The Challenge of Christian Schooling in a Secular Age
In 2006, the Foundation launched its mission to advance the strategic growth, influence and the effectiveness of Christian schooling worldwide through innovation, research, advocacy, and the stewardship of resources. At the request of ACSI's senior leadership, the Foundation's board unanimously agreed to take on the daunting task of providing visionary, innovative, research-informed leadership for global Christian schools and educators.
ACSI, as a program and service providing association, struggles to keep pace with the visionary thought leadership necessary to empower Christian schools and educators to flourish in the midst of formidable challenges, both today and tomorrow. This candid assessment engenders many questions. If the Foundation is to launch a "thought leadership" focus to guide both ACSI and the larger Christian schooling movement, issues need to be analyzed and defined. Complementary activities occurring throughout the Kingdom need to be identified and curated so that redundancies are reduced and collaborations maximized.
In February 2015, the Foundation took a strategic first step by convening a carefully selected group of subject-matter experts, not affiliated with ACSI, who care and think deeply about the education of the next generation. Their task was to assist in identifying the problems facing the Christian schooling movement in general and ACSI in particular. We wanted perspective and candid feedback from scholars, cultural critics and Christian school leaders who are thoughtfully engaged with the challenge of living faithfully in a highly secularized culture. Scholar James K.A. Smith articulated this challenge in his book How (Not) to be Secular:
Philosopher Charles Taylor not only explains unbelief in a secular age; he also emphasizes that even belief has changed in our secular age. There are still believers who believe the same things as their forebears 1,500 years ago; but how we believe has changed. Thus, faith communities need to ask: How does this change in the "conditions" of belief impact the way we proclaim and teach faith? How does this impact faith formation? How should this change the propagation of the faith for the next generation? (23)
The responses to these and other salient questions should engender reflection and inform current practice and its effectiveness in impacting present and future generations.
How do we channel this amazingly generative interaction into concrete recommendations to inform the Foundation's strategic planning process? Panel members were divided into four "consulting groups" tasked with identifying and presenting their top three to five priorities for ACSI and/or the Foundation to embrace. While each group reflected the personality and expertise of its members, common threads emerged. The sum of the recommendations provided insights into the complexities and facets of the various areas for consideration. Nearly 200 pages of transcript document the entire conversation, informing recommendations for the next step. At their February 2015, the Foundation Board of Directors tasked ACSI's senior staff to sift through the information—individually and corporately—and bring forward priorities for both ACSI and the Foundation to address. This conversation has already informed ACSI's strategic initiatives, launched research, strengthened higher education relationships and birthed partnerships. It also provides direction and priority to the Foundation's strategic plan and case for support to fulfill its transformational mission. The following initiatives are reflected in the Foundation's first strategic plan:
Repayable Grant Program
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Read the full article "The Challenge of Christian Schooling in a Secular Age," appearing in Christian School Education magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1.