GCSLS 2019 was a historic summit, sponsored by eight Christian school associations, that worked to bring nearly 1,100 attendees from 25 countries, and over 75 presenters together—for two and half days of dialogue, collaboration, networking, and encouragement. The goal at GCSLS was transformational—to provide the opportunities for friction of ideas and people that sparks innovation, imagination, and a willingness to take risks.
Change is Not Always Comfortable
But it’s important to note that friction, and sparks, are not always comfortable things. In fact, friction and sparks generally produce fire—and fire can be a good, life-giving thing, but it’s also risky. And many of us may be uncomfortable with risk, and schools are often resistant to change.
But with societal changes, market changes, changes in learners’ needs, generational changes in leadership styles, and proliferation of new educational delivery models, education in most countries is under pressure to do far more with less, regardless of sector. We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to learn how to take risks again, to jump off cliffs and trust in the One who created us in His creative image.
Being Missional About Change
At the same time, we have a “north star” when we think about innovation: an authentic Christian education, which results in truly deep learning and in students’ developing spiritually, is still what’s most important to us. Our goal in innovating ought to be to provide an education that is more authentically Christian, that better engages students in their learning, and that helps students to move, more deeply into a connection and relationship with God, and actively participate in Jesus’ redemptive work. We innovate when we work in dependence on God, and in partnership with each other, to move closer to these goals.
Moving from Fear to Joy
One of the biggest obstacles to innovation—and therefore to God’s provision for the mission of Christian education to be fulfilled into the next generation—is our own fear. Here are five fears we need to not only overcome, but also replace with joy:
- The fear that our survival is in our own hands, to joy that our God will meet all our needs, according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus, as we work to accomplish His mission.
- The fear of losing our historical institutions, or the way we’ve always done things—to joy at the new opportunities that God will open up, as He continues to advance the mission of Christian education—no matter how that is delivered, and no matter how different it looks in the future.
- The fear of irrelevance, to the joy that Christian education, in the words of one GCSLS attendee, has “the ability to give students real, true, and relevant answers in a world that increasingly doesn't make sense to young people.”
- The fear of uncertainty, not having that one “best practice” that we know for sure works—for the joy that comes with allowing God to awaken our imagination. As image-bearers, we’ve been endowed with potential for creativity, problem-solving, and continuous improvement—which should inspire a sense of confident hope and even expectant exhilaration.
- Our fear of taking risks, for joy at what God will do—what He always does—which He describes in Isaiah 43:19 (NIV): “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Let's be encouraged to see and perceive what God is doing—in the words of Isaiah, the new “ways” He will open up for Christian education, and the new streams He will cause to flow through us, if we will only see and perceive it.
[Editor's Note: This post was adapted from the opening remarks delivered at GCSLS 2019, on January 30 in San Antonio, Texas].
Every Kind of Student for Every Kind of Kingdom Work
Reading in Exodus 31:1-11 and 35:30-35, we know that just as the Lord called and gave skill and wisdom to Bezalel, and Oholiab, and those with them to perform and complete
every kind of work that He Commanded to be done, today, the Lord still calls and anoints all his people for the work of his kingdom. As we consider where our students come from and where they one day might go, may we never forget - and may we always affirm in our schools - that God calls every kind of student for every kind of kingdom work.
"Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good" - Developing a National Vision for Education
The Church of England provides 4700 schools educating one million students across the country. In 2016, the church published a vision for education 'Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good', informed by the latest educational policy and practice and rooted in deep Christina Theology. Nigel will outline the exciting journey of engaging strategic church and state stakeholders, including local school leaders, national church leaders and key government partners. This ambitious journey will provide international inspiration for delegates seeking to engage church and education leaders in vision that combines the highest levels of academic achievement, character development and human flourishing for staff and students alike.
How Today’s Enrollment Trends Will Change Your School’s Admission Approach
As a community of schools, our collective success hinges on our ability to drive and sustain enrollments. And, our ability to navigate admission’s changing landscape is key. This presentation offers school leaders a comprehensive look at trends, issues, and challenges shaping enrollment management and practice in schools. The Enrollment Management Association's comprehensive surveys of independent school admission leaders, international school admission leaders, and families who recently navigated the admission process are featured prominently in this presentation. This trailblazing research has provoked significant dialogue on the changing conditions of, and expectations for, private school admission and enrollment professionals.
Rooting for Rivals
Faith-based organizations are sometimes known for what we are against, but amid growing distrust of religious organizations, Christian schools have a unique opportunity to link arms across organizational boundaries and pursue our higher calling.
Innovation or Irrelevant? There's a Fate Worse than Change
CEO, author, and education advocate Bill Latham delivers a dynamic interactive presentation focusing on rehumanizing learning and the leadership challenges of jumping the chasm to get there. While innovating may prove difficult for education leaders today, there is indeed a fate worse - that of irrelevance. Explore topics like skill shifts, consumerized patterns of behavior, teacher well-being, and holistic design of classroom ecosystems. The keys for unlocking student engagement are centered around building culture and strong relationships. You will leave with tools, new mental frameworks, and a sense of urgency in making the leap toward innovation.
Hands-On Experience Using an Innovation Framework to Catalyze Growth
Driven by a variety of powerful levers, the world is changing at an exponential rate. This workshop will provide Christian leaders in education the opportunity to engage in collaborative disccusions using a set of focus quetions related to an innovation framework to catalyze growth in their educational setting.
MindShift Introduction and Working Session
MindShift is a proven process for organizations and industries to solve their most intractable problems. MindSHift's unique methodology assembles diverse stakeholders to create a safe environment to actively explore and dismantle our collective assumptions. This frees us to look for that mind-shifting question to open a door to experiment and create new possibilities, which can lead to new realities. In this session, Rx Miller will introduce the MindShift process and prepare participants to engage in a MindShift activity around intractable problems in Christian education.
