Statistics are staggering when we look at many issues affecting our children, even in Christian homes.
Our issues include:
- anxiety and depression
- disrespectful, disconnected relationships with parents
- gender confusion, pornography & other sex related issues
- cutting, eating disorders, addictions, suicide
- recovery from disappointment and trauma
- resistance to negative cultural influences
- academic struggles, ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and learning disabilities
Our children are teaching us that there is something deeply out of order, deeply imbalanced, deeply in need of understanding, and largely in need of different options in Christian education.
The first step to transforming this problem is to understand it, and we’ve not yet done a great job of that as a coordinated effort in the Christian community, especially in the Christian education community.
No one argues that we live in a fallen world; we know when our bodies are hit with toxins, trauma, stress, and the accompanying emotions and hormones, these strains interfere with our normal body chemistry and tangle and delay personal maturity, academic possibilities, physical and relational health.
Our children – even in Christian homes – are not prepared to deal with these numerous burdens and recover from their effects. Even if they are performing in school, are they really learning? Many students can pass a vocabulary test, but struggle to have a meaningful conversation.
There is hope; miracles are a part of the story, too. When families and educators address the spiritual and emotional issues, academic and relational problems start to resolve.
The “normal” path in education today includes compliance, behavior modification, testing, labeling, special education, retention, significant workloads and homework expectations…
The “normal” path in Christian education includes these components, too – and this doesn’t make reliable sense. Christian education isn’t about learning to live the old life better; Christian education is about learning to live the new life well.
Confusing these issues further is that Christian schools sometimes (often) limit enrollment to “academically able,” suggesting that “struggle” isn’t something “normal” Christians do, or that adult Christians don’t know how to deal with struggle in any practical and effective way.
This isn’t Christian education; it’s a misuse of the Gospel.
Many of these issues are the direct fruit of our current education system.
I have witnessed an abundance of intriguing individual cases that offer great hope; they cry out to be better studied and documented.
People assume children can’t recover from – that they must just be treated for – ADHD, anxiety and depression issues, dyslexia, and learning disabilities; children with relational struggles and maturity delays are often predicted to just “always be that way.”
Children do recover from these struggles; I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen kids recover from autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, dyslexia, relational and maturity delays. (http://www.janetnewberry.com/testimonials/)
If, as a Christian community, we do our work deeply – in understanding the maturity and educational issues of our children, capturing the stories of their growth and recovery, and developing best practices, – we’ll be able to document this growth and recovery in ways that cannot be dismissed.
This work is the most important issue in Christian education today. The answers we discover and develop will produce two vital end results:
- Children will know how to beloved and love others well.
- Students will succeed academically and in life.
We need to observe how this really happens, and reverse engineer it – so we can do it for everyone. Research, at best, has been largely fragmented across different communities.
No significant, comprehensive study in Christian education has been executed; that’s part of the fierce urgency for now.
We’ve been trained to believe less than what is the true potential of our children – especially when our children struggle.
We’ve been trained, even as Christian parents and teachers, to respond to their struggles (and their day to day lives) in ways that compromise maturity, relational health, and academic hunger and success, instead of ways that support these vital indicators of abundant life.
Too often our response to trauma and crisis becomes our daily way of relating; imagine continuing to live in emergency shelters long after a natural disaster has passed. The education industry has built standardized curriculum and “best practices” – not on theological and neurological research – but instead on repeated responses to struggle. Our children need more than another realignment of an outdated, broken system.
We need a fundamental rethinking in Christian education on the power of grace and the Gospel – and a minimization of anything less. We need a practical working understanding of what it means to apply the power of grace to day to day education issues and family concerns.
As we blaze this trail, others can learn as we have – that it is possible to look at each child, to remove obstacles to maturity and learning, to encourage healthy responses, and to do that in a way that is both as mysterious as the power of grace and as beautifully dependable.
We’re losing a generation of children; that’s what’s at stake. If we project the current trends just a few decades – in anxiety, depression, learning disabilities…, the future will be anything but the abundant life that Jesus died and rose again to give us.
The costs to continue on our current course are astronomical – measurably in the arenas that specialize in emotional and educational recovery, and immeasurably in marriage and family relational health.
A devastating cost for the Christian community is a loss of hope in the real power of grace as practically applicable to day to day struggles and relationships.
The time is now for the Christian community to take revolution in Christian education seriously; our future depends on it. We need to start talking about our children’s maturity and relational health issues – not just their performance and their labels.
Will you help us?
Janet Newberry & Company exists to build a platform – ideologically and financially – for John 15 Academy. Please also read DOCUMENTING GRACE in Education and help us spread the word.
We’re encouraged by all we have already witnessed. We need help to continue to step boldly into this dream.(http://www.janetnewberry.com/testimonials/)
Contact us to learn more about how you can get involved and join us in this grand adventure.