Supporting Christians in Education, written by Trevor Cooling and Mark Greene, is a very approachable guide for church leaders, youth workers and the wider church community. It aims to help envision and resource teachers, students, parents and governors. We all have some connection with education either through direct involvement or regular contact. This book offers us not only a compelling vision of missional living in the context of education, but also practical suggestions for its implementation.
The unique challenge for today’s Christians in education is how to articulate their faith within the secular ideology that dominates the curriculum. While people are happy for the social and moral benefits of Christianity to influence learning environments, many are less happy about any public expression of the Christian belief that underpins those benefits. Yet all learning happens within an ideological context – so how can Christians ensure that biblical principles are articulated through their teaching? The Transforming Lives project, including a useful Toolkit for churches, is offered as one means of exploring this question.
Education, however, is not just about academic learning – communities are made up of people who live and work in relationship, so one chapter offers a pastoral context for education. Now, more than ever before, students have to deal with family breakdown; pressure to achieve financial success; conformity to the cult of self and celebrity; widespread bullying, and fear of an uncertain future. Teachers have to work in a target driven culture of assessment which militates against their instincts to nurture rounded people. They also face rising levels of aggression from both pupils and parents. Churches have a role to play in offering not just hope, encouragement and practical support, but also in equipping Christians to be transformational teachers and students.
At a time when faith is regularly blamed for hindering social cohesion, the author offers ways of engaging with religious diversity by seeing it as an opportunity to be embraced rather than a threat to be avoided. We can do this, he suggests, by finding shared ground in common values and by engaging in dialogue. We can also offer distinctive witness to our Christian faith in a way which allows others to reflect. It’s about sharing, not imposing.
In order to help, people need to understand the contemporary culture in which teachers work. But churches also need practical suggestions if they are to support effectively. To this end, two chapters in the book give clear, specific advice to churches on how to support both pupils and teachers and another chapter offers ideas for church action. The case studies make for motivational reading – one from a head teacher and one from a whole town where churches are engaged in action.
If you want to create a learner-centred church, promote biblical understanding, create a context to tackle the key issues facing education, and involve teachers as your mission partners, then this book is a must-read. It’s clear and concise, and even though it only runs to 40+ pages, each one is packed full of challenge, advice and information.