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From Our CEO

I’ve been to a few events in recent months and it’s been fantastic at these times to share with schools the distinctive nature of Christian education and what makes a CEN school tick. One of the things I have had on my heart to share is the work of John Van Dyk, a leader in Christian education who was influential in my formative years as a young teacher. John Van Dyk spoke of the three options for Christian schools. They could be Tacky, Dualistic, or Authentic.

Tacky Christian schools, as an example, add biblical quotations out of context to their curriculum. For example, students may be learning about the Gold Rush and the Bible text applied to that, might be Matthew 2 “Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”. It’s out of context, it goes nowhere, and it feels pretty tacky. Tacky is also perhaps reading the same prayer every day, without meaning or definition. Or, it might be having lots of scriptures quoted around the school on plaques that gather dust but are not explored and unravelled.

Schools that fall into the trap of being dualistic, as I’m sure we work to being aware of, might value the importance of starting the day in prayer and opening the Bible for a 10 minute devotion, but then the Bible is left on the shelf and the “real” learning begins, unless it’s picked up again for a Bible lesson.

John Van Dyk suggests, that:

Teaching is guiding via unfolding towards enabling… he says “I tend to think that this formula points to the universal character of all teaching, Christian or secular. Secular teaching, too, guides, unfolds and enables… The crucial difference… lies in the answers to these questions:

1.  Towards which destination is the teacher guiding the student? Merely towards self-reliance, social adjustment and solid citizenship? Or to the person God intended them to be; doing the good works he has planned for them to do?

2.  And what is the teacher unfolding? Merely a world of nature controlled by natural law? Or a creation revealing God’s presence, power and love?

3.  And to what end are they enabling? To be successful participants in the Western way of material consumerism? Or to be agents of Christ’s reconciliation.

An authentic Christian school is going to allow scripture to impact all of school life, from policies to printmaking, from PE to parent nights.

It’s a school that is going to want their students to be a:

God worshiper
Idolatry discerner
Earth Keeper
Beauty Creator
Justice seeker
Creation enjoyer
Servant Worker
Community Builder
Image Reflector
Order Discoverer
(The Prairie Centre for Christian Education, Teaching for Transformation Through Lines)


Let’s strive for authenticity in all that we do, as we seek to be transformed by God in all things.

Michelle Dempsey

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