Rex Miller will lead all participants in an interactive, hands-on MindSHift activity around challenges, problems, and opportunities in Christian education. Be prepared for a stimulating and engaging time of learning with colleagues!
WHOLE: Creating Healthy Workplaces in Schools
If our future in Christian education is to win the hearts and minds of our students, teachers are at the front lines of this battle. We can't win if our teachers are stretched, stressed and battle weary. All teachers, and especially Christian educators, face the caregiver's dilemma. With never-ending demands and decreasing support their health and well-being is at risk. That puts us all at risk. We don't need to simply do better, we need to think differently, humanly and redemptively. I will share more than five years of research with more
than 100 educators and community leaders into root issues behind our struggle and a positive way forward captured in a concept called Re-Villaging our schools.
Marketing for Strategic Growth
Moderator: David Urban
Panelists: Kim Ellefsen, Rudi Gesch, Debbie Johnson, and Andy Lynch
Come join a conversation on how to maximize your marketing dollar for strategic growth. Discussion will be around what has been effective in the past and what future opportunities are available for school leaders.
Diversity and Inclusion
Inclusive Education in the Christian School
Christian schools have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their faith by including students of all abilities. In this session we will explore together the ways that Christian schools can go beyond special education to strengthen their community, collaboration, and culture. Elizabeth will share ways that schools have successfully supported students with varied learning, behavioral, intellectual, and socio-emotional abilities while engaging the community in their mission. Attendees will also unpack the definitions of successful inclusion that are outlined in The Christ-Centered Educational Services Standard.
Diversity and Inclusion Panel: Administrator to Administrator
Moderator: Joel Gaines
Panelist: Jake Becker, Karen Bradberry, Michael Chen, and Larry Taylor
With many years of experience in leading schools, this panel will consist of administrators who have a passion for diversity. The dicussion will offer authentic responses to address the myriad of elephants in our schools surrounding diversity and inclusion.
This session is a corollary to the earlier keynote by Daniel Hill, and aims to help educators grapple with the narratives that sustain race and develop practical tools for developing transformational strategies in the classroom.
Discovering a New Motivation, Greater Understanding, and Biblical Solutions for Diversity and Racial Reconciliation
School leaders desire to see racial reconciliation on their campuses but often feel helpless to achieve real success. This talk moves beyond secular solutions that fall flat at Christian schools by applying a biblical worldview which transforms leaders into joyful agents of racial reconciliation. A renewed vision for diversity calls for a restored biblical motivation, a nuanced understanding of the challenges, and theologically motivated solutions that cultivate a learning environment of excellence and mutuality.
Women in Leadership Panel
Moderator: Maria Varlet
Panelists: Adun Akinyemiju, Adrienne Castellon, Beth Green, Linda Harrelson, and Aileen Riady
The panel, comprised of a number of highly experienced and influential educational leaders from across the globe, will share their insights and wisdom regarding keys to leadership success. The panel will also explore strategies for overcoming the challenges and obstacles that may be faced by women in, or aspiring to, leadership positions.
Engaging Culture for Good
Coming Closer: Experiencing and Offering Sanctuary in a Hyper-Connected World
Christina Crook's book, "The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World," has made her a leading voice on technology and human flourishing. Through her writing and speaking she reveals how key shifts in our thinking can enable us to draw closer to one another, taking up the good burdens of local work and responsibilities. She writes about the value of focus, making space to create, and the meaning we find in more limited connections. She challenges the Western values of power, control, and success, revealing how wonder, trust, and discipline are central to the experience of being human and the keys to our joy.
America's Christian School Graduates: What Story Does the Data Tell?
The CARDUS Education Survey 2018 tells the story of Christian school graduates in America. This workshop considers how we can use the graduate outcomes data to be hospitable to culture and deepen learning in our schools. Come and join the conversation in this workshop about Christian education past, present, and future.
Next Gen. Leadership
Millennial Parents: Pitfalls or Promise?
Millennials are a sometimes-feared and maligned emerging segment of our school family populations. While some of this concern may be simple fear of the unknown, research shows that the new parent group will inevitably challenge the way most Christian schools do business. For school leaders who prayerfully listen and adapt well, God will use the emerging parent generation to push agile institutions toward unprecedented levels of mission clarity and distinction. Jay Ferguson will identify and discuss ways that this incoming generation of parents will challenge school leaders to work smarter, and how to leverage the opportunities they present.
Next Generation Leadership in a Landscape of Discontinuous Change
Moderator: Nate Johnson
Panelists: Julia Ellis, Joel Hazard, Carl Martinez, Josh Patterson, Joel Uecker, and Deani Van Pelt
A diverse panel of next generation educators explores how the leaders, the led, and the landscape are adapting and flourishing in a bold new era for Christian Schooling.
Online/Blended Learning Panel
Schools are choosing to incorporate various types of online and blended learning because of its flexibility to meet student needs and personalize learning. A panel of fie online educators will discuss the benefits and challenges of online learning. Panelists come from schools that are 100% online as well as those who have incorporated online classes into brick and mortar school programs. Panelists will share how they've creatively solved current issues as well as challenges, and potential innovations they see coming in the future. The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and dialog with the panelists.
T/L & Spiritual Formation
Exploring the Promise of Deeper Learning in Christian Education
Moderator: Dan Beerens
Panelists: Justin Cook, Darryl DeBoer, Darren Spyksma, Steven Levy, and Diane Stronks
You are invited to a session of short presentations and audience dialogue where we will briefly define and explore Christian Deeper Learning and share how biblically aligned practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and building flourishing school cultures have enlivened and engaged studetns through creating beautiful work for real world needs.