“The hallmark of a healthy society has always been measured by how it cares for the disadvantaged.” — Joni Eareckson Tada
One of the dilemmas that we face in Christian schools is how to create communities of learning that are hospitable and welcoming to all types of families and students. Issues arise in terms of affordability and accessibility, as well as the type of students we serve and whether families must fit into a particular type of criteria.
I sometimes wonder if the early Christian community faced some of the same issues. Who is in and who is out? It seems to me that the “viewpoints” debated by Peter and Paul had something to do with whom the church would include or exclude.
Now, for those who know me, you won’t be surprised that I land on the side of openness—opening up the doors of our Christian schools to diversity as a way to share the gospel but also as a way to ensure that we don’t insulate ourselves from this good world that God has created. We have so much to learn from our neighbours, whether they profess Christ’s name or not.
One of the other dilemmas we face is how to serve families who have children with disabilities. How can we create communities (church, school and otherwise) where everyone belongs and where everyone is valued? Being intentional about inclusivity may just be the measure of not only a healthy society, as Joni Eareckson Tada suggests, but also of being a Christian community.
I am not saying that as a movement we haven’t made amazing strides. Many schools have dedicated resource departments. Many educators have certification in special education and continue to upgrade their abilities to serve children with exceptional needs. The question is how to do more. Two of my heroes are Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen. Both worked in unique environments where they challenged each of us to actually see “the other” as beautiful and blessed creations of God. I would encourage us to continue to think, dream and vision how to make our Christian schools places of flourishing for all—children of different races, creeds, abilities and backgrounds.
Can our Christian schools and communities actually continue to become places of healing and shalom, of hospitality and blessing, so that we shine and model true love, justice and compassion? Our society yearns for these places. Let us invite them in, asking, “What can we do for you?” and “How can we mutually be a blessing to each other?”