving online.
The opportunity before us
Christian schools are seeing a renaissance for the first time in years. After decades of decline in enrollment, school closings, and mediocre education in too many of our schools, those of us in Christian education recognize the opportunity before us: to respond to the expressed need for excellent Christian schools that train children to serve and impact the world around them.
“As school leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure the durability and longevity of our schools.”
In this blog series, I look forward to sharing ideas from research I have done on schools of excellence. These posts will address several more trends creating both opportunity and concern. Additionally, I will discuss pillars of excellence that every school must consider as they seek to grow in numbers, impact, and sustainability.
As school leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure the durability and longevity of our schools. We cannot simply survive. Those days are gone. Fortunately, we are living in a bountiful, opportune time for Christian schooling. We need to plan for the future while meeting our daily obligations with faithful diligence.
Ultimately, we seek to ensure that our students will leave our hallowed halls and engage the world around them as a faithful presence on college and university campuses, in the workplace, in the halls of power, and in the families they shepherd. What an opportunity we have to dig in, not shelter in place; to engage, not shrink away; and to lead in a world desperate for positive role models and leaders of courage, integrity, and godly character.