When a young mother who had been homeschooling her children passed away last spring, the bereft father turned to the local Christian school, giving the school a beautiful chance to minister to the family, says principal Justin De Moor.
“The father has spoken so many times about the outpouring of love and support that he has experienced; and the child to some extent has a new lease on life as a result,” De Moor tells OACS News.
The Willowdale Christian School principal shares this story as an example of how the school can and has provided community for people, for which De Moor sees a growing need given the unprecedented disconnection appearing in the culture at large .
Factors he sees contributing to this disconnection include technology as well as a growing disenfranchisement with traditional institutions like the church and government — which seem to more often give reason for that disenfranchisement as they divide and weaken, rather than connect and strengthen.
“I think we have an amazing opportunity as Christian schools where many people are feeling that lots of the institutions or organizations in their lives are not offering them community and aren’t giving them a place to be themselves but also to become more of the person they want to be, we have a unique opportunity to do that,” says De Moor.
He notes as an example that where churches often have to make theological decisions that may prove divisive, Christian schools don’t, allowing for them to bring people together. Willowdale Christian School, for instance, has more than 130 students representing 30 different churches.
“That’s a beautiful thing,” says De Moor, likening this melting pot to what the kingdom of God is all about.
“Again, I think this is where we can become a community where people feel welcomed and not judged, and where they can find their niche and their place in a way that it doesn’t matter how they read a certain part of Scripture. They’re a part of the body.”
While Christian schools as community may be part of the answer to the crossroads facing culture, De Moor notes Christian education in general could be considering how to better prepare students to be culture makers, leaders and creators of communities in their own spheres of influence after they leave school. A recent study of independent school alumni also confirms the need for this.
“I think as Christian schools we have an opportunity to both be that community but also encourage our students to create not just culture but to create community where they are,” says De Moor.
He notes that the Willowdale Christian School staff is continually working through how they can do a better job of preparing students in this respect.
He himself is committed to continuing to develop himself as a culture maker and community builder, De Moor adds.
“On a personal level I find too the tendency to view myself and my own situation and often I need to also catch myself in that, from getting caught up in the culture, and instead realizing my role which, as principal of the school, is one of servant leadership,” he says.