School Excellence Requires Christian Community

In my last blog, I wrote about how grace drives excellence. Particularly, I pointed out the importance for the Lutheran educator to strive toward excellence in his craft of teaching. I would like to continue with that theme as we consider that while the Lutheran educator strives for excellence as a response to the grace received by God, such excellence is impossible outside of a community.

Excellence Starts with People

St. Paul is quite clear that the body of Christ is not a simple grouping of organs that work separately from one another, but rather, “just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Ours is a community that is knit together as indissoluble as the human body. “The eye,” Paul writes, “cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’ ” (1 Corinthians 12:21). So also, the teacher cannot say to the administrator, or the janitor, or the secretary, “I have no need of you.” The Lutheran educational system only works when the individual servants see their roles in relationship with one another.

The Role of Administrators 

Consider the role of an administrator. She cannot be excellent without key people enabling her to do her job. Administrative roles differ between schools, but ultimately there is a person whose job it is to set a vision and empower her faculty to enact that vision. She is only able to do this if she is allowed the tools to do so.

In my experiences serving in various administrative functions in church and school, I’ve come to believe that time is perhaps the most valuable tool for this role. An administrator needs to have the time necessary to chart a course for the growth of the school during times of reflection and be able to jump in and troubleshoot on behalf of her faculty and staff when emergencies arise. An administrator should not be tied down by the expectation to always be busy.

Unfortunately, the practical realities of struggling for monetary donations and filling the gaps created by daily tasks of maintenance pull the administrator from her essential role. The administrator may not be a daily fixture in the classroom, but her service should be tied directly toward empowering the classroom teacher for excellence.

The Role of Custodians 

Likewise, support staff members serve an often overlooked and under-appreciated role in our school settings. Custodial staff and secretaries are more than simply pushers of paper and brooms. They also interact with our students—exemplifying the love of Christ and sometimes becoming the primary cheerleader for a student who comes to trust them.

Unfortunately, the very design of our system sometimes seems to push them into the shadows. They are paid less for their work, yet they work through the breaks and the summer. They aren’t able to build a network of like-minded professionals through conferences, and often their presence is only sought after they are needed. At times, they are like the invisible backbone supporting the weight of the school, taking on some of the most unmentionable jobs. Without the dedication and Christ-like service of selfless support staff, excellence in the classroom becomes nearly untenable.

Putting Community Together

Paul concludes of the Church, “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:24b–26). Lutheran teachers, staffers, and administrators are all components of the body of Christ, working in tandem to love a generation of God’s children and prepare them for whatever vocations God has prepared for them to do. It is in working together that the most excellent applications of pedagogy manifest themselves through the love of Christ, which is shared in the community we call the Lutheran school.

Scripture: ESV®.

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Written by

Joe Cox

Rev. Joe Cox serves as the head of the English department at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis, Missouri. He also coaches the school’s mock trial teams. Joe is married to Barb Cox, and they have two adult children, Caleb and Megan. In his free time, Joe enjoys playing board games and traveling.

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