Globally Minded Christ-Centered Education

August 3, 2015
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How do you urge your students to be globally minded in a Christ-centered educational setting?

Globally minded Christ-centered education is a growing trend in our Christian schools today. Increasingly, our students are global thinkers who seek real-world meaning and application in their schoolwork. Global education opportunities are arriving on our Christian school doorsteps through advancing technology, ministry partnerships, student mission trips, and international student enrollment.

Historically, a global education focus has not been the strength of North American Christian Schools. Christian schools have been labeled mono-ethnic. Go to a Christian school Christmas concert and scan the crowd of students on stage. You will likely see a lot of blonde hair. A family once told me that they were not going to enroll their son in our school due to the limited ethic diversity in the school body. Sadly, they were correct.

But that trend is changing. Many schools are intentionally taking steps to be more ethnically diverse. We see this occurring through international adoptions, international student enrollment, and marketing incentives to enroll local students from diverse backgrounds.

Through these changes in enrollment, we sharpen are able to become more globally minded. Our students engage this movement through their personal experiences in church mission trips and service projects.

Our students are globe-trotting like never before. We are seeing growth of mature Christian teenagers in our schools who want to make a larger impact in the world that they live in. Many of our students display a desire to go on cross-cultural mission trips during the summer. They come back to school with an appreciation for a broader sense of the Kingdom of God.

Advancing technology has also made our education global. The cliché “the world is at our fingertips” is absolutely true in our schools today.

Two recent examples come to mind. A few years ago, our school partnered with a Northrise University in Zambia, donating funds to the start up of a new Agriculture program at Northrise. President Moffit Zimba of that school thanked us for our support and partnership via Skype.

This past year, we became a partner school with One Body One Hope (OBOH) in Liberia. Our choice to become a partner was influenced by several factors, one of them being technology. The Vine School System of Christ in Liberia has wi-fi, enabling our staffs to communicate via Facebook and Skype.

We hope that, through the advancement of technology, we can learn from each other on a regular basis. There is a mindset shift at work in this relationship. As an American school, we are not simply the givers of funds. We are receivers as well. We look forward to receiving lessons on how to live, learn, and teach from our Liberian brothers and sisters in Christ.

Global education is also increasing as a result of the enrollment of international students. Today our fastest growing enrollment demographic is the international student. Recruiters are approaching American Christian high schools each month, from China and Korea in particular, to accept new students. International enrollment has made our school more globally minded. International students are knocking on our Christian school doors.

Currently we have five registered students from Taiwan, Korea, and China. These students add a cultural perspective to our student body and school culture. We are learning about how different countries value education. These students notice that we are serious about being Christ-centered in all we do. The exchange of cultural perspectives is highly refreshing and God-glorifying. Several of these students come to us from different faith backgrounds. We welcome the opportunity to show students our biblical worldview that Jesus Christ holds all things together (Colossians 1). A few months ago, I was walking down the hallway of school when I overheard some students conversing one day with a Buddhist student: “You should become a Christian.”

Challenges to thinking and doing global Christ-centered education do exist. While it is trendy to say we are globally minded, the fact remains that our default is to stay focused on our local environment. Teenage students prefer to live in a locally focused environment. Sports, fine arts, homework, and part-time job demands do not leave room for reflection and global pursuits. It is on us as leaders to provide educational space and activities that continue to force students and staff to interact globally.

We are excited as a school with the opportunity to become more focused on real-world global opportunities. Our school is embarking on an exciting curricular writing project in conjunction with the Prairie Center of Christian Schools out of Alberta, Canada. The program, Teaching for Transformation (TfT) has four core practices. One of these core practices is creating what TfT calls Formational Learning Experiences. “Every Christian school classroom must provide authentic (real-world, real-problem, and real-audience) opportunities for students to practice living in the Kingdom story.” This FLEx learning will be global in scope.

Scripture reminds us that we are called to the best interests of our neighbors. Our neighbors live in Sioux County and in Somalia. When our students and teachers engage in real-world education that is global, transformational, and Kingdom-building, learning becomes alive.

We look forward to the results.

About the Author
  • Wayne Dykstra is Head of School at Unity Christian High School. He is a graduate of Dordt (BA, Sec. Ed.) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (MA, Ed Leadership) and is a Fellow in the Van Lunen Executive Leadership Program. Wayne has served 3 schools in Wisconsin and Iowa. He and his wife Sue have four children enrolled in K-College Christian Schools.

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