And How Are the Children?

And How Are the Children?

( The mighty Masai tribe of people in Africa are among the most notable warriors in history for their fierce victories and intelligence in winning intense battles. No other tribe were anything like these mighty warriors. Yet it may be surprising to learn the traditional greeting that passed between Masai warriors: “Kasserian Ingera,” meaning, “And how are the children?”

“And how are the children?” is still today the traditional greeting among the Masai, recognizing the great value the Masai place on their children’s prosperity. Warriors with no children would still reply, “All the children are well.” Meaning peace and safety prevail, the young are safe and protected and the powerless are looked after. The response means the Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. “All the children are well” means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of life have not taken priority over caring for the young.

You can tell a lot about an individual, family, school and society by the importance and value they place upon all children.

Children are our future and they are as a friend of mine said, “A big deal for Jesus.” Children are the future of our societies and Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to them. The importance of children in the plan of God can not be overlooked. Jesus said unless we change and become like little children we can not enter the kingdom of heaven.

So we have a lot to learn from children.

Humility. Reconciliation. Faith. Love. Forgiveness. Mercy. Joy. Peace.

They exemplify so much of the kingdom in their lives. We need to learn from them and they need to learn from us. As they grow older raising kids to model the characteristics of Christ into the teenage years and beyond is no easy task. 

Christian schools in our community play an important role in reinforcing the principles that are being introduced at home and lived out in the context of a Christian community. And we would do well to ask and answer, “And how are the children doing?”

Have Christian schools become a place for children to thrive?

Have we kept the first things in first place? Training and teaching children to love Jesus well and to understand the role they play in God’s story?

Have we put differences aside for the good of the children?

That’s why school accountability and leadership is so important at Christian schools according to Brian Kennerly,

President of CESA, (Council on Educational Standards & Accountability).

According to Kennerly at Christian schools there must be a higher standard in staff and leadership of the school that prevents what he describes as a trend among schools to compromise.

Many Christian schools would do well to heed the warning of Kennerly to not drift from the task of training up disciples to go into all the world with the truth of the Gospel. Whether as missionaries, doctors, lawyer, educators or tradesmen, we must continue our mission of raising up world changers and not just go with the trends of the day and the lure for better status and technology at the expense of our Christian mission.

If we do, we may end up compromising truth, accountability, transparency and honesty.

But Kennerly says it is indeed possible to have a strong Christian mission and strong academics as well. “You can have a strong Christian mission and strong academics. You don’t have to compromise,” according to Kennerly. CESA, the organization Kennerly leads was formed because they are seeing a compromise at many Christian schools who are saying one thing but not living it out, a trend they are hoping to reverse.

Kennerly believes at least one pastor should be serving on every school board because they can offer a theological perspective and view things from a godly perspective when others may not be able to. In most independent Christian schools today for example there is no spiritual oversight or spiritual accountability.

“In a Christian school there are going to be issues, but the question is, how will you deal with them?,” commented Kennerly. 

The answer can make or break a Christian school and its focus of putting children first.

CESA focuses on the way the schools are governed as the issue that makes the biggest impact. There are a number of factors currently affecting our community’s children that affect the well-being of children in our community:

Transparency in leadership. Christian schools need to let their light shine in the community and that means they need to be held to an even higher standard of transparency. For example, open board meetings. Public schools make their board meetings open to the whole community, because when children are involved, the whole community is involved. Having a select group of friends running a school is a lose - lose situation.  Why not allow open meetings at private schools that allow stakeholders to voice their concerns and hear them out.

Tony Baldasaro of Transleadership said this, “It’s easy to say you are a transparent leader. A previous educational leader for whom I used to work for was famous for starting sentences with, “In the interest of transparency…” which only made me wonder what thoughts he had that were NOT in the interest of transparency.  He was good at saying what needed to be said at the time to look as though he was being transparent, but those who really knew him, knew that there was more that was not said and his motives for transparency were simply politically motivated.  They were cowardly actions designed to only make him look good.

A noble leader looks at transparency not as a series of single calculated acts, but as routine behavior. Transparent leaders are not only uncompromisingly public with their thoughts, motives, and vulnerabilities, but as learning leaders they are transparent in how they learn. They allow their followers to not only learn with them, but allow them to teach them as well.  Transparent leaders are as steadfast in their willingness to learn as they are their core beliefs, and to do that, one of their core beliefs are dynamic and not steadfast.”

Accountability. Though a board hires the Head of School at a Christian school, there needs to be a higher level of accountability back to the board by the Head of School. Andy Stanley of Northpoint Church likes to say, “Leadership is a stewardship, it’s temporary, and you’re accountable.”

Making decisions without the input of a non-bias board members is something that just can’t be happening in Christian schools. A Head of School with the full rule of the school is dangerous if others can not question and object to the decisions.

Again this comes down to the question, “And how are the children?” When you are making decisions that impact children, you’re doubly accountable. Inviting hard questions and open dialogue is a must for accountability and trust. 

Conflict of Interest. Though CESA is OK with some parents being on the board, they recommend a strong mix of board accountability for Christian schools. Parents tend to care deeply about the school but there is also a caution. Avoiding conflicts of interests is key here. Being involved in the day to day business of the school makes even the teachers subject to the parents who are running the board, which is obviously a conflict of interest that should be avoided. 

Communication. School leaders are making decisions that affect the life and future of children therefore communication is essential for healthy school culture.

When children’s lives and futures are at stake, we are responsible for their well-being in our community. It’s time we take the words of Christ to heart and together work for the prosperity of those Jesus holds so dearly, the future of our communities, children.

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