Why Christian Education?

by Noah Brink, Interim Head of School

Just as there are many Christian denominations, there are many perspectives about what a Christian school should be. Central has a strong commitment to the mission of Christian schooling, both in this city and around the world. Yet, we recognize the Christian distinctives we work tirelessly to foster are unique to our community.

Central Christian School is an unapologetically Christian school and a ministry of Central Presbyterian Church. We hold to an established Statement of Faith which we share with the church. Our beliefs are not intended to isolate our students from society. In fact, we want our students to engage the world in light of those beliefs. Just as the prophet Jeremiah urged the Israelites, we want our students to go into the world to seek its welfare (Jer. 29:7), that it might flourish because of our students’ fingerprints on it.

We also hope for our Christian distinctives to seep into every corner of what we do. We’re more than a school which offers weekly chapel services and teaches Bible curriculum. These commitments are not just add-ons which show up from time to time; our desire is for our beliefs to influence everything we do. To best explain what Christian education means at Central, we’ll focus on three words: Wholeness, Fearlessness, and Uniqueness.

Wholeness

Learning As Originally Intended
Human beings were made to love God and love what He loves. Even if sin had never entered the world, men and women would have never stopped learning. There will always be more to learn because God will always be higher than us. Our desire and need to know isn’t a result of flaw or weakness; rather, it’s how we were designed.

God wants us to know Him, and we do so by studying what He has said and what He has made. And, we were designed to learn these things in life-giving dependence upon Him. Education in its truest form thrives through free exploration, passionate discovery, and grateful knowledge because everything we learn about the world teaches us more about the One who made it. As a result, we view education as a sacred thing because God is sacred to us.

Everything in Its Right Place
Nurturing cohesiveness is a major goal of any healthy school. We don’t want students to merely know things; we hope for them to see connections between ideas. We want them to recognize how their studies fit together while prompting a deeper understanding of themselves and the world in which they live.  

When students are faced with mixed messages in the marketplace of ideas, many schools search for integrating principles which unite all of their studies. At Central, our curriculum revolves in centripetal patterns around the Truth of God and person of Jesus Christ. We want our students to see how their learning fits together because we believe that all truth proceeds from the mind of God. This provides a consistent message and lens for our students as they navigate the information which comes their way. We value stories because God revealed Himself through a story. We study beautiful things, because God loves beauty. We pursue justice because God is just. We value the arts, because God created them to show us more about Himself and ourselves. What’s learned in math connects to what’s learned in social studies because both find their basis in what God has revealed.

Deeply Valued Students
Since all people are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we believe none of them are ordinary because they reflect God who is infinitely good, personal, creative, and reasonable. As a result, our students have profound dignity which can never be taken away. Their unique giftings are good, and we celebrate them. Their different styles of learning are good, and we celebrate them, too.

Because they are image bearers, we care deeply about their intellectual growth since God has allowed them to be rational in their thought processes. Yet, we care just as much about the development of their hearts and bodies. They have hopes and desires, longings and appetites which need to flourish just as much as their minds do. So, we have constructed a program which values the whole child and nurtures a diverse community where our students can celebrate the image of God, demonstrated in a beautiful variety of ways.

Fearlessness

Security in Discovery and Exploration
Recognizing God’s truth and goodness as the foundation of our studies, we believe there really are answers. Having the highest regard for human dignity, we believe our students have the capacity to learn and retain amazing things. And, we have confidence in our learning because it’s rooted in the infinite, unchanging One who has revealed Himself clearly through what He has made (the world) and what He has said (Scripture). This brings great security, because, like Jesus’ analogy of building a house upon a rock, our students’ learning is based upon something solid, rather than what is likely to crumble (Matt. 7:24-27).

Confident Hope

We believe our students (like every other member of our community) are affected by sin and live in a world deeply affected by brokenness. Central Christian School cannot fix our students, and our program is not designed to repair their hurts and anxieties. Our hope is in the finished work of Jesus. We’re not left to wonder whether we’ve accomplished enough; we know that Jesus is enough. His sufficiency gives us confidence to learn and live together in vibrant ways, for we are not burdened by trying to accomplish what Jesus already has. Still, because all of us suffer the effects of sin, there is always room to grow and lean on one another’s help within a supportive community.

Freedom from Performance
Every school promotes some form of character development. Even though we desire for our students to be conformed to the image of Jesus, merely pointing our students toward kindness, truthfulness, patience, or any other virtue (while, all good) doesn’t make Central distinctive or necessarily “Christian.” God has not called us to a program or to performance, but to Himself. In response, we yearn to trust Him, to be near Him, and to cling to Him for undeserved forgiveness.

We are not about teaching students how to be better; we cling to Jesus who is better. In a world which tends to shackle students with performance and traditional models of success, we desire to see students set free by the gospel. Pressure to conform creates fear, whereas celebrating what Jesus accomplished on our behalf is transformative. It’s life-giving. We desire for our students to be motivated by gratitude for the gospel rather than suffering under the weight of pursuing unreasonably burdensome expectations.

Uniqueness

Our Mission. Our Way.
It should be no surprise to read that many schools are bound to teach defined curriculum toward defined tests, and at times restricting what can be done in school. Yes, we do have boundaries at Central. We point to our mission and core beliefs, but they are our own. Being bound by external standards can stifle innovation and imagination or inhibit a school’s capacity to address the individual giftings and learning styles of its students.

This gives us great freedom to ask questions about what will be the best content and practices to enable our students to flourish here at our school. It allows our teachers to work in collaborative ways. Rather than binding ourselves to any one curriculum or method, our teachers are free to develop curriculum which uses a multitude of resources to direct our students’ learning in Christ-centered, missional ways.

United Around Primary Things
We believe Central can accomplish a clearer picture of what it looks like to live in a diverse community where people celebrate the fullness of the kingdom of God. Because of our location, we are accessible to the majority of the Saint Louis area. Because of our lower tuition and generous financial aid and scholarship availability, more families have access to a Central education. While many private and public schools are becoming increasingly segregated, Central celebrates an ever-growing diverse community.

More than location and tuition, what draws people to Central is their love for God, which is shared among brothers and sisters in Christ. As members of the Body of Christ, our love for each other unites us far more than economic, racial, political, or ideological identities.

Also, we yearn for this diversity; we don’t merely tolerate it. Living and learning in a community which is rich in different backgrounds and experiences enhances our students’ capacity for knowing their world more accurately. The Kingdom of God is vast. We want our students to see it and love it. To accomplish this, we seek to foster a deep desire in our students where they pursue uniqueness, because they realize the growth which happens when they become vital parts of a community which celebrates vast, individual giftings